Yes, Tillerman, I was in Lumberton last night.
Skip Moorhouse was finally honored at his
belated retirement party at the Moorhouse
MacCausland sail loft, out in the virtual middle
of nowhere in south central New Jersey.
There was a nice group of sailing friends and
relatives, some of whom I knew and the rest
I wish I had. It's not hard to assemble a bunch
such as them, when the honoree is so loved and
respected. The night was exactly as I imagined.
BTW, the following three video clips are watchable,
regardless of the black screen each one exhibits.
There were many stories and recollections, all of which
sounded so typically Skip that I was never surprised,
and often I imagined the punchline or moral well before
they were reached. I'd always enjoyed listening to him
because he's a good storyteller, and sadly this may have
been one of the last times I'll have the opportunity.
He's built sails for scads of Mid-Atlantic sailors and
racers alike. The Moorhouse Sailmakers patch is
a common sighting on Barnegat Bay, as well as
Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, loads of inland
lakes and reservoirs, and farther than I can probably
fathom. When you produce a quality product, your
reputation precedes you.
Skip is an everyman. His sailing and sailmaking
abilities aside, he's as down to earth as your next
door neighbor. That's what originally attracted me
to him. He can talk about the cut of your new
mainsail in one breath, then lament about the toilet
in the mens' room at the back of the loft. One
afternoon I was visiting him, around 3:30 or 4:00
in the afternoon, when out of the blue he said,
"I think we ought to order some lunch. Dave,
you like wings?" Better late than never.
I stayed until the bitter end last night, often having
something to add but always hanging back, listening
to the others who were more aggressive with their
additions to the story at hand. It's okay, I'll tell this
one here. Skip and Jill grew up on the north shore of
Long Island, in a small town called Glen Cove.
Legend has it that Skip's school sat on a hill
overlooking the harbor. He'd constantly be busted for
gazing out the window, down upon the sailboats
moored in the harbor. Is it any wonder that Skip
wound up making a living from building sails that
would power the boats in his field of dreams?
When you're young, you often have people you look
up to. And depending on the situation you're in, those
influential beings can mold the way you will deal with
life as an adult, as well as steer a sailboat around a
racecourse. Skip was always an idol of mine.
I have three men on my list of sailing mentors,
two of whom were my Dad, Jim, and my stepdad
Bob. Skip is my third. I was always in awe of
him at Penguin and M-scow regattas, and after my
parents divorced, Mom married Bob and Dad
married Skip's sister Jill. Luckily for me and my
brother, everyone remained civil and friendly, and we
often had the best of all worlds. I consider myself a
well-rounded sailor, though definitely not the sharpest
racing mind. It's okay though. These men had a hand
in shaping my ability to think on the boat, as well as on
land. Traits like those are invaluable inheritances which
many are never priveleged to experience.
John MacCausland is the hands-down perfect person
for Skip to hand the torch to. This guy's been around
forever, and is almost as big a part of the New Jersey
sailing scene as Skip. But not quite just yet. John,
you're on the right track though. Best of luck. And
thanks for inviting me to the party.