Local Characters


All boats have engine troubles at one time or another. Sometimes we are not in a location to hire our local engine mechanic. This happened to Past Commodore Richard Zilli one time, so he called his favorite mechanic on his cell phone to try to determine the problem. In order for the mechanic to assess the problem, Richard held his cell phone up to the engine to see if the mechanic could determine what the problem was. Need we ask: was it live, or was it Memorex? Did he use his NOKIA or Brand X?


Many NYSC sailors have blue water experience. Martin Spier, for example, owned a Whitby 42′ ketch named FANNIESON. For several years, he took the boat to the Caribbean for the winter. Before leaving New York, cook and foredeck ape Fred Freder purchased a large pastrami, among other delights. While they were out at sea, heeled over, pounding into the waves, Fred decided to make pastrami sandwiches. Hold on, slice the pastrami; hold on, slice the pastrami. One hand for the boat, one hand for the pastrami. Fred passed sandwiches to the other crew, who gratefully wolfed them down. When Fred handed Martin the sandwich, Martin peeled back the top piece of bread, looked at it, and handed it back to Fred saying: “Freddie, can you trim the fat off of it?” Fred’s bulk filled the companionway while he bellowed: “Eat it, Martin, it’s good for your coat!”

On one of those trips, Fred, being a part-time prankster, packed a small, broken fitting into his duffel bag. While they were about 100 miles off of Hatteras, bashing away, he put the broken fitting in the pocket of his foul weather jacket. When no one was looking, he tossed it up in the air and it came clattering down on deck. Martin, in confusion, picked up the fitting, looked up at the rigging, stared at the fitting, etc., wondering where in the @#%! it came from. Unfortunately, two days later, in a storm, the mizzen mast let go. Thank God for strong wire cutters, because they cut it loose and let it go. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it just goes to show what can happen at sea. It is as a result of this story, that the aftermost mast was named. Someone pointed to the area where it had been and said: “Look at that, Martin, it’s a’ mizzin’!”

One of our senior citizens, and world-wise sailor, Helen Rosenthal, approached Fred one time and said: “Fred, you could probably really go for me, except that I have all these wrinkles.” Fred said: “Don’t worry about it Helen, we can probably iron it out!”


Sailors are known to imbibe occasionally, and the folks in the Sailing Club are no exception. In 1973, Fleet Captain Don Bryan was recapping the events of the Labor Day rendezvous and wrote the following: “Even some of those who were at the Rum Swizzle party would like to know what happened – for ex., where, on a certain boat, did a certain gentleman from NJ sleep for four hours during the night at the Labor Day Rendezvous? (He was not on deck nor in his bunk, which at the time was occupied by a certain person who did not remember going swimming earlier in the evening. Boy, I’m glad I don’t drink anything stronger than booze)”. The nice gentleman referred to, was our departed, and fondly remember, Bud Snyder.

Frank Walters was Fleet Captain in 1979. He had a fun, but SLOOOOW 26′, twin keel Snap Dragon, named ROCKI PATCH. The boat was aptly named, because he could frequently be found on rocky patches, or at least, sand bars. Grace Tyler-Smith was a regular crew member, and is known to have cooked a spaghetti dinner at a 45 degree angle, on a non-gimbaled stove. In 1979, Grace was not able to go on the club cruise, but she joined the going away party for ROCKI PATCH. Frank later wrote: “On the first day out, the skipper was recuperating from the previous night’s Bon Voyage party. Grace had put together a fruit basket – we suspect she raided a Department of Sanitation truck – because 3 days later everything had grown roots, including the eggs.”

One day a club member did not come home when he was supposed to. When he finally arrived, about 2 days later, a very miffed wife asked: “Where have you been?” He said: “Well, it’s this way. After work on Friday, I went to a bar with a couple of the guys. I met this gorgeous woman who looked just like Sofia Loren. We got to talking, and she asked me to go home with her. I couldn’t resist (you know how much I love Sofia!) We spent a wild weekend, but then I decided I just had to come home to you and the kids.” The wife took a long, hard look at her husband and said: “DON’T YOU LIE TO ME! YOU’VE BEEN OUT SAILING WITH FRANK AGAIN!”

NOVEMBER 1991: From Commodore Joyce Buerkle’s end-of-year newsletter:

“I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed being a member of this group for the last four years. I would like to thank all the skippers, Corinthians, and guests who don’t mind talking about boats (some of my other friends think I’m crazy). Thanks also for all the expertise that has been passed down, certainly much more than any class or book could provide. The advice hasn’t only been verbal. There was always someone there to help me bring OBSESSION (a Catalina 22′) down the Hudson or join us for dinner to celebrate getting there. Scraping barnacles (I was trying to sand the stupid things), waxing, cleaning, taking a mast down or up, or bringing WILD THING (C&C 35) through the gut, sailing into a slip when the engine died, changing the headsail three times during a race because I was too chicken to put the #1 up initially, having 25 people on board for cocktails – that’s what friends are all about.

I am proud to be a part of this group – I hope it can continue to grow and welcome more experienced sailors as well as sailors-in-training. It is everyone’s responsibility to foster this growth. Talk to prospective members, don’t wait for them to approach you. What makes a group super is the PEOPLE. Come on out for events. Only YOU can make it a great party.”


You can’t get there from here…

You can always head up…

You can always fall off…

The 1990 Commodore, Sid White, owned a gaff-rigged schooner named SEA SONG. He gave gaff-rigged symposiums on SEA SONG for the club and entered the esteemed Mayor’s Cup schooner race in New York Harbor. Being a tall ship aficionado, he, along with Steve Hopkins, helped to restore the WAVERTREE at South St. Seaport. Sid believed in sharing his knowledge of navigation and sailing. He was a teacher and Commander at the NY Power Squadron and at Coast Navigation and was extremely knowledgeable in all facets of boat handling and seamanship. Therefore, things seem to happen to him that don’t happen to a lot of other people. Sid was at a gas dock in Branford when a boat motored in. Sid, wanting to be helpful, asked them to hand him a line to tie the boat up. They had to scramble around for a while to find one, while Sid blithely held onto the shrouds as the boat bobbed up and down. They eventually found a “line” for him, and handed him a string. No comment. Not five minutes later, another boat pulled up. This time, things looked shipshape: a guy on the foredeck with a nicely coiled bundle of docking line, ready to toss it. Sid said: “Throw me the line.” The guy did. The WHOLE line! Sid looked at it, and stoically asked: “Well, what do you want me to do with this?”

Power boats have putt-putted up to Sid’s schooner in fog in Long Island sound and asked: “Can you tell us how to get to Long Island?” Sid would get out the charts, parallel ruler, etc. and plot a compass course, and tell them: “Steer such and such course and you should be fine.” The guys in the power boats would say: “Well, we don’t have charts and we don’t have a compass, can you just POINT?”

Sid White became Commander of the New York Power Squadron in 1997, a two year post. He also served as Executive Officer and Squadron Education Officer. In 1997 he cruised in Scotland with the Corinthians and its sister organization “The Little Ship Club of London”. He wrote an article for the newsletter entitled: “Ten Days in the Inner Hebrides”. He was lost to the Sailing Club in the fall of 2001. We hope he is now busy charting the great tall ships in the sky.


On Dean’s small boat, space was at a premium, so he eliminated unnecessary luxuries such as the head. Instead, he bought a square, bright red bucket from the hardware store – perfectly-fine-don’t-worry-about-it. Then, instead of a sink, he had a blue bucket, and a white bucket held extra navigational equipment, booze, etc. Dean doesn’t do things without a reason. In this case the red, white, and blue color scheme of the buckets didn’t mean anything to the crew in particular. They just assumed it was what the hardware store had on hand – but, near the start of one MORC race, the Fleet Captain was in a snit because something had gotten fouled up and there was no committee boat to start the race. Dean, who was Commodore of the E.L.I.S. (Eastern Long Island Sound) stations of MORC at that time, said – no problem – they’d be committee boat and out came the buckets. A white shape for WARNING, a blue shape for PREP, and a RED shape for START. Each to be hoisted at five-minute intervals on the starboard spreader. The excitement of a start can go right to the kidneys, and the crew had a few bad moments when the red bucket went up.

Dean sold the Cutlass and bought a C&C 31′ Corvette – WYANDANCE, which he and his wife Barbara still have. While cruising in Nova Scotia in 1978, a Frenchman asked him: “Excuse, please, what is zee name of zee boat?” Dean said: “WYANDANCE”. The Frenchman said: “Ah, Wine And Dance, dat’s Not Too Bad!”

In August 1978, Dean was given the dubious honor of writing the newsletter: “The Club’s globetrotting secretary, Lisa Kasak, on a well-earned holiday, is decorating the pristine beaches of Nantucket this month. At the last Governing Board meeting, in a moment of rare munificence (translate ‘stupidity’), we offered to help with the August newsletter. Stuck, as we are, in a little-known corner of Eastern Connecticut and having, as we do, little or no news for a newsletter, we were prepared (translate ‘hoped’) that our rash offer would be declined. Ha. Before you could say Gudgeon & Pintle (a brokerage firm in Schemmerhorn Row), our lap was filled with 121 envelopes and 121 mailing labels (Alderman to Winkler with addenda). Dumbfounded, we looked down at this mess. When we looked up the room was empty.”

In his closing remarks of that memorable newsletter, he wrote: “Scratching about for something incisive to say in this all but newsless newsletter, we got to thinking about the Corinthian Cruise, heeling and marine toilets. The Corinthian Cruise, in windless July, produced very little sailing let alone heeling. However, on the way back to Milford from Oyster Bay, WYANDANCE lucked into an afternoon sea breeze off Bridgeport (a lotta hot air in Bridgeport) and found herself sharply heeled on the inshore (port) tack at about the time a crewmember decided to go to the head. Space and the cost of postage do not permit a discussion of why all cruising sailboats seem to have the head on the port side (Are they on the starboard side below the equator?) As the crew clamored below we said, “Luff or tack?” The crew looked confused. “Luff or tack?” we repeated. Crew, now in discomfort entered the head. Quite some time later we detected the beginnings of head being pumped. A sick wheezing sound was heard. The intake, on the port tack, was, of course, about a foot out of the water. “Hard-a-lee”, we said, guessing correctly that this was a tacking situation, not luffing.” “The fact is, you cannot pump most heads on the port tack. If the head user’s needs are of short duration, a luff will suffice to get the intake into the water. Anything more requires a tack. Thus the early Anglosaxon expressions, peeluff and craptack.”

Dean is a writer, and is one of the creators of the well-known musical “Once Upon A Mattress”, which starred Carol Burnett when it performed on Broadway. Later, he collaborated on another musical “Smith”. In 1983, he wrote a book named “Passage”. Later he published two other books: “Death in Paris” and “Death of a Critic” – both starring Alex Grismolet, Chef-Inspecteur of the Sûrté. A must-read for mystery fans.