Stew Sill Jr. as I remember it. by Bill VanGee

Stew was the consummate competitor. When he left the dock, he left to win that next race. I don’t ever remember him ever going out for a day sail. He was either racing or moving the boat to the start of the next race. And his boat had to be “rule book” ready. He always competed at the highest level of any sport he was involved with and met all rule requirements. It should be noted however, that he was one who could often times put his own twist on the rule interpretation. A good case in point was the annual, week long, LYRA/ Freeman Cup Regatta held the first week of every August. For sailors on Lake Ontario, this was the highlight regatta of the year and Stew would virtually close down the marina to attend.

As a requirement of racing in this regatta, each boat had to undergo a safety equipment inspection prior to the start of the first race. The regatta committee would send out an official inspector who would carefully check off each required item and Stew was very good about having all of the needed equipment on his own boat. He wasn’t however above spiriting away items to another boat after he passed his inspection so that they too would be in compliance. These items were things like anchors, man overboard lights, life jackets, etc. All of the type of things that a reasonable skipper would want on board for overnight racing on Lake Ontario. Sometime in the mid to late 70’s, The LYRA committee got together and changed/updated some of the racing rules. In their combined genius, they decided that only “cruising boats” should compete in the long distance portion of the regatta. This meant that besides the normal safety equipment, all boats would need to have as a minimum, a head and holding tank, a galley sink, and a cooking stove. As anyone who knew Stew could guess, he didn’t take to these new requirements quietly. He was racing a boat that had been sailing the entire lake for nearly 50 years and hadn’t floundered to date for the lack of the required “cruising” items. He vented and made his disagreement known to anyone who would listen, including the organizing officials of the regatta and was completely rebuffed at every turn.

For those of you that have never been in the cabin of an “R” boat, let me paint a picture of what you might expect. The interior is very much like being in a low covert pipe with a bench on either side and during a regatta, the space between the benches would be filled with a cooler and several bags of sails. Stew wanting to be “rule book” ready so that he wouldn’t be sent to the short course, finally relented and equipped Kathea II to the new standards for the next LYRA regatta. When the time came for his inspection, he gladly showed the requested items. Life jacks? One for each crew member. Man over board light? Yes. Anchor? Yes and so on. When the discussion changed from safety items to cruising accommodations, Stew was ready. Stove? Yes and he provided a small Sea Swing sterno fueled stove. Ice Box? Yes he had that cooler sitting between the bench seats. Galley sink? Yes as he hauled out the plastic bucket. The inspector was a little taken back as Stew had earlier provided the same bucket as a backup means for removing water from inside the hull in an emergency. But he persevered as he explained how it could also meet the needs of a galley sink. In fact he explained how in past regattas it also served as the toilet. When it came time to show the toilet and holding tank facilities, Stew led the inspector over the sails and forward to the bow where an “R” boat gets very narrow and proudly showed him his new self contained Porta Potty that was proudly fastened to the only flat surface in the fore peak of the boat, the underside of the deck. The inspector balked, but Stew argued that he had met the requirements of the rule and had installed a head and holding tank. When the inspector inquired how one was to use this upside down head, Stew merely pulled out the rule book and showed that there was no stated requirement of actually having to use the devise, besides he exclaimed, “we still have the bucket”.

We passed this new inspection and went on to sail the LYRA long course and won our division in the regatta. Good thing Stew was such a stickler for the rules.