The Block Island Times

Sailing with Ray Johnson

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Mar 18, 2013
Photo by: J. V. Houlihan, Jr. Ray Johnson doing what he loves to do

I've known Ray Johnson since our college years; I was at RIC, he went to P C. Ray was pretty good at basketball. Also, I surfed with his brother Charley and went to school with him for a few semesters. Both Johnson brothers are very capable sailors. Charley was known to sail his Crocker Ketch, the African Queen, into Edgartown Harbor, in heavy or light air, enginless. This is where the talking stops; you can either sail a boat or not. There is no wiggle room for error. Charley did this without even breathing heavy. He's a great sailor. One day in '74 while I was working on the Quonset, I noticed the African Queen, in Old Harbor; Charley was on the mainland. Weather was developing.

The wind came hard from the northeast that afternoon, and Charley's boat dragged very close to the steel bulkhead. Luckily, the ketch ended up on the sandy beach in front of the National Hotel. In typical Charley Johnson fashion, when he got back to the island, he just kedged off the main mast, and let his boat float into deeper water with the incoming tide. No sweat, the guy doesn't let the small stuff bother him. Charley was also a pioneer of tearing around the shorebreak at Narragansett Town Beach, circa 1970 on a Hobie Cat.

Over the years, Ray had a Cape Dory 25, and a Pearson 33. These days, we sail out of Newport  together. The deal is, Ray brings a killer lunch from Belmont: Orzo, salad and teriaki strips.  Furthermore, he does all of the sailing while I flop up on the bow, and sleep. Ray's the only guy that I feel that relaxed with aboard our Ericson 30. We have fun talking about our days working in corrections, and how we dodged many crazy bullets while raising hell back in the wild days. Ray Johnson is a thick headed and very tenacious guy. Ray had a medical issue a couple of years back, that slowed him down a bit, but not enough for him to come to Clark's Boatyard on Jamestown, and go full-tilt cleaning, waxing and buffing the hull while I painted the bottom. He's unstoppable. I can't wait to get the old geezer on board this summer for some great sailing and good grub!



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