Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

Son of a Sailor

This update is a bit of a divergence from my usual breed of randomness, which typically has something to do with S/V Nomadness, development facilities, technomadic gizmology, or random noodlings triggered by any of the foregoing.

I’d like to dedicate this posting to my father, Ed Roberts, who passed away in 2005. The trip to Kentucky to shut down the old family homestead was a huge 6-month project, and left me with a Wells-Cargo trailer full of artifacts along with unexpected glimpses into my dad’s life, making me wonder why we didn’t have far more conversations about his complex and passionate past.

I’ve always known that he had a sailboat before I was born, for example, but I didn’t realize that it was a central fixture in his life for over a decade… beginning with the initial construction of Star #2011 (named Dabih, after the beta star in Capricornus – a rare visual double with all sorts of strange chemistry). The boat was built by Herman Lund in 1940:


This was 12 years before I came along to irrevocably shift family economic priorities, and my dad became heavily involved in the Star yacht racing scene while ramping up his engineering career at General Electric (including distinguished service to the Navy during WW2, inventing rocket launchers and nose cones using the newfangled Bakelite material… as well as the lever-operated alumimum ice cube tray). He often wore his old ISCYRA pin:


Here are some glimpses of Ed, Dabih, and the other Stars in the Lake Erie fleet…








A few years passed. I popped into the world in 1952, was put up for adoption, then arrived in the young Roberts family in early 1953. I think the picture of us below is kind of poignant, since he sold the boat shortly thereafter and moved to Louisville to design refrigerators at the new Appliance Park:


Through my childhood, my dad often raced Thistles and Penguins on the Ohio River, and a love of boats and engineering permeated my early conditioning. Yet I never saw these photos until just recently.

EYC membership card
From the perspective of a child, parents are just part of the environment… always there, somehow absolute. It never occurred to me to probe for stories, as I would now with any random friend. This central relationship was almost taken for granted.

Only after my parents were gone, when ancient correspondence emerged from Deep Archives and bizarre historical artifacts peeked out from under decades of accumulated clutter, did I suddenly get a sense of the complexity of these lives that shaped my own.


Just a reminder, my friends. Get to know your parents while you still can.

Fair winds, Dad… and thank you.
Steve

Edward H Roberts - Garnet Record 1931

9 Comments

  1. 3brainer on March 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Sweet!



  2. John Simmons on March 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Your writing is compelling enough when describing technomadic geekdom, but you really hit a sweet spot when you wax personal like that! Kids are never as different from their parents as they think they are!



  3. Steve Roberts on March 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    John – thanks so much for the kind words! I’m really looking forward to putting some of the gizmology behind me for a while and focusing on adventure… it has been too long.

    I enjoyed looking around your site!

    Cheers,
    Steve



  4. starbadger on May 22, 2009 at 11:59 am

    The son is the father of the man.

    Here I am today at 68 remembering something wise my father told me when I was five and he was 26.

    Twenty years later he died a hero, and the whole town stopped for a moment paying mind and a tear for

    An Athlete dying young



  5. starbadger on May 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Steven

    and when we live so long the father becomes the son of the man we have become

    like you i remember so much wisdom from my father, love from my mother, but i was five and he was 25, when i remember those wise hard things he said and his action taught me

    he died too young as heros usually do, he was 48, a small town in Alberta stopped and buried its

    Athlete dying young

    how that poem haunts me
    and maybe does you too

    but no matter – i am so happy to rediscover you sailing as is
    likewise my case – see ttamarine.com or castlehom.com
    as i hope a lot of business and pleasure awaits – i’d welcome you as an inner circle member at castlehom and as for the other i will be visiting the store – our “we” are all at Tarpon Springs and live aboards –



  6. Anne Marie on March 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    What gorgeous photos!!! Beautiful post, too. Thank you for sharing.



  7. Lee Devlin on March 10, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Hi Steve,

    What a great posting! Thanks for that glimpse into your past.

    I often have the same thoughts when it comes to my parents, that is, I wish I had asked more questions or had taken better notes.

    -Lee



  8. paul elkins on June 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Very touching Steve. Your reminder makes me feel good about getting off my duff and creating an outing on the ocean for my elder folks and family. Thank God they still have their faculties.



  9. […] My father was an interesting character, and quietly imbued me from early childhood with a sense of quality workmanship and project-oriented design… which manifested in my obsession with science fairs all through school and later, in the kinds of crazy machines that became a career. He was a sailor, too, and you can see that side of him here. […]