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A Tale Comes to An End

Readers of All at Sea will recall Jeannie Kuich's perennially-entertaining column, "Tales from the Charter Cockpit," her reports from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and her Skylights astronomy feature each month. The following notice of Jeannie's death was written by Verna Ruan, a longtime charter broker on St. Thomas:

Jeanne Zimmerman Kuich, who was known as Jeannie to her many friends on St. Thomas, died on June 9. She was born Oct. 20, 1936, in Louisiana and then lived from the time she was two in Houston, Texas. She left for college in 1954. A graduate of Colorado University in 1958, she married Mike Kuich in Houston on Aug. 20, 1959. Jeannie and Mike moved to St. Thomas in 1967 where they went into the charter business. With Michael she co-owned five different sail boats ranging in size from the 50-foot Stargazer to the 84-foot Queen of Sheba. An avid sailor, Jeannie sailed the islands from Grenada to St. Thomas many times. With Mike she sailed to Bermuda five times, New England twice, Nova Scotia twice, with one trip to Norway and all the points in between.

In 1982, she ventured on a two-year sail around the world. Jeannie is the author of the astronomy book, 'Soap Operas of the Sky.' She contributed many articles on sailing and astronomy to such publications as Cruising World, All At Sea and Compass. She is survived by her husband Michael Kuich, her stepsister Sarah in Houston and her many friends on St. Thomas, the BVI and abroad.

Jeannie's "Tales" painted a vivid and sometimes hilarious picture of life on board a charter boat in the 1960s and '70s, before the days of insurance, booking houses, anchor permits or mooring fees. She described the haphazard early St. Thomas charter fleet, a "hodge-podge" of owner-operated boats from 40 to 72 feet: schooners, ketches and cutters, some wooden classic yachts.

She recalled the formation of the charter boat league, the earliest ads, the writing of a first brochure and the evolution of boat amenities. Food and beverages eventually were included, but meats, fresh vegetables and boat parts were hard to come by. Some customers were wealthy and even famous. She and Mike developed fast friendships with some who returned for repeat charters. Jeannie and Mike's water stained, faded, 40-year old photos lent great charm to her words.

Jeannie's "Tales from the Charter Cockpit" column was on a summer hiatus, scheduled to resume in October. The tales have come to an end, along with an era, and we will miss reading them. But if there was a common theme in Jeannie's columns, it was that the spirit of early day, nonconformist charter boat operators still lives on. "It ain't easy being a charter pirate," Jeannie wrote. "You seldom have a buck to spare in your pocket, your clothes are salt-stained and your boat has a bad leak in the basement. But you earn money taking people sailing – which sure beats working on land."

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