I just pulled into Israel, checked my email and learned my buddy Rudy Thompson had died.
It knocked me back.
Rudy seemed eternalâ€”not only eternally alive but eternally youthful in the best, truest sense of the word.
What originally attracted me to Rudy was his natural ability as a sailor. He not only was a superb racer, he made it look simple, easy, and natural. Rudy was always relaxed, ashore and afloat. I watched him win and lose many timesâ€”but I never saw him lose his sense of humor or his boyish sense of fun.
When I first started club racing in the VI, Rudy was my hero. The closer I followed Rudy on the race course, the more I won. I admired him so much I made no effort to hide it. Just before a race in St. Croix or St. Thomas, I’d say, “If Rudy tacks, we tack. If Rudy has a beer, we’ll have a beer. If Rudy takes a leakâ€¦”
Besides being a fine racer at the STYC, Rudy was also a cruising sailor who was passionate about boats. He had as many live-aboard friends as racers. Sure, he could wax poetic about Cunningham adjustmentâ€”but he could also talk prop pitch, baggy-wrinkle, and sheet-to-tiller steering.
In fact, Rudy could talk about anythingâ€”at the drop of a hat. Thus I had him on my WVWI Radio One Marine Report dozens of times over the 17 years it was onâ€”and each show he guest-starred in was greatâ€”entertaining, thought-provoking, insightful.
Every time I met Rudy, he taught me something new. He was lit up on life. And he loved to experiment. Why, once he came back from a weekend with his wife on Jost Van Dykeâ€¦ totally amazed at the difficulties of making love in a hammock without having a toe on the ground.
Rudy did all the ‘hot races’ with all the ‘hot USVI sailors’ but he also often did the mom-and-pop cruising ones as well. When he wasn’t winning on the race course, he was drinking a cold beer on Cold Beer or having a Rhum Squall in the latter’s cockpit.
A Hysterical … er, I mean, Historical Perspective on USVI & BVI Marine Industries
He was a superb storyteller. I was particularly enthralled with his tales of sailing (another of my heros) John Steinbeck around the Lesser Antilles ‘â€¦back in the day.’
Of course, Rudy was crazy. IÂ was recently having dinner in Phuket, Thailand, with Tere Batham of Sea Questâ€”and she had me rolling on the cockpit sole with tales of Rudy and her drunk during St. Thomas Carnivalâ€”jumping crazily over the powerlines from their rolling trampoline.
Rudy moved gracefully because he was a gymnastâ€”but he moved gracefully through life as well. The STYC had many groups and clichÃ©s, but everyone was Rudy’s friend.
â€¦his sincere friend.
â€¦just because he was Rudy and always fun to be around.
I’ve known a lot of fine sailors and wonderful seaman in my 50 years of living aboard and offshore sailingâ€”but none as fine nor as fun as Rudy. I bet he’s up there in Fiddler’s Green right now, making ’em laugh about how he took a chainsaw to that dog-of-a-Pearson at the IBY and turned her into one of the winningest race boats in the Caribbean.
I’m saddened to hear of Rudy’s passing. I arrived in S.T. 5/2/81 as part of the crew opening the “Chart House” rest. @ the Villa Olga. I was a Hobie Cat sailor from St. Augustine, Fl. & a bartender at the local C.H..
The manager there was Rick Bockelman (S.D., Cal) who was chosen to manage the new S.T. C.H. & he accepted my offer to travel down to open the bar. I planned to be on island 3 mos. & stayed 3 yrs.
becoming the asst. mgr. (S.T.) & eventually mgr. of the Stx. C. H.( the last two yrs.)
Funny thing, the S.T. C.H. was to open about a year earlier but it burned very close to completion. Some said it was from old rags used in floor finishing, others called it arson. I remember 2 girls from St. Aug. ( then the only C.H. in Fl. ) were going down to work there, ( How cool was this I thought, maybe one day….) when news of the fire came. They were bummed & never made the trip. Sometime later Rick B. became our new manager, & serendipity landed us in S.T. . The opening was not until mid July,
“Bastille Day” in Frenchtown, so we all helped w/ construction to get by. ( it took WAPA 3 days to set a power pole) but about the end of may, Rick ( he had met Rudy who had his office near the Villa O.)
says ” you want to go sailing”? (Stx. Mem. Day reg.) Then I’m on the “Flyer” w/ Rudy. what a time! 1st going down, 2nd in Stx. ( Jboat, Blue Bayou was 1st, but we had much more fun) 2nd back to S.T. I took the tiller on the way back, cool! Plenty viitamin H (Heinekin gls. cans)
Showering @ the Stx. Y.C. & asked what boat I was on, I learned of Rudy’s “legend status” ( wow, do you know who he is?). A time never to forget. What a happy man, Who grinned like Huck finn. So I was a “Fun Hog” (Rudy’s prev Boat I believe) for a few days. We flew a spinnaker w/ a giant pink pig As we sailed into the Stx. harbor, Rudy had speakers put topside, & cranked up bagpipe music “Your saving Grace”. He knew how to make an entrance!
I’m planning a return trip to the V.I. (33yrs.) Rudy was one of the 1st to come to mind, So I Googled
him & I write this w/ watery eyes after finding this post. Not really gone & certainly not forgotten! I have some great photos which i’m going to look for, so ….
Steve Banta ,Saint Augustine, 4/26/2017
Allso sailed on the “Lite Brigade” w/ Rudy. Same boat, but he had to change the name because
“Flyer” was considered advertising I believe. The hull # on that Pearson Flyer was 0000003 !