By Mary Ewing
On Oct. 14, the San Francisco Pelican Viking Fleet 3 hosted a lakeside celebration of the life of Commodore Howard White at Big Lake near Mount Vernon in Skagit County. This club’s mission is to provide an enjoyable, safe and affordable sailing environment for its members and visitors.
Howard was born Sept. 28, 1925, and died Sept. 11, 12 weeks after being diagnosed with metastatic cancer. He was a World War II Purple Heart veteran, drafted into the Army right after high school. America and Britain won the battle for Okinawa in 1945, during which Howard’s job was to deliverer live ammo to his comrades. More combatants and civilians died during this horrible fight than when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed.
After earning a Seattle University accounting degree, he became a partner in his family’s Port Angeles laundering business.
Howard’s passions were his Pelican “Spirit of ’76” sailboat and bridge. A Red Cross certified sailing instructor, he taught the art of sailing; and he played duplicate and taught bridge at various places in the northeast Seattle area.
Club members regularly trailer their Pelican dinghies to lakes and inland waterways to participate in friendly racing competitions and potlucks. Before and after the Oct. 14 barbeque chicken potluck, Howard’s son, Chris White, presided over numerous stories about his father — told by him and other attendees. I loved Chris’ account of Howard’s first meeting with Mairi McRae: “Dad met Mairi playing bridge, learned she’s quite the sailor and told me, ‘She’ll do.’ ” For seven years, they were a devoted couple.
Scotland-born Mairi then revealed why “she’d do.” On Sept. 30, 1969, Mairi and her first husband left Lake Washington aboard their new 26-foot Viking sailboat. Their first stop was Victoria, B.C. Then, cruising the Pacific south about 200 miles offshore to avoid busy shipping lanes, they visited various ports until reaching San Diego. There, they spent time buying provisions and gleaning sailing tips from other sailboat cruisers.
On April 1, 1971, they put out to sea, stopping at Manzanillo, Mexico, again for provisions. Soon after leaving for the Marquesas, the trade winds, upset by a northerly Mexican coastal hurricane, made the 32-day trip into a 39-day trip. They visited Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji. Helped by a developing hurricane blowing south from the New Hebrides, their final 600 miles to their destination of New Zealand became very exciting. They arrived on Dec. 31 1971.
Global positioning satellites now give locations to within a square yard anywhere on the globe. Mairi’s boat was kept on course by using just the stars and shipping charts. Listening to that day’s remembrances, I had to share my new knowledge of these two Carl Gibson duplicate players with our membership. I’m glad we have this venue to meet interesting people. Call George, 425-422-7936, for bridge game information.