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Monday, May 21, 2012

May 20, 2012-Long Time BC Racer in Trinidad

The old man in the bar with the white shirt and rumpled captain’s hat looked slightly familiar as he chatted with the couple from Toronto and the burgee on his shirt pocket rang a bell too, but which bell I couldn’t say.

So when he moved off to another table I stood up and intercepted him.

“Hi, I’m Fred Roswold. I know that burgee but I can’t place it. What club is it from?”


He shook my hand and said, “Royal Vancouver. I’m Vern.”

Royal Van, of course. I’d seen that burgee a thousand times back in the days when we sailed in RVYC events in the Pacific Northwest. And Vern?

“Vern who?”, I asked.

“Vern Ruskin”

Now I had it. Jolly Olly. This man, Vern Ruskin and his boat Jolly Olly, had at one time, in fact for many, many, years, been a familiar sight to us in races all over Puget Sound and British Columbia. Vern Ruskin and his Jolly Olliy was a fixture in NW sailing for as long as I can remember. Too many times I had found myself looking at the transom of his 35 foot, blue and white, Petersen and swearing to myself, “How did this old guy get ahead of us again?”

Now we find him here in Trinidad, he must be 100 years old because I thought he was he was old when I first encountered him in the late seventies.

I joined him at his table and talked with him for a while.

Still Winning in 2011

Yes, he still has Jolly Olly, he still keeps it and still races it in Vancouver. Last year he got first place in the Easter Seals Cup in Jolly Olly. He said they won by finding a wind shift which the rest of the fleet didn’t see.

He has another boat, Jolly Friends, here in Trinidad. He splits his time between the places.

He’s 87. I just hope I am half as good as he is when I am 87.

We shook hands and took a photo.

The next day Judy and I joined Vern for lunch at a local restaurant. Vern had an agenda.

You see, Vern Ruskin, though he is 87 and maintains two boats, travels between Canada and the Caribbean every year continuing to race and cruise, also has a mission and he was recruiting.

Vern Ruskin is trying to get politicians and environmentalists in Washington State and British Columbia, (and Washington DC and Ottawa) to reconsider hydro-electric power. He believes, knows actually as he was the original engineer who came up with the studies which resulted in the Columbia River Treaty of 1964 between Canada and the USA, which in turn resulted in the building of several dams and power stations in the upper Columbia River, that there is still a huge amount of untapped hydro-power in BC. He thinks that developing it would be more environmentally sound than building gas fired generating plants.

So Vern was recruiting me to help him promote his idea. He actually wondered if I knew Patty Murray; maybe she was a member of my yacht club?

Well, I was non-committal on this idea, and anyhow, as far as I knew, Senator Murray isn’t a member of any yacht club we belong to, but I really enjoyed seeing Vern again and talking to him.

And it gave us new hope that we have a few years of sailing left in us.

wingssail images-judy jensen
Fred & Vern Ruskin

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Trinidad

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I crewed for Vern on a southern straits race in the 1990's (a break from skippering my own boat then). Man I thought vern was a tough old bastard then, and I dont imagine he has changed one bit over the years.. I remember he was helming in the middle of the night, pouring rain, with just his well worn in floater jacket (pre-sprayed with silicone) to protect his upper torso, and my job was supposedly to trim the mainsheet but mostly I worked to keep it from getting under his gumbooted feet. The guy had 30 years on me, and was a tough as nails.

29 May, 2013 23:32  

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