Eight Bells: Tommy Dickey

Published on January 24th, 2019

Tommy Dickey, one of the most beloved kindred spirits who throughout his life plied the waters of Galveston Bay and beyond, has sadly sailed over the horizon.

Tommy’s infatuation with boats and being on saltwater was realized at an early age. He sailed the junior one-design Teal Class at Texas Corinthian Yacht Club and built the first of many his boats, a Sailfish (front-runner to the iconic Sunfish) in his teens.

He eagerly learned to race like many of us in the 1950s by paying dues crewing in Corinthians for the ole salts like Charlie Milby and Ernie Fay. As the hook was set, his apprenticeship paid off with winning the club’s “B” Series in 1957 as a young guest skipper. Tommy’s enthusiasm in those years was not lost on his peers either as he was awarded the coveted Ben Cash Trophy.

Tommy and Susie began a courtship that harkened back to the late 50s and they married while he attended TCU. While there he raced at the Fort Worth Boat Club with a fraternity brother who owned a Morgan 28.

As a gifted and master boat builder, Tommy built a dozen or so power and sailboat hulls, all finished out in Bristol fashion (five of them were the Four Winds 24 he sold in boat shows). He won the Best Yacht at the Keels and Wheels show with the blue-hulled beauty that he and his son Charlie built and named Hussy. It was a wonderful father / son project.

Prior to that he won his class with Lady, a Grand Banks 32 (above) he has owned for over 35 years. She’s prettier today than when she rolled off the ways at the factory in the early 70s due to his meticulous care of her. The names of all of his creations were classic as well. The name on the transom of his final work completed last summer, Hunky Dory, was so befitting of his life.

He was honored at TCYC by his peers with the whimsical Frivolity Cup as well as the noble Haviland Cup. Each is symbolic, one for his sense of humor, the other a devotion to his passion. His talent on the race course as crew was way up there with the greats of our sport. He earned his stripes but also had a supernatural knack when it came to trimming a spinnaker.

He became part of the sail. Running downwind in light air, it was as if he was gently strumming a harp to keep the chute full and drawing. Or in heavy air he would yank and ease the spinnaker sheet at arm’s length while staying a beat ahead of a tom-tom. His agility on the foredeck to outmaneuver an unruly spinnaker on a gybe was poetry in motion.

He was a world champion too. In 1971 Bob Mosbacher, Tommy, and Thad Hutcheson won the Soling Gulf Coast Regionals, then the North American, and ultimately the Soling World Championship. It was a monumental hat trick in a field of talent considered the Who’s Who in Yachting from all over the world.

But it was truly a team effort because going into the final day’s racing for the World Championships at Seawanhaka Corinthian YC on Long Island, Susie shanghaied the leader, Bruce Goldsmith, treated him to copious amounts of whatever poisonous potion the barman at SCYC served up, hired a limo and sent him on his merry way for a big night in Manhattan on her.

As a result, Bruce was a bit late for the final race day and under extreme duress from the night before, so Susie earned her wingman stripes when she executed her duties flawlessly in helping to hand the win to her guys. Tommy was also onboard as crew for a trio of 2nd place finishes in the 5.5 Meter World Championships at TCYC, Norway, and Nassau with his good friend Pete Masterson at the helm.

He was a gentleman, a kind and reverent soul and a wonderful father and grandfather. Until we cross tacks once again you’ll be permanently anchored within our hearts. – Tony Smythe, dear friend and sailing buddy

A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday January 31 from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm at the Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Home (1734 W Alabama Street).

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