Eight Bells: Johnson Wooderson

Published on January 13th, 2020

Johnson Wooderson, 82 years, with a 9 knot breeze from WSW, navigated a course to the Pearly Gates from London on January 4, 2020.

“Woody meant so much to so many people,” noted John Lammerts van Bueren. “To me, he was the tactician/navigator on Cambria (1928 135-foot Fife design and built), old school and thoroughly reliable, no fancy electronics, just well prepared with chart, pencil and binoculars in hand. Conversations between our captain Chris Barkham and Woody went like this:

Woody would mumble: Chris?
Chris: Yeah?
Woody: Yes.
Chris: Yeah yeah, no worries. Tacking!

“In-between there was the Woody wittering, endless stories filled with sense and the all-important nonsense. Whether what he said mattered or didn’t, there was always something about the way he spoke that made it worth listening to; the sheer joy of listening to his voice.”

Woody raced with the best of the best, top tier Flying Dutchman in the 60s, Admiral’s Cup, Transat, Fastnets, the mighty schooners Elena, Adix, Altair, and the Int. 15-Metre The Lady Anne. For decades, he was on the sailing world’s ‘most wanted list’.

Everyone knew that going out to sea with Woody meant you stood a better chance, that you would never be lost, not for position, not for stories, not for laughs, not for the finest of company. Try walking down the dock with him; the stories would come out as he knew everyone and often to his own surprise, even more people knew him.

“Over the past 16 years Cambria was his home away from home, and, over all those years he missed just two regattas, such was his love for sailing with her,” shared Lammerts van Bueren. “And for us on board: we all loved him to bits, of course we did, as a friend, a seaman and a legend.

“He was as complete a gentlemen as they get; confident yet humble, a man who always treated everyone around him with equal admiration and respect. What a joy to have raced with him, what a privilege it was to have him as a friend.”

Sail on dear Woody, sail on

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