Eight Bells: Fred Hecklinger

Published on September 28th, 2020

At the age of 15, Fred Hecklinger built a 15-foot lumberman’s bateau from a design he found in Boys’ Life magazine and named it Pride. One year later, after dropping out of school, he left home and headed for Oxford to chase the dream of becoming a seaman.

It was the summer of 1953 and the Baltimore native found work at the Oxford Boatyard Co., where he was fortunate to meet C. Sherman Hoyt — one of the world’s most famous yachtsman.

Hoyt hired the eager teenager as a mate to assist with campaigning an 8-meter yacht named Hurrying Angel around the Chesapeake Bay that summer. So began a lifetime of working on and around sailing vessels.

Hecklinger, a legendary figure within the Annapolis (MD) sailing community and one of the founders of Eastport Yacht Club, died September 25 after battling the aftereffects of a heart attack for five years. He was 84.

The 40-year resident of Bay Ridge passed at Heart Homes assisted living with Bobbie, his wife of 45 years, by his side.

For Hecklinger, it all goes back to that glorious summer when he helped Hoyt compete in buoy races off Annapolis and Gibson Island every weekend. During the week, Hecklinger cleaned and varnished the 8-meter, sewed sails and did whatever necessary to get Hurrying Angel ready for the next regatta.

Along the way, Hecklinger taught himself marlinspike seamanship, woodworking, rigging, racing skills and yachting etiquette.

“Some people are just born with a passion. Fred realized when he was a young boy that he wanted to work in the maritime industry, so he did something about it,” Bobbie Hecklinger said. “Through ambition and determination, Fred made his own path.”

Hoyt, who served as helmsman aboard Enterprise and Rainbow and helped skipper Harold Vanderbilt defend the America’s Cup in 1930 and 1934, wrote Hecklinger a glowing letter of recommendation, which opened doors that found him as mate aboard a wide range of sailing vessels. He raced with Henry B. DuPont aboard a 45-foot sailboat and joined the crew of the 96-foot schooner Caribee, which was owned by Walter Boudreau.

Peter Boudreau grew up on that gaff-rigger designed by Howard Chapelle and would later work with Hecklinger to build the original Pride of Baltimore. – Baltimore Sun, full report

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