Eight Bells: Rodger Martin

Published on May 28th, 2021

Rodger Martin, 73,  passed away May 14, 2021 while awaiting a lung transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Rodger was best known in the yachting world for his diversity of modern yachts.

Rodger was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1948 with his youth spent on the water. As he grew, his sailing passion took him to prestigious events such as the Admirals Cup and Fastnet Race, eventually leaving South Africa to crew on boats all over the globe. While mate on Orphee in the Caribbean, Rodger met Patty who become his wife of 43 years.

At every opportunity, Rodger sailed, made models, drew, wrote and adventured, and when he ultimately decided to pursue design as a profession, his return to the States had him enroll in the Westlawn School of Yacht Design where he started learning the mechanics of yacht design in earnest.

Rodger worked for Robert E. Derecktor in Mamaroneck, New York from 1977 to 1980, becoming Chief Designer. Projects included the 88-foot motor yacht Titania for William Ruger, three 75-foot high-speed patrol boats for the U. S. Navy, Flying Goose, fast ferries, and others.

Rodger and Patty then took their 28 foot sailing boat for a yearlong, six thousand mile cruise of the Bahamas, San Blas Islands (Panama), Bay Islands of Honduras, Belize, Mexico, and Florida, ending the cruise in Newport, Rhode Island in 1981.

Rodger then worked at Pedrick Yacht Designs from 1981 to 1984, again becoming Chief Designer. Projects included the Maxi IOR boat Nirvana, various production boats for Cheoy Lee, and the 70-foot cruising yacht Unfurled.

In 1984, he was ready to go on his own, and started Rodger Martin Yacht Designs in Newport, RI. As his first client, Mike Plant’s class victory in the 1986 BOC Single-handed Around the World Race on Airco Distributor gave the new designer the credibility he needed to fulfill his own enduring dreams of designing more boats.

Adam Loory, who now owns a Martin-designed 40 footer, shares a note:

“Wow! You can design & build all the boats you want but it’s just an object until it’s nurtured and loved by its owner. Katie G/Soulmates is blessed to have owners who have each done just this in their own way and made her into a living, thriving pleasure & success! With admiration for you both.” – Rodger

Ross Weene, who worked with Rodger for 20 years, spoke glowingly about Rodger’s ability, diversity, and acuity. Ross figures that Rodger could tell a 1mm error from a distance of 50 meters.

Rodger will be sorely missed by all of his friends here. May he rest in Peace.

UPDATE: A service will be held June 14 (4:00-6:00pm) at Newport Shipyard in Newport, RI.

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