Eight Bells: Robert Jessen

Published on January 6th, 2022

Robert Henning (“Bob”) Jessen’s last sunset occurred November 20, 2021. He had a long, prosperous, and adventurous life, enjoying most every day next to the water in Newport Beach, California, as just “another crummy day in Paradise”. He was fortunate to reach his fill of those wonderful days at 92 years old, and it was time to move on to Heaven’s Paradise.

Bob was a true sailor, who admired the art tremendously, shaping his house as a sailboat, with a mast, topmast, and standing rigging for support. His many nautical artifacts included a Polynesian weather chart, an astrolabe, and a sextant, which he used for celestial navigation for multiple Transpacs in the 60s and 70s, as well as for races to Manzanillo and Acapulco, amongst other long distance regattas.

Bob was such a personable man, he could make friends with anyone and many of them were boat owners and racers of yachts in local offshore competitions. Many happened to be members of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, of which he was a founding member.

He was an authority on square-sailed ships, sailing on the barque-rigged CARTHAGINIAN and providing input on the rigging for the museum grade model of the USS CONSTITUTION. He was also a Sea Scout leader, and would put his Sea Scouts on board square riggers, including the CARTHAGINIAN, MONTE CRISTO, and ARGUS, and other vessels to handle sails, work the decks, steer and actively learn piloting.

In July 2000, he sailed with a number of his former Sea Scouts including Odin Braathen, Randy Gordon, Scott Harris, and Fred Bockmiller, on the ‘HMS’ Rose, a replica of a British frigate, in the Operation Sail (“Tall Ship”) 2000 Parade of Ships from Boston to Halifax. Many of his Sea Scouts, including Marine Artist Scott Kennedy, learned most everything they knew about sailing from Skipper Bob Jessen, who served as their mentor and Sea Scout skipper in their youths.

As Scott would say, “Bob was a born teacher and leader who took great care and tenacity with us kids in the Sea Scout Ship 306, the Flying Toads.”

Ship 306 had its own boat to sail, called the “Drop Boat”, which was 30 feet long, shallow draft with a heavy aluminum dagger board, which needed 12 kids to hike out on the high side to hold her down somewhat with any decent breeze. Bob’s practice sessions with the Sea Scouts included whaleboat racing, use of breeches buoy, marlinspike seamanship, semaphore signaling, morse code, marching, and scuttlebutt.

In 2017, the Boy Scouts of America honored Bob for his achievements in mentoring many fine young men and women, and for being the first Sea Scout Skipper to permit girls to join the Sea Scouts in 1970, a first since its beginning in 1912.

Over 1971 to 1972, Bob led the Ship 306, including four young women, around the country, to both the West and East Coasts and the Great Lakes as one of the most competitive and successful Ships in the Sea Explorers program, winning every Rendezvous they entered, including the Ancient Mariner regatta in San Francisco Bay, receiving trophies that had never left the area in former years, and setting time records that are astonishing to this day.

The Boy Scouts awarded Bob Jessen with the William H. Spurgeon, III, Award – the “Highest Recognition for Individuals and Organizations Contributing Significant Leadership to the Exploring Program”, which they presented him aboard the 139-foot replica of the magnificent sailing vessel, the AMERICA, which won the trophy that became the America’s Cup.

Bob leaves in this world four successful children – Erik, Blake, Leif, and Kristen; with eight amazing grandchildren, including two who are carrying on his passion for sailing – Dana and Jack; and an extended family of relatives and friends who all miss him as deep as the ocean’s calling. To this day, he remains Scott Kennedy’s “North Star”. Hats off to you, Skipper Bob Jessen, always and forever.

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