Eight Bells: Patience Wales

Published on February 21st, 2024

Patience B. Wales of Ipswich, former Editor of Sail Magazine and two-time circumnavigator, died in Danvers, MA on February 16, 2024. She was 89. A native of Massachusetts, she lived in Ipswich for 34 years. The cause of death was colon cancer.

Patience was born in Brockton, Massachusetts to Ralph and Retha Bens and raised in Randolph. She was the youngest of four with three older brothers, Richard, David, and Ralph. Her mother gave her an early love of animals, teaching her to help neighborhood strays and backyard wildlife whenever she could.

Patience was an excellent student who loved poetry and writing and she was accepted into Tufts University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in English. While at Tufts, she was introduced to small boat sailing and also met Jim Wales of Marblehead. She and Jim became engaged before he went off to the Navy.

After graduation, she started what would be a lifetime of travel adventures, driving cross country with her college roommate and life long best friend, Dr. Bebe Wunderlich.

Following a stint at Houghton-Mifflin in New York City, she moved back to Boston in 1957. Jim returned from the Navy and they married. One evening, after telling Bebe and her husband Kenneth about a lecture the two had attended on circumnavigation, they all agreed it was something they could do, too. They bought a double-ended, 42 foot, wooden boat and named it Kismet. Setting sail in 1963, they traveled west over the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and European rivers, returning in 1967.

Always a quick and agile person, Patience loved to be hoisted aloft to look for reefs in poorly-charted waters. She reflected, “When I started to cruise, I started to grow up. I was in my early twenties and I had never before been responsible for anyone else. Then, four of us sailed around the world together and formed the kind of interdependent unit necessary for successful passage making…being on the water with others gave me a sense of adulthood.”

In 1970, Sail Magazine started up in Boston. By that time, Patience was divorced and decided she wanted to make travel and sailing her career. She began as a Contributing Editor to Sail. In 1973 she was named Managing Editor and rose to Editor in 1988. Certainly, this was her dream job but it was also quite significant.

She was one of the first female editors of a major sailing magazine. A former colleague remembered, “She was a circumnavigator and female editor in the time of the boys clubs!” Another spoke of how Patience succeeded in re-orienting the editorial content of the magazine more toward cruising and, thereby, more toward a significant portion of its readership.

It was at a 1974 press junket in Puerto Rico that she met Knowles Pittman, then Publisher of Yacht Racing Magazine. The two were given a catamaran to sail and review for their respective magazines. Despite Knowles at the helm dunking her while she hiked out, the two had an instant connection. They moved to Revere and soon began planning another circumnavigation with Bebe and Kenneth. They bought a Skye 51 foot cutter and named it Boston Light. Leaving in 1986, they headed for the south seas spending time in French Polynesia, Fiji, Borneo, and Indonesia.

Back in Massachusetts in 1988, she and Knowles married and settled on Ipswich as the town to build a house and live out their years. She retired from Sail in 2001 after 28 years. “I’ve had the job to kill for”, she wrote in her final issue, “…sailing, sailing, sailing all over the world.”

Throughout her life, she was known as a very high-energy person with a glass-half-full attitude. That, combined with her quick wit and humor, made her a lot of fun to be around and also an extremely effective person at whatever she chose to take on.

In Ipswich, she jumped into local politics, became an avid gardener and a yoga devotee. She also volunteered at a feline rescue in Salisbury. She always had two or three senior cats at home, asking the shelter, “Who’s the most urgent case?” That feline would soon find itself well-fed and lounging comfortably in a sunny window at her house.

She remained in Ipswich after her husband’s death in 2005 and continued traveling, including six trips along the canals of France in self-driven barges. She had just returned from Portugal in late October, holding onto her usual 100 or so Euros at the end, “to have for the next trip.”

Patience is survived by her stepdaughters Ann Pittman & husband Bob Quillin; Lucia Ratner, and Carrie Pittman. Stepson, Freeman Pittman, predeceased her in 1996. She is also survived by Freeman’s wife, Susan Pittman, and daughters, Rebecca Pittman and Margaret Pittman; Lucia’s sons Ben Ratner, Sam Ratner, his wife Silvia Ponce and their daughter Vivian; and Patience’s many nieces and nephews from her brothers.

At Patience’s request, there will be no funeral. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
In memoriam, donations can be made to Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, 63 Elm Street, Salisbury, MA 01952. www.mrfrs.org

Source: https://thelocalnews.news/2024/02/21/patience-wales-obituary/

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