Robb White (right) showing off his Feluccia at Cedar Key Messabout
In the late winter before his untimely death, author and boatbuilder Robb White came to Sewanee, Tennessee at the behest of the Friends of the Library. Robb, standing on the left in the bottom picture, brought along his Feluccia (the boat on the left) and invited area boatbuilders to bring their craft. I brought the Joel White-designed Shellback dinghy, the boat to the right in the picture.
I had met Robb several times at the Cedar Key small boat gathering in early May each year, and I admired his twice-monthly writings in Messing About in Boats (some of which were published as How to Build a Tin Canoe). I had also published in Messing About in Boats, so the gathering in my home town was a special event for me.
We all gathered in front of the library, raised sails, and commenced to talking about boats and admiring one anothers' boats as if we were on the Atsina Otie beach during the Cedar Key Messabout. After a while, the wind picked up and began to blow cold and hard. Robb asked if I thought we should shorten sail. I answered that I had been taught that when you think of reefing, it's probably already a little late.
We both dropped our sails and fled to the lee of the library porch as a crowd began to gather for the "lecture." Snow was falling a few minutes later as we went inside for the discussion of plants (for Robb's formal training was as a botanist, and several prominent local botanists had come to see what he had to say.).
The talk and its aftermath of questions lasted about an hour and a half. When we emerged into the twilight, the students had made snowmen and put them at the helms of each of the boats. I dug the snow out of the Shellback and headed home to a warm fire and supper.
A couple of months later at the Cedar Key Messabout, I spoke with Robb about the snowmen. He said that he had pushed over the snowman into his boat and added a bit more snow from the lawn. The next morning he made a point to depart early and to drive as fast as he could back home to Thomasville, Georgia near the Florida line. There his grandchildren, who had never seen snow, were able to make snowballs and have snow ice cream.
About a month later Robb died in an operating room of a brain aneurism. I will miss him, and I reread his tales often.
(Matt Layden suggested that I share this tale.)