Big Sea Boots to Fill

Musings of a Captain in Times of Transition
“Its going to be a challenge to become the person I so admired as a kid for the next kid who comes aboard.”

Justin sometimes just says things like this out of the blue after long quiet pauses. I am always surprised by comments like this from him. He is a truly gifted sailor and thousands of miles of ocean have slipped gracefully beneath the hulls of boats he has sailed. Guests of every boat he has ever worked on have always loved him because he is a genuinely warm person who loves what he does for a living and radiates that joy out to those around him. This role for him as the next steward of this amazing schooner he has loved for so many years just makes sense, but for Justin, this is so much more than just a natural next step in his maritime career; it is an ascension into a role he dreamed of as a child, but somehow couldn’t fathom he would have the opportunity to achieve.

Justin has been sailing since he was old enough to stand and that is no exaggeration. A Long Island native, he grew up sailing on the Great South Bay with his father, Chris, nearly every day there was wind. Justin always wanted to sail as a profession, but that dream wasn’t fully realized until his parents took him on a Kids & Family Cruise on the Schooner J. & E. Riggin when he was 12 years old. “The crew and Capt. Jon and Annie were like rockstars. I followed them everywhere asking if I could try whatever they were doing, asking to coil things, raise flags, and help. I had sailed before many times, but this was different, everything was so big and so old it was magical to me. Captivating.” He said “On the drive home headed out route 17 we got about as far as Chickawaukie Pond [about 5 minutes from the dock] before I was bawling in the backseat.” For Justin, the experience was life-altering and he was determined to return as one of the crew members he so admired. He would go on to sail as a guest, and apprentice for countless trips throughout the next 6 summers, a deckhand for 1 season, and finally, as the mate in 2015.

It was during this season as the mate that Justin made one of his fondest memories of his time on the Riggin. It was Jon’s birthday in August and Justin made plans to surprise Jon by dressing up as him; after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. He went to the local drugstore and bought some sunglasses which looked like Jon’s. He made plans with Annie for her to smuggle him one of Jon’s shirts. The morning of, Justin patted flour into his beard to give him the effect of greying facial hair while Chloe coiled the main sheet into a cursive Happy Birthday. “I popped down into the galley to see if there was anything I could do to help out and even Annie was confused momentarily despite having given me the shirt. It was really funny!” When Jon came on deck, he did a double take, “I think I made a pretty convincing stunt double.” They took a lot of pictures. Justin told me that he continued to dress as Jon for the rest of the day, but he did rinse the flour out of his beard because as he remembers it was pretty foggy and he didn’t want to “end up with a beard full of pizza dough.” Even now as he talks about it, he can’t help but laugh.

Justin is going to be a great steward of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. He is right; it will be a challenge. There are big sea boots to fill, but he is passionate about seeing this schooner continue to captivate the next generation of guests the way he was captivated, all while preserving the relationships he has formed with the Riggin Relics who have been sailing her as long as he has. With his hand at the wheel, I am confident that 2021 will mark the first of many happy years aboard the Riggin for our family.

Capturing one of many moments