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Don Thomas

Dear Friends of Don:

I know many of you are not cruisers, but others of you are, including some other old friends we have known, and we just wanted to share with all of you a letter Jim just wrote to Latitude 38, a magazine all us cruisers read, write to and stay connected through no matter where we are or whether we are still cruising.  We know Don will still be checking in to the section entitled Changes in Latitudes and we just want to make sure he knows how much we all miss him.  Be safe all of you.

Don Thomas, single-handed skipper of s/v Tamure (Peterson 44), and our weatherman supreme on the Pacific side of Central and South America for years, died last week in Newport Beach, CA.  He had been suffering from throat cancer since last year.  Don was a great weatherman and a truly wonderful friend. 

My wife Leslee and I (aboard Trilogy, our Cal 2-46) first picked up Don's weather in El Salvador or Costa Rica in 2002, and stayed glued to the SSB every morning for years after to tune in and get the real thing from Don.  Don didn't just read weather reports he picked up from NOAA or someone else's service; he ran weatherfaxes and raw chart data numerous times throughout the day, every day, then gave us an analysis based upon his experience as a military meteorologist and a cruiser for many years, including lots of local weather, tide and current information you only get from someone who's been there.   And he was efficient.  Some days we would hear "if you like what you've got today, you'll like tomorrow even better."  Enough said.  Other days, he would warn of bad things to come, tell us why in detail, give us his thoughts about leaving or hunkering down, and stay with us if we were getting beat up out there on a passage,  just needing to talk.  If Don said it was going to blow like stink, it did, if he said it was going to blow "woo woo", we put out more rode, shortened sail or hove to, and settled in to ride it out.  I remember well a time when he gave a very strong warning to a boat NOT to set out across the Tehuanepec on a northbound passage the following week.  When the boat went anyway, Don stayed with them on the radio every day, every night, helping the crew get through a really bad blow, and never once any hint of "I warned you" or "I told you so," just hours of calm and patient cruiser-talk.

We actually met Don for the first time in person at Bahia Honda, in Panama, between Christmas and New Year in 2002. We pulled in, dropped the hook, looked around and I told Leslee, "look, it's Tamure, let's go introduce ourselves."  We did, and it led to ten years of friendship.  At the little village on Isla Cana, in the Pearl Islands of Panama, Don was known among the local fishermen as "Standup Man", the single-hander gringo who always drove his dinghy standing up as he moved from dive spot to dive spot and to fish around the islands.  I don't know anyone who spent more time in the water.  And, the name was apt, in both languages and with both meanings; Don was, in all ways, a "Standup" man.  

We miss Don terribly, as will all his cruiser friends from his years on Tamure.  So, Standup Man, our very good amigo, we wish for you fair winds (no woo woo), following seas and a very safe passage out there.

Jim Massey and Leslee Bangs
s/v Trilogy



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