Friday, January 04, 2019

On the Harbor: Remembering my buddy, Commodore Josh Walker

Josh Walker 2002 Ensenada Race
It has been a very long time since I have had the wind knocked out of my sails and just as I was approaching the finish line to the end of 2018, WHAM I took a hard round down to weather. You know the type when the spinnaker pole digs into the water and everything feels like it’s crashing down on you.
Well, that’s pretty much how I felt when I heard that my good friend, Josh Walker, had passed away this last week of December 2018. The first thing I reflected on was how Walker always greeted me with a long drawn out “Lenny Bose.” I’ll probably always look for him each time I enter the Balboa Yacht Club for many years to come.
I recall the first time I noticed his wife, Carrie, and Josh on the main dock at BYC. Josh was returning their Catalina 36 to the mooring when Carrie had noticed that she had left her car keys on the boat. It was a long time ago to quote Carrie and Josh’s conversation across the water as Carrie desperately tried to convince Josh, who was about three rows deep into the moorings, to return to the dock to return her keys. The banter was funny and full of love, yet someone not knowing they might have seen it differently.
In the early 2000s, we spent a lot of time with the Walkers at Whites Cove in Catalina. The Walkers had two very young granddaughters, Katie and Megan when my son was 4 or 5 years old. We both spent most of our time during these warm summer days making sure the toddlers did not leave the confines of the grassy area of the Whites way station. While the kids would play in this tropical paradise, Josh would always remind me to keep a sharp eye out for my son’s advancements toward his granddaughters. Again, the banter was fun and full of love.
In 2002, Walker took his turn at the helm of the Balboa Yacht Club as Commodore and referred to himself as “The do nothing Commodore.” Yet, that’s not what I remember. I recall the club was digging itself out of some financial difficulties from previous years. Walker had taken the helm when no one else would, on a very dark night at sea, with a huge squall overhead. He came out from under the financial squall on a port pole hauling the mail straight at the mark. Speaking of squalls, Walker joined me that year in the 2002 Ensenada Race: the following are my excerpts from that race.
Forecast for the day was 15 to 20 k4 SW with locally stronger gusts in the afternoon. Showers or thunderstorms likely. The Newport to Ensenada 2002 was our first race with our new boat, a 1999 J 125 named LUCKY DOG. At 10:45 a.m., LUCKY DOG’s call sign was changed to BYC-1 as Commodore Walker stepped aboard from the club’s race dock. Right off the dock, a rain squall came through which sent everyone diving for their foul weather gear. But we can’t complain, nor can we wipe the smile off our faces. The next 13 hours were some of the best sailing I have ever experienced in the Newport to Ensenada race.

As the LUCKY DOG’s knot log recorded a 15.8, the GPS told us we were really doing 16.7. I looked over for Commodore Walker’s reaction to this sudden surge in boat speed as we headed down this rather large swell just off Oceanside. I thought I might catch the Commodore’s eyes wide open with hands gripping the boat tight. The opposite was the case: “I’ve never gone this fast before,” he said, smiling ear to ear as he ground in the spinnaker for the next wave. Along with his game face, Commodore Walker brought along some of the best quotes: “Bring it on,” “We’re boiling,” “We’re going to be finished before 1 a.m.” – those were only some of the comments made by this exceptional competitor.
Another moment I observed was during Nick Scandone’s Paralympics Skud 18 campaign in 2007-08 when Walker gave generously monetarily and timewise to support Scandone’s campaign to bring home the gold medal from China.
Walker is remembered by all as “the most generous guy you will meet” as well as “honest and fair.”
Unfortunately for all of us, he would often say while leaving BYC, “We are walking not talking.”
Well, Walker, if I had known you were departing us, I would have asked you to stay around for another 75 years. Hope you don’t mind me keeping the way you greeted me all these years...I plan on doing the same with my friends.
Sea ya.

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