Table of Contents

  1. RJ Slocum History
  2. Yves-Marie de Tanton
  3. Bill Pinney
  4. The Pinney Family
  5. Culture of Character
  6. Slocum History
  7. Lessons in History
  8. Post Script
    1. Update as of July 31, 2020
    2. Update as of August 8, 2020
Slocum aloft
Slocum aloft

RJ Slocum History

In December 2019, Andrew first came across s/v Rachel J Slocum and we poured through the extensive write-up of her features as well as the history of her design and construction. We took in every pixel of each photo and every detail provided in a recent marine survey. Furthermore, we researched brand names and terms unfamiliar to us. Basically, we binged on everything we possibly could about her and her owner as part of our due diligence.

Over the ensuing weeks, we came across a lot of information. So for those of you who are fascinated by history as we are, here are the various links we uncovered.

Photo by Tanton Yacht Designs
Photo by Tanton Yacht Designs

Yves-Marie de Tanton

In 1984, Bill commissioned Yves-Marie de Tanton to design s/v Rachel J Slocum (formerly Whisper). When we came across the Tanton Yacht Design blog, we found one of the designs.

We also read a recent article entitled, Sea anchor, heaving-to and drogue aboard Rachel Slocum , which details a riveting letter Bill wrote describing his tribulations of deploying a sea anchor. After reading this account, we understood Bill’s admonition to us in a recent letter when we asked for some specific help in learning storm sailing techniques, in particular the deployment of a Galerider drogue and discussion of Para-Tech sea anchor.

I have a different type drogue than a Galerider. And please, NEVER, EVER use a Para-Tech sea anchor, or ANY sea anchor, with this boat under any circumstances!!!! Sea anchors should ONLY be used on multihulls that can elevate their rudders.

NO sea anchor, understood!


Bill Pinney

Early on, we had a good feeling about Bill based on our emails and phone conversations. All of that solidified when we met him and his wife in person in Florida. He shared with us a book that he authored, Chappaquidick Speaks , in which the writing peppers interesting anecdotes and connections Bill and his family have to Chappaquiddick, Edgartown and incidents that took place in the book regarding Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident of 1969.

While his bio reads impressively…

He attended Columbia University in New York, graduating with a degree in philosophy in 1968. He was Editor/Publisher of The Andean Times, the English-language newspaper of Colombia, South America; Editor/Publisher of This is Ontario magazine in Canada; and a South American investigative reporter for The Sunday Times of London. His consuming interest is medieval history, with several books in the works since 1995.

… the character of the man is evident in his actions, his roots and his lifelong friendships that he has opened up to us.

The Pinney Family

When we first read the specs on the boat, there was a brief write-up about her owner, which reads as follows:

Rachel J. Slocum took 1 year to design and 3½ years to build with private US and British inspectors, and with the present owner, on site every step of the way. She is ABS certified (ABS Certificate No. KS 6055X).

The owner, who grew up on sailing yachts and whose father owned Concordia Boat Yard and Marshall Marine in Padanaram, Massachusetts, took care to incorporate every good idea learned after nine continuous years cruising around the world in a different yacht.

She has been continuously refit and upgraded since launch, with no consideration to cost. Everything works.

Without knowing he had done so, Bill had left a trail of breadcrumbs about his past and everything we learned about him and his family engendered a positive feeling about buying this particular boat. It’s especially tricky when you are considering a private sale with a complete stranger, but given his roots are so deeply and widely entrenched in these places, all concerns melted away.

Culture of Character

Granted this brief video about his father’s company may not have a direct correlation on the character of Bill Pinney, but it certainly evokes a feeling of connectedness, tradition and reputation, something that seems lost these days of social media, job-hopping, and transient pre-occupation in this current generation.

For more information on the culture of character, refer to our previous post on Selectively Social.

So when you begin to peel back the layers about the Pinney family, there is a rich tradition of ethics that can be lauded, as evidenced by the life of his father. As you may recall, we discovered his father’s participation in the famous longitudinal study on aging by Harvard University and the fascinating findings it revealed. We also discovered the family’s connection to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean when we were developing our sail plans for this year.

We will leave the rest of the storytelling to Bill, who is researching his family’s roots, which traces back to the 1200’s.


Slocum History

Back in March, we had a chance to see RJ Slocum and meet Bill. On the final day of our visit and we were winding down our discussion, one lingering question remained:

Why did you name the vessel Rachel J. Slocum?

Upon hearing our question, Bill had a twinkle in his eye, and he began to describe the story. We learned that, on his mother’s side of the family, he is descended from the very same Slocum’s as Joshua Slocum, famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed.

On April 24, 1895, at the age of 51, he departed Boston in his tiny sloop Spray and sailed around the world single-handed, a passage of 46,000 miles, returning to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898. This historic achievement made him the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers all over the world.

Captain Slocum chronicled his journey, which was later published in a book: “Sailing Alone Around the World”.

The following video by Bennett Marine provides a brief chronicle of his life.

Lessons in History

One of our guiding principles of this new adventure is to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

We are fairly private people, living for the most part conventional and shall we say prosaic lives. With our decision to cast off our shore life, we are revealing the details of our challenges, decisions, disagreements, and fears as well as being fairly transparent about our lives.

So, this pretty much falls squarely outside of our comfort zone.

Certainly with the advent of unscripted programming and the continued success of documentary filmmaking, we are proposing to do something that may seem similar, however it is not. What we describe here is not produced or edited to follow a story arc or narrative envisioned by producers. We are not here to capture as many eyeballs with sensationalism or click-bait.

In as raw a way as possible, we want to convey our story and we think it is worth it to share if it helps a few others who want to take these steps. Life isn’t about following a script and certainly not one written by someone else.

Life is about defining your choices, showing courage, and taking a leap of faith.

Post Script

Update as of July 31, 2020

Yves-Marie de Tanton forwarded to us a copy of a 30-year article about s/v Rachel J Slocum (formerly Whisper) from Yachting World. We had a particularly trying week and so reading this account was certainly the highlight of our week. We hope you get a kick out of it too.

Published in Yachting World
Published in Yachting World

The article points out some of the really cool design features we have come to appreciate about this sailing vessel. Never before nor since then have we seen:

  • an athwartship gimbaled stove
  • ample engine access by locating dead center of the saloon
  • forward-seeking sonar
  • bed built with hydraulic thrusters to sleep comfortably while heeled over
  • a port window to view the prop while underway or to see marine life

There are details inherent in this vessel that cannot be found in megayachts. Such is our incredible luck in finding and cruising aboard this sailboat.

Update as of August 8, 2020

Yves-Marie dropped off another present to us this weekend. This time a Robert Perry write-up of s/v Rachel J Slocum (formerly Whisper).

Published in Sailing Magazine
Published in Sailing Magazine

As we wrote about before when we were first evaluating sailboats to purchase, Andrew and I number among the current generation of sailors who are excited to learn about yacht design from the greats, including Yves-Marie de Tanton, Robert Perry, Chuck Paine and Mark Lindsay.

It’ll be fascinating to see how s/v Rachel J Slocum fares in the marine survey and sea trial in September. We’ll be chronicling this in a 5-part series over our two-week visit in Ft. Lauderdale.

If you would like to delve deeper into our adventure as it unfolds, please consider joining the Serenade Wind Crew. Our sister site provides more information on what it means to be part of the crew, unlock the pirate’s booty, and receive other exclusive access and benefits.The first 50 members have a gift waiting.