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“The Best Thing I Ever Did”

When we showed up at the California YC in Marina del Rey with Profigate a couple of weeks ago to give a presentation, we were assigned the guest dock, which just happened to be about five slips down from the 72-ft Deerfoot II. We were familiar with the boat because, when we were married to the Wanderette some 20 years ago, she used to do all the varnishing for owner Stanley Dashew.
As Dashew had been in his 70s at the time, we wondered who owned Deerfoot II now. Imagine our surprise when we learned that Stanley, now just two months shy of his 96th birthday, still owns the big sloop. What’s more, he goes sailing on her every Saturday and Sunday of the year! While he has the help of two nurses and his longtime captain, and is suffering from Parkinson’s and other maladies, he still backs the big sloop out of the slip and drives her back in upon return.
Dashew has a humorous explanation for his love of sailing and being on the ocean. "It all started when my mother switched me from milk to water too early in life."
A true original, Dashew’s exploits and adventures could fill a book. Fortunately, he spent the last 10 years — with the help of Josef S. Klus — writing the book, which is titled, You Can Do It!, Inspiration and Lessons from an Inventor, Entrepreneur and Sailor. It’s a heck of a fun read that’s one-third inspirational, one-third sailing adventures, and one-third business adventures. There are two versions of the book, one with photos, one without. The former is far superior.
The book begins with what Dashew calls "My Creed," something that was actually written by Dean Alfange. Among the list of things the creed says it means to "be an American" are: "I seek opportunity — not security. I don’t wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk, to dream and build, to fail and succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for dole. I prefer the challenge of life to the guaranteed existence, the thrill of fulfillment to the state calm of Utopia." We think Dashew meant these things are what it used to mean to be an American.
As the book title suggests, Stanley became a very successful inventor and entrepreneur, but he had always been an avid sailor. Shortly after marrying at age 21, he convinced his wife they should save money for a boat rather than rugs and drapes. Getting some wise advice along the lines of ‘women won’t lie down in boats they can’t stand up in’, he and his wife purchased Duchess, a 39-ft Friendship sloop. The boat had previously been owned by the dealer for Kenyon Marine Instruments, and came with a log/knot meter, an instrument Dashew says would have cost nearly $10,000 in today’s dollars. Dashew marvels that a much more functional and accurate GPS can now be bought for 1/90th of that.
At age 16, Dashew lied about his age to score a job at the Addressograph Company at the height of the Depression. He rapidly became a business success, and in the book tells you how you can do it, too. Yet at the age of 33, he, his wife, seven-year-old son Steve, three-month-old daughter Leslie, and a big crew, took off aboard the 67-ft Alden schooner Constellation on what he said was the best thing he ever did in his life — a 13-month cruise from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to California. Dashew wanted to get to California because living in the Golden State would allow him to sail year-round. To show you how different cruising was back in the late ’40s, when sailing through the Virgin Islands, they spotted a herd of wild cattle, shot one, and butchered it on the boat. You wouldn’t want to try that at Caneel Bay, today.
The chapters on that cruise 60 years ago, with lots of photos, is alone worth the price of the book. Such a cruise was so unusual at the time that, when Constellation arrived in California, it made the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
When Dashew arrived in California, he was all set to resume his corporate career by taking over the lucrative Los Angeles agency of Addressograph-Multigraph. But citing "mental health" reasons, he decided against it. He thought a career in the corporate would would have driven him crazy. So at age 34, he went into business for himself. Before long, he was selling ‘vapor hardware’ to the U.S. military. Even though what he had promised didn’t exist when he promised it, he always delivered.
Dashew’s biggest business success occurred in the ’50s, when he made revolutionary  mechanical innovations to the then-fledgling bank credit card industry, helping usher in a new world of credit. After making his fortune in the credit card industry, Dashew got into inventing things for other areas of life. For instance, a single-point mooring for big ships as well as an early bow thruster.
Over the years, Dashew has owned eight boats: Duchess, the 39-ft Friendship sloop; Baccarat, a 47-ft cutter; Royal Fortune, a 48-ft ketch; Constellation, a 76-ft Alden schooner; Chiriqui, a 60-ft Alden ketch; Hu-Ka-Makani, which at 58-ft was one of the longest catamarans of her time; Deerfoot, a 67-foot cutter; and Deerfoot II, a 72-ft cutter. The last two boats were designed by Steve Dashew, his son. Stanley has owned Deerfoot II for a quarter of a century.
The Wanderer had hoped to talk to Stanley after his Sunday sail, but unfortunately the 95-year-old was late for a dinner date. Stan the Man!

1 Comment

  1. Roger Strull 1 year ago

    Love him!

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On the heels of the highly successful AC World Series last week, Oracle Team USA’s AC72, the monster cat that will be used for the America’s Cup Finals next year, is slated to be launched this week (some say tomorrow).
Sailors are a notoriously innovative bunch. There are few other applications where the use of duct tape and bailing wire seems to work quite as well — or last as long — as on a sailboat.