Maintaining the watch for Jack Wyatt

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 06/29/02)
By Ray Pendleton

You can count me as one of those who are still grieving at the untimely death of one-time Star-Bulletin freelance sportswriter Jack Wyatt.

Losing friends to the ravages of age is a fact of life as one enters the retirement years.

But to lose one to a random act of violence is so unacceptable.

For the moment, my mind tries to reject the image of Jack being pushed, by a reportedly deranged person, into the Ala Wai to hit his head and drown.

I first met Jack at the Transpacific Yacht Race press center in 1985. I was covering the race for a mainland boating magazine and he quickly became a major source of local knowledge.

A few years later, after I moved to Hawai`i and was hired to write this column, I worried that Jack would think I was encroaching on his territory, but my fears turned out to be groundless.

The first week the column ran, Jack spotted me in Waikiki and quickly ran over to explain how happy he was that someone else was going to be able to cover Hawaii's boating news because he was anxious to retire.

"And besides," he told me, "my Social Security check is more than I need to live on."

From almost anyone else, a statement like that would have been a huge joke. But if you knew Jack, you knew he was telling the truth. His lifestyle was that simple.

Jack's daily uniform was a tank top, running shorts and shoes. Not a bad outfit for the running events he covered, but it did tend to raise a few eyebrows at less casually attired yacht race press conferences.

Still, everyone recognized him as an enthusiastic and knowledgeable journalist when it came to sailing and running.

In recent years, I only saw Jack on those rare occasions our jogging paths crossed. But he would always stop long enough to let me know he was keeping an eye on my column.

"I haven't seen you do anything on the wahine sailors lately," he might tactfully suggest.

So now with his passing, perhaps it would please him if he knew there are others maintaining the watch.

For instance, in response to a Water Ways column about the lack of boating-related business opportunities in Hawai`i, reader Woodson Woods wrote, "Thanks for getting something up and into print. Your article certainly described the situation to a T.

"I have always been amazed at the lack of interest in boating and sailing in the Islands. Particularly the lack of support facilities to service boaters," he said.

"The small boat harbor at Kawaihae, as I noted on (a) recent trip, is still not finished," Woods wrote. "And I believe that was designed by my old company in the early 1960s!

"I hope one day the Hawai`i legislators will realize that water surrounds this beautiful string of golf courses.

"Do keep reminding people of their true Polynesian heritage - sailing and boating," Woods finally advised.

Somehow that last bit of counseling sounded as if it could have come straight from Jack Wyatt himself.

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