Frederick Enos Hecklinger
May 18, 1936 – September 25, 2020
At the age of 15, Fred Hecklinger built a 15-foot lumberman’s bateau from a design he found in Boys' Life magazine and named it Pride. One year later, after dropping out of school, he left home and headed for Oxford to chase the dream of becoming a seaman.
It was the summer of 1953 and the Baltimore native found work at the Oxford Boatyard Co., where he was fortunate to meet C. Sherman Hoyt — one of the world’s most famous yachtsman.
Hoyt hired the eager teenager as a mate to assist with campaigning an 8-meter yacht named Hurrying Angel around the Chesapeake Bay that summer. So began a lifetime of working on and around sailing vessels.
Hecklinger, a legendary figure within the Annapolis sailing community and one of the founders of Eastport Yacht Club, died Friday night after battling the aftereffects of a heart attack for five years. He was 84.
The 40-year resident of Bay Ridge passed at Heart Homes assisted living with Bobbie, his wife of 45 years, by his side.
For Hecklinger, it all goes back to that glorious summer when he helped Hoyt compete in buoy races off Annapolis and Gibson Island every weekend. During the week, Hecklinger cleaned and varnished the 8-meter, sewed sails and did whatever necessary to get Hurrying Angel ready for the next regatta.
Along the way, Hecklinger taught himself marlinspike seamanship, woodworking, rigging, racing skills and yachting etiquette.
“Some people are just born with a passion. Fred realized when he was a young boy that he wanted to work in the maritime industry, so he did something about it,” Bobbie Hecklinger said. “Through ambition and determination, Fred made his own path.”
Hoyt, who served as helmsman aboard Enterprise and Rainbow and helped skipper Harold Vanderbilt defend the America’s Cup in 1930 and 1934, wrote Hecklinger a glowing letter of recommendation, which opened doors that found him as mate aboard a wide range of sailing vessels. He raced with Henry B. DuPont aboard a 45-foot sailboat and joined the crew of the 96-foot schooner Caribee, which was owned by Walter Boudreau.
Peter Boudreau grew up on that gaff-rigger designed by Howard Chapelle and would later work with Hecklinger to build the original Pride of Baltimore.
There was a four-year stint in the Navy with Hecklinger serving aboard a destroyer during the Vietnam War. He arrived in Annapolis during the mid-1960s and helped establish a Northrop and Johnson Yacht Brokerage office.
Al Gundry was hired as a salesman there in 1969 and soon became close friends with his boss as they were roommates in a house overlooking Weems Creek. Gundry had gotten to know Hecklinger as a rival racer when the latter crewed aboard Storm Petrel, an Aage Nielsen-designed 51-foot aluminum ketch owned by Jim Rider.
“Fred, in many ways, was a larger than life individual and the consummate seaman,” said Gundry, who logged thousands of miles offshore with Hecklinger. “I always thought of Fred as being the best sailor I ever knew. He was a student of all things sailing and had an encyclopedic knowledge of yachting history from the entire 20th century.”
Hecklinger willingly shared that knowledge and was a gifted storyteller, holding court at Eastport Yacht Club or the Boatyard Bar & Grill during the weekly gathering of Storm Trysail Club members.
“Fred was as much at home among skipjack captains on Tilghman Island as he was with wealthy members of New York Yacht Club,” said Gundry, noting that Hecklinger was routinely invited to dredge oysters with Deal Island residents.
Hecklinger proudly held member card No. 2 as one of 11 founders of Eastport Yacht Club. He was also a longstanding member of the Cruising Club of America and Windjammers of the Chesapeake.
Bobbie met her future husband shortly after moving to Annapolis and they married in 1975. In those days, Hecklinger was working as professional captain for Al Van Metre, who owned a pair of iconic Sparkman & Stephens-designed ocean racers in Bandit and Running Tide.
“Fred realized he was never going to be the owner of a large yacht. However, he knew those owners needed someone with a wide range of expertise to help operate the boat,” Bobbie said.
Hecklinger managed all aspects of the program as the 61-foot Running Tide enjoyed tremendous success on the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit, while posting numerous victories in renowned point-to-point races such as Annapolis-to-Bermuda and Newport-to-Bermuda. Along the way, he found time to sail the Caribbean aboard the replica schooner America.
When master shipwright Melbourne Smith joined forces with fellow Annapolis resident and naval architect Thomas Gillmer to build the Pride of Baltimore, they recruited Hecklinger to help. He was integral to the rigging design and helped carve the transom of Pride, which was launched in 1977.
“Fred was very meticulous and could spot something wrong in the rigging of a vessel that no one else could,” Bobbie Hecklinger said.
Hecklinger turned down an offer to captain the Pride of Baltimore because he was happily married and did not want to travel so much anymore. He was also building a burgeoning career as a marine surveyor with particular expertise in wooden boats.
However, Hecklinger did serve as relief captain aboard Pride for a trip from the Virgin Islands to Florida.
A framed photo hanging on the wall of Boatyard Bar & Grill shows Hecklinger proudly displaying a massive mahi-mahi he caught somewhere between St. Thomas and Key West. The boat would later sink in a squall in 1986.
Annapolis resident Angus Phillips was always fascinated listening to Hecklinger tell tales at the bar of Eastport Yacht Club, which on Saturday lowered its burgee to half-mast in honor of its first commodore and resident historian. Phillips, longtime outdoors writer for the Washington Post, spent many hours in Hecklinger’s basement lair — a veritable museum of nautical artifacts, gear and memorabilia.
“Fred was so thoroughly authentic and gentlemanly. He was not highly educated by traditional standards yet was one of the most cultured people I’ve ever known,” said Phillips, who was taught splicing by Hecklinger.
Hecklinger helped establish Chesapeake Appreciation Days in 1965 and was a member of the Maryland Historical Society, Annapolis Maritime Museum and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Taylor Funeral Home is handling arrangements for Hecklinger, who suggested shortly before his death that Eastport Yacht Club hold a celebration of life in lieu of a funeral.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Frederick Enos Hecklinger
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October 1, 2020
Some of my best memories from my time on Martha Lewis are sailing the skipjack races with Fred as Sailing Master. A master he was, and a gentleman.
September 30, 2020
I grieve deeply for Fred's loss as a personal friend. I have so many memories of of shared time together. I had known Fred for nearly forty years. We had both served in the US Navy on destroyers in the 1950s. We loved talking about wooden sailboats and yachts of all varieties. He introduced me to his great friend Melbourne Smith, and I recall sitting with them at the "Boat Yard" and swapping sea stories. Fred assisted me in the writing of "Maritime Maryland" by critiquing an early draft and setting me straight on details of historic Chesapeake Bay craft. He was also a very helpful member of the Maritime Committee of the MdHS. Some day I hope to see him again at Fiddler's Green.
September 26, 2020
So many memories, so many stories. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.