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- “There aren’t too many small boat voyagers left, and we are they. Those of us with experience sailing, paddling, and rowing light expeditionary craft on adventuresome treks have a bit of a duty to set good, seamanlike examples to those who are paying attention to what we do, both to further the passion, and ensure that those who follow our path do so in safety. For they, in turn, will be the ones to further the passion in years to come.”
I met sailmaker Dennis Vallenga as we were preparing Clarity for the 2011 Everglades Challenge, and as sometimes happens, it was because of a tragic event that we met. On October 26th 2010, Larsen Hunt was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, leaving behind her young son Aidric, who is Autistic. My wife and I decided to dedicate our trip to her memory, and to help her son. We contacted a number of sailmakers with the idea of getting a sail made that could be signed for a donation to Aidric’s assistance fund, and Dennis contacted me within 24 hours, very enthusiastically offering his help. Within a week, we had come up with the design for the sail, and he had it finished. Not only that, but Dennis insisted on doing some work on my mainsail as well, installing extra reef points and some reinforcements to the head of the sail. He helped me get into the Davis Island Yacht Club for a presentation and signing, which alone raised well over $500.00 for Aidric, and was even at the beach when we launched. He well and truly cared about not only what we were doing, but who and why we were trying to help. It’s not often these days that you meet someone with such a sincere desire to help others.
Dennis was in a good jovial mood each and every time I talked with him, and his humor often reminded my of Jay Ward, chief cartoonist of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show… you just knew there was always a little more humor there, just waiting to sneak out of him. I wish I had met him long before I did, as I suspect there were lots of great stories to be told. My best to his family and friends, and all those blessed to have met him.
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