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Popular charter captain dies onboard in N.C.

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Capt. William Shannon Crook — known in the Bahama- and New England-charter circuits as Capt. Shan — died Saturday morning (Oct. 13) on board his command, the 88-foot M/Y Lady Victoria. He was 51.

The cause of his death is uncertain, but co-workers suspect a heart attack. His sudden death has left them in shock.

“It’s just devastating,” said Stew/Deck Dale Owens who was delivering the yacht with Capt. Crook and discovered him in the salon. “He was very well loved. If you didn’t know him, you are probably the only person in Ft. Lauderdale who didn’t.

“He’s always so calm, so nice, so polite, so respectful of everybody,” she said. “He didn’t argue with people; he helps people. He’s so generous, not only with things, but with his time and his heart. And he’s always patient and kind. He was my best friend. He taught me more in the years that I knew him than I learned in all the years before I knew him.”

“I’m just blown away, I don’t know what to say,” said DJ Marchand, a freelance chef who worked with Capt. Crook on Lady Victoria over the past six years. “He was one of the best captains I’ve ever worked with.

“He’s a real laid-back Southern boy; you’d never see him sweating,” she said. “I remember one day last summer, we were backing out of a slip in Nantucket and the wind was blowing and it’s really tight in there. One of the engines went out, but I didn’t know it until we got to the dock and he said ‘well, we escaped death again’ and I had to ask what happened.

“He was always calm, and he never micromanaged anyone,” Marchand said. “Not your typical captain. He was just so nice.”

According to co-workers, Capt. Crook spent his life on the water, sailing on the waters off South Carolina and later New England. When he moved to motor yachts, he began to cruise the Bahamas and fell in love with the Exumas. He knew much of the history of both regions, allowing him to answer questions and enrich the experiences of his guests.

“They called him the mayor of Lyford,” Owen said.

He recently finished construction of a home in Spanish Wells with his partner, Mate Kelly Mossley, who was traveling today and could not be reached.

Marchand said it was a repeat charter guest who suggested they bring the yacht to New England last summer and dock it behind their home. The yacht spent the past two summers cruising New England with the owner and charter guests.

Capt. Crook and his crew had at least six weeks of charter in New England this summer, said Els Bucknell of Churchill Yachts, charter manager for the boat.

“It was a very popular charter boat with a lot of repeat clients,” she said. “He was very charming, and went over and beyond in his capacity as a charter captain. He was a great guy to work with. He always had a can-do attitude. He was a charter broker’s dream captain. And his crew loved him.

“He was one of the best captains I’ve worked with,” said Bucknell, who worked on yachts 25 years with her husband before becoming a charter broker in 2005.

Capt. Crook had run M/Y Lady Victoria with its current owners since late 2005. He had just finished a trip with the owner in Maryland and was repositioning the yacht to Charleston when he died.

Lady Victoria was docked at Beaufort City Docks in North Carolina on Friday night. Capt. Worth Brown of the 85-foot Pacific Mariner M/Y Sea Safari helped Capt. Crook tie up and visited with him that evening. Capt. Brown said he seemed fine. And Owen said she heard him use the head about 3 a.m.

When Owen reported for duty at about 0900, she found him lying face down on the salon floor, his arms splayed. She called Capt. Brown and Capt. Johnny Rogers, who was helping deliver Sea Safari, and they performed CPR and used the yacht’s defibrillator, but were unsuccessful in reviving him.

“It’s a shocker,” Brown said. “Johnny made a big breakfast and called over to tell him ‘we have your breakfast ready’ but he didn’t respond. Then at 9 a.m., we got Dale’s call.”

The yacht’s owner was en route to Las Vegas when he got the news Saturday and diverted to Beaufort, Capt. Brown said. He was arranging to have Capt. Crook flown to Rock Hill, S.C., where he grew up.

“The owner is shaken up,” Bucknell said. “Shan was like family.”

A memorial service is planned for Thursday, Oct. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill, S.C. Friends in South Florida said they plan to organize a memorial of his life, but details have not yet been finalized.

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