Capt. Richard J. S. “Dick” Betts died on April 23 in Ft. Lauderdale of a heart attack. He was 79.
Capt. Betts started in yachting in the late 1970s on M/Y Cygnus, a 110-foot Abeking and Rasmussen. He worked on yachts including Ductmate, Gitana, Entrepreneur, Sun Dream and Netanya II.
Born in Britain, Capt. Betts grew up around boats and was a sea scout at age 11. He served three years in the British Army as a mechanical engineer, two years in the Royal Navy as a fixed wing pilot, and taught engineering and nautical studies.
Longtime friend and colleague Capt. Brian Fulford worked on S/Y Peregrina when he met Capt. Betts in Bequia. It was about 1976 when Capt. Betts worked on M/Y Cygnus.
“They were struggling to anchor, I went over to give a hand,” Fulford said. “He was a big Englishman, six-foot-something with a good sense of humor, makes me chuckle. He was just a really nice guy.”
The two worked together several times including yacht deliveries.
“He was a proper gent that had that ‘my dear chap’ way of talking,” Fulford said. “Some of the stuff Dick did was amazing. In July 1973, he set out on a round-the-world sail. I’m not sure if he finished.”
Capt. Betts used his military training throughout his career, said his sister Suzanne Rae.
“He was a knowledgeable captain and well-liked,” she said. “With his engineering skills he was always able to put things right with a yacht. He was calm and collected.”
Capt. Betts was not married, but came pretty close to walking up the aisle, his sister said.
“His first love was the sea, and with his character he was very independent. He liked to be able to pack up and go,” she said. “He was brilliant with kids; very patient, kind and tolerant.”
Nancy (Wechsler) Johnson worked with Capt. Betts starting in 1984 when he was captain on M/Y Netanya II. The yacht was at Derecktor Shipyards and he was in charge of coordinating a major refit, she said.
“He was such a wonderful man and so much fun to be with,” Johnson said. “I became part of the crew whenever he needed an extra hand.”
Johnson recalled the yacht being boarded by the Coast Guard in the middle of the night, near Puerto Rico, “during the days of Zero Tolerance and smuggling Haitians”.
“We were all separated in twos, guarded by armed Coast Guards as they searched the yacht, of course, finding nothing but a good boarding exercise,” Johnson said. “But it did end up with the guys loosening up for pictures as they debarked.”
Both friends recounted a humorous story of when two rabbis flew into St. Thomas to prepare the yacht for kosher use.
“The rabbis caught the wires of the range on fire as they blessed the counters and stove tops with an acetylene torch,” Johnson said. “There were laughs with Dick no matter where we were.”
The original crew of the Netanya II were Eng. David Taylor, Stew Joanna Flannery (Boo), Chef Stephanie Walters, Capt. Dick Betts, and First Mate Kat Banco, Johnson said.
“I was the official day worker,” Johnson said. “Dick will be missed, but fondly remembered with love and smiles.”
Friends have organized a celebration of life scheduled for Sunday, May 10, at 3 p.m. on Citrus Isle in Ft. Lauderdale. For details, please contact Brian and Elizabeth Fulford at +1 954-463-2474.