By Dorie Cox
Capt. Johan Raubenheimer of S/Y Kaori, a 125-foot Palmer Johnson, died in Utah on Aug. 19. He was electrocuted while working on the retirement home that he and his wife, former Chief Stew Kirsten “Kiki” Herz, were moving into. He was 59.
“After S/Y Kaori sold, we drove to our cabin in Utah where Johan died of an accident just 40 minutes after our arrival there,” Herz said. “He was electrocuted while checking on a problem with the hot water system. He was dead immediately.”
Capt. Raubenheimer worked as a yacht captain for almost 35 years, cruising much of the world including the Mediterranean, Mexico, the South Pacific, Newfoundland and Alaska.
“Johan always looked for adventure and excitement in everything he did,” Herz said. “He put Kaori right up to the waterfall and cliffs, sailed her through the narrowest openings of remote atolls and found whales, bears and other wildlife.”
Other adventures included winning the 2008 St. Barths Bucket Regatta as well as a recent charter for the film crew of an upcoming movie. Capt. Raubenheimer enjoyed helping people and teaching crew and guests. Herz recalled several instances in which he came to the aid of mariners, including assisting the crew of a Mayday call during a storm off Tasmania, Australia, in 2011, which was written about in several news sources.
“With Kaori, we donated and delivered food and school supplies to remote places like Tikopia, a tiny island that belongs to the Solomon Islands,” Herz said. “And Johan rescued every injured animal that came our way.
“Before my time, Johan and his previous wife, Ingrid (who later worked many years at Fraser Yachts), ran a charter fleet of four vessels for eight years and one owner,” Herz said. “After this, he purchased one of the yachts and sailed with Ingrid and his dog, Tina, around the world for seven years.”
Capt. Raubenheimer and Herz met in 2003 in Palma de Mallorca. She was a stew on a 105-foot Sunseeker and he was standing in for his friend, Capt. David Burns on S/Y Kaori.
“Little did we know that we would get the position as couple on Kaori a few years later,” Herz said.
Capt. Raubenheimer initially studied to become a land surveyor in the South African army and started sailing as a hobby.
“He liked a challenge and he embraced life to the fullest,” Herz said. “I will miss my best buddy, friend, husband, teacher and travel companion dearly. There was nothing that he couldn’t fix, no problem he couldn’t solve, and no task was too big.”
Capt. Raubenheimer’s remains have been cremated and Herz will travel to Cape Town to spread them into the ocean close to Langebaan where she said the couple “had many happy times and where we eventually would have retired.”
Capt. Raubenheimer was born on Dec. 3, 1956, in Cape Town, South Africa. Friends and family will meet at a local church on that date, as they have done for years, according to Herz.
“It would have been his 60th, so celebrate his life no matter where you are on Dec. 3,” she said.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.