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Veteran yacht captain Richard (Rick) Lee Lenardson died on April 13 of a liver metastasis. A cancerous tumor at the esophagus and stomach was discovered on Jan. 17 that had spread to his liver. He was 63.
A familiar smiling face, often in full uniform with epaulettes, Capt. Lenardson worked onboard during many boat shows including Newport, R.I., Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Last summer, he skippered the 115-foot (35m) Benetti M/Y Siete, leading the crew in Mexican costumes for a yacht hop during the Newport Charter Show.
“He did have a crooked little smile, maybe he had a little Capt. Hook in him?” said Becky Lenardson, his wife of 27 years. “He was a pirate at heart.”
The couple met in the mid-1980s at Bahia Mar when she was manager of the pool deck and he was captain on M/Y Hidilution, a 72-foot Broward. They worked together for about five years on yachts and were married in Put-In-Bay in Lake Erie in 1990.
Capt. Jeremy Cresswell said Capt. Lenardson was a skilled navigator.
“He could drive those boats like no one,” Capt. Cresswell said. “I looked up to him and called him for advice.”
He laughed when telling of a time Capt. Lenardson was hard aground near the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami on a 150-foot yacht years ago.
“He stayed so calm,” Capt. Cresswell said. “He said to me, ‘Yeah, you probably want to go around the long way.’ “
Many learned about Capt. Lenardson’s illness during Yachts Miami Beach in mid-February.
“Rick is a boat show guy and yard guys love him,” Capt. Cresswell said. “He once drove to the boat yard in the Pacific Northwest in the snow to get an untested boat to bring to the show. He could make miracles happen.”
A captain for more than three decades, his wife recalled how he taught her during their early years together.
“I got an extra loop around a cleat at the Welland Canal,” she said. “This was before radios and it was just he and I. We were lowering down 50 feet and I saw him run and slit the line. He always had a knife.”
The couple often had M/Y Hidilution II in Ft. Lauderdale and took it to Shooters Waterfront where the dockhand would hold a spot, she said.
“One day Rick had just a foot of space in front and back,” she said. “His boss said he was like a fish in water. He would just do it with no bow thruster.”
Capt. Lenardson worked 10 years as fleet captain for Richmond Yachts, most recently on the 142-foot M/Y Richmond Lady and the 150-foot M/Y Status Quo. Prior to that, he ran M/Y Lady Sarah, a 114-foot Hatteras. He was also a certified scuba diver and skydiver.
Capt. Lenardson lived in Plantation, Fla., just west of Ft. Lauderdale, with his wife. He is survived by daughters Rachael and Hannah Ray, grandson Preston James, sisters Cynthia Lenardson Green and Linda Wieringa, and brother James (Jim) Lenardson.
A “celebration of a pirate’s life” will be held at First Baptist Church at 301 E. Broward Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale on May 27 at 11 a.m. He will be interred at a family cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.
In liew of flowers, the family suggests a donation to his grandson’s education fund Preston James Lenardson at GofundMe.com.
The Triton is compiling recollections from the yachting industry about Capt. Lenardson’s life. Feel free to share memories with Editor Dorie Cox at email@example.com.