By Dorie Cox
British Deckhand Lewis Raymond Burke, known to many of his friends as Burko, died on June 1. His family has declined to disclose details of his death. He was 26.
Several fellow yacht crew said Mr. Burke was humorous, as well as hard-working. His yacht experience included more than a year as deckhand on M/Y Lady Beatrice, a 60m Feadship, in 2015-16, and time on M/Y Elixir. Previously he was a dayworker on yachts including M/Y Seanna, a 65m Benetti, M/Y Lady Roxanne, a 36m Benetti, M/Y Mrs D, a 31m Moonen, and M/Y Romea, an 82m Abeking Rasmussen.
His sister Sophie Burke shared a copy of the presentation from a Celebration of Life ceremony held in Mr. Burke’s honor. It included words from 1st Officer Freddie Freeman of M/Y Lady Beatrice. His words are described as written “on behalf of everybody on board” and are as follows:
“I speak as the person who employed Lewis on Lady Beatrice, not a decision I would ever regret as he was probably the funniest person I have had the privilege to meet over my 20 years in yachting. I will always remember his CV as he stated he had ‘lightning hands’ ‒ I was laughing before I met him. He certainly did have those lightning hands and was, what I describe as, an old school grafter, always keeping himself busy and eager to please. He was obviously brought up well.
“During our long and somewhat boring summer, he kept us laughing with apparent ease. We were clearly in the presence of a really special guy …. I was flattered to be shown one of his films called “The Cat”, simply genius, and it showed his natural ability to create clever and humorous material. We always joked if I won the lottery I would fund his first feature film.
“Not only was he liked and admired by the crew, but managed to also win the captain over, which is no mean feat; I’m still trying after 18 summers. We are all deeply upset by the loss of such a bright person, and he will leave a void in not only the yachting community, but I’m sure the whole world.”
After his first season in yachting, Mr. Burke did volunteer work in Asia, according to the program presented at the Celebration of Life. He painted schools, recycled plastic from beaches, raised money for freshwater projects and collected waste oil from hotels to recycle.
The program stated, “Lewis’s experiences of such poverty had a profound effect on him. Living amongst families in these poor countries to gain an understanding of their way of life when contrasted with the riches of the Western World would lead Lewis into finding his spiritual side and he developed a deeper interest in the effect that mankind was having on the earth.”
An ongoing theme during the program was his love of chocolate and included several childhood tales including a trip to Cadbury’s World and a chocolate bar that was to be used as a prop in a play, but he ate instead. Even his pet rabbit was named Choco.
Capt. Stewart Richardson of M/Y Seanna called The Triton to offer his memories of Mr. Burke. The two met in 2015 when Mr. Burke first arrived in Antibes looking for work. The yacht needed dayworkers desperately and had employed 10 who were working all night, the captain said. Mr. Burke was among the group.
“It was pretty obvious he was a hard worker, did the job well and he had the deck crew laughing and joking,” Capt. Richardson said, noting that he joked with his full-time crew: “Look at how hard he’s working, why aren’t you working that hard?” “He and his friends became our go-to guys. We always called them between charters, and we got to know him well that summer.”
It was around that time Mr. Burke was hired on M/Y Lady Beatrice.
“What an amazing guy,” Capt. Richardson said. “I gave him a good reference, and a month later, the first mate thanked me for suggesting him. And Lewis wrote to thank me for helping him. It was really nice. He appreciated the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.”
Although the yacht never had a full-time job opening for Mr. Burke, the captain said, “I would have hired him like a shot.”
Mr. Burke was genuinely nice, well-mannered, thoughtful and always doing extra things, Capt. Richardson said.
“If there was a mug to wash, he would do two, it was just the way he conducted himself on the boat.”
Mr. Burke was very well-liked on board.
“He was funny, witty, sort of had a cheeky streak,” Capt. Richardson said. “He wasn’t scared to have a laugh, it’s hard to say anything other than that. He was a good friend.”
Click for recipe to honor Mr. Burke.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments and memories are welcome below.