she moved with purpose

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 12.28.29 PMWe asked for stories about former South Carolina Maritime Foundation and Charleston Race Week scion Meaghan Van Liew, and you delivered.  Special thanks to Michael Hennessey for sharing an experience about this wonderful woman, and an even bigger thanks to the hundreds of you who showed up for Meg’s memorial ceremony in downtown Charleston yesterday.  They say you don’t know what you had until it is gone, and right now, we finally know just what a wonderful friend and inspirational person we had in Meaghan.  Billy Black photos.
It was early 2002, and Brad Van Liew had his Open 50 in New York City for some promotional work in advance of the start of the Around Alone from New York City.    I had offices in lower Manhattan at the time, on the Hudson river, and I could see the boat out in the harbor going for practice sails.  It was unusual enough to see a helicopter chasing a sail boat, but the boat itself was a creature from a different world.  I owned a C+C35 III at the time, and thought myself quite the adventurer with cruises to Nova Scotia and Bermuda in the logs and I had just signed up for my first “offshore” race, the Around Long Island.  Seeing that Open 50 ripping it up around the harbor, however,  made it starkly clear that there was an entirely different world of sailing out there, and instead of it being brought to me through pictures of distant European events, it had come to my doorstep.
Tommy Hilfiger was docked at Chelsea Piers, and I bolted out of the office as early as I dared in order to get up to midtown and check out the boat.  She was tied up against one of the floating docks and, to my delight, was accessible.  There was some gear on the deck that suggested some work was going on, but no one was around and I was able to wander up and down the dock soaking in the strange and different.  Escape hatch in the transom, dual tillers and rudders, dagger boards, runners and checks instead of a back stay, antennas that had mysterious purposes, a boom gooseneck that was practically mounted on the deck, floating jib leads…. the list of details that were new to me was almost endless.  And the branding.  How amazing was it to see a boat that was branded from bow to stern, top to bottom?  I had seen boats with various stickers or decals stuck here or there, but frankly had never seen a boat tricked out as an extension of a recognizable brand.  It was seamlessly integrated with the Tommy Hilfiger look, and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen on the water.
Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 12.40.18 PMIt was about this time that a woman in her early 30’s joined me on the dock.  She moved with purpose, and it was clear that she was somehow involved with the boat.  I introduced myself and asked if it was OK that I was down on the dock and checking out the boat.  And just like that, I met Meaghan Van Liew.  A  boat preparateur showed up shortly afterwards and got to work on the boat, but Meaghan was generous with her time.  She patiently answered my endless questions, and explained the program and how they had ended up partnering with Tommy Hilfiger.  It occurred to me as I was talking to her that she actually younger than I was by a couple of years, and yet somehow she and Brad had managed to achieve something that I would have thought impossible.  Between the logistics, the necessary experience, and the money involved I had a difficult time figuring how one would get to the start line, let alone the finish line.   It was only as I spoke to her that realized how formidable she was, and that “no” was a word that was not in her vocabulary, neither as something she used nor was willing to hear.  She was not going to wait for someone else to tell her what was possible, nor was willing to accept that anything was impossible.  Obstacles were something to overcome, not reasons to give up.  Meaghan was very clearly proud of what she had contributed to get Brad to the starting line, and she was very excited to see what adventures would come next.
Her enthusiasm and accomplishment was infectious, and I walked away from the dock that day with a new sense of purpose.  A year later I participated in the 2003 Bermuda 1-2, my first solo race.  I went on to spend the next 3 years improving my boat and my skills for this type of sailing, logging the miles and experience that turned me into a true blue water sailor.  That path ultimately led me to the Class40, tens thousands of offshore miles, and more adventure than I ever could have hoped for.  I don’t know that I ever gave it much thought before this tragic loss, but I have a lot to thank Meaghan Van Liew for.   The 40 or 50 minutes that she generously gave me on that dock back in 2002 had a significant impact on my life.
My thoughts are with her kids, her family and her friends.  Meaghan was something special, and will be missed.