My friend Andy Upjohn died. His name might not mean that much to you but Google ‘Upjohn Pharmaceuticals’. Andy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But you would never know it. He was as grounded and down to earth as the rest of us. And he had a dream. He wanted to build a boat to sail the Pacific Northwest. He went to see a yacht designer who convinced him to build a carbon fiber, water ballasted 50-foot yacht to sail single-handed around the world. Go figure.

Andy built an incredible work of art with the help of Concordia Yachts in Padanarum, Massachusetts. Every piece of the yacht was a masterpiece. He named his boat Alexandra, after his wife, who was an Eskimo/Lawyer. But I digress. Andy came to me when I worked at Doyle Sailmakers and we ended up with the order to build his sails. During the process Andy became my friend.

Along the way I convinced a mate of mine, who goes, funnily enough, by the name Captain Tits, to help Andy with his campaign. They sailed the boat to the Azores as part of Andy’s training. It didn’t go well. Andy didn’t seem to like the time at sea and once in the Azores he sought some solace in the arms of a Portuguese lady. That was most definitely a mistake; his second mistake was telling his wife about the affair, who was, as I mentioned, an Eskimo; Lawyer.

They got divorced and a few years later Andy heard that I wanted to do the single-handed Around-the-World-Race. He had a boat for sale, one named after his ex-wife. He was what’s generally known in the trade as a motivated seller. I had seen the boat listed for $650,000, a pretty reasonable price given that he had spent close to a million dollars for it. 

Andy called me. “I heard that you want to do the Around Alone,” he said. “I want you to buy my boat.” I was really excited but told Andy that I (hadn’t yet) got a sponsor and could not afford the boat. Andy understood.  He called me back a month later. “Brian,” he said, “I want you to buy my boat. I have dropped the price to $250,000 – just for you, you understand.” I understood. “Andy that’s awesome,” I replied. “Let me see what I can do.” I had barely $200 in my checking account. “Ok,” he said. “I will have my lawyer contact you.

A couple of hours later I got a call from a very pleasant sounding man with a mid-western accent. He introduced himself as Andy’s lawyer. “Andy wants you to buy his boat,” he said. “He says that for you only he will reduce the price to $150,000.” I was aghast. The boat was worth five times that. The lawyer sensed the uneasy silence. “Here is the deal,” he said. “The price is $150K right? Andy will loan you a $100K and as soon as the deal goes through he will rip up the note. So essentially you will pay just $50 grand for the boat.”  I felt my knees buckle, just a little. I really did. The lawyers sensed the silence again. “How much money do you have?” he asked. “Do you have at least five thousand?” I hesitated for a second and then lied. “Yes.” There was a long silence. “Ok, please meet me at the Bahia Mar hotel in Ft. Lauderdale next Tuesday. Bring a bankers check.”

I put down the phone. My heart was pumping more that it had ever pumped. I had five days to raise $5,000. I called a friend of mine. “No problem,” he said. “I will wire you the money first thing tomorrow.

I met Andy in a hotel room in Ft Lauderdale. His lawyer was there. “I just want your dream to come true,” Andy told me. His lawyer was a bit more businesslike. On the unmade bed he had some papers laid out. “You just need to sign here,” he said. There were those big arrows pointing to where I needed to sign. I signed all places. Andy signed his places and then we were done. “The boat is down in the marina,” the lawyer said. Andy turned to me. “I will live my dream through you.” He shook my hand. I was almost at the door when the lawyer spoke up. “One moment.”  I knew it – it had all been too good to be true. “You will need these,” he said. I turned around and saw that he was holding up the keys to the boat. “Congratulations, and good luck.” I took the keys and walked out into the sterile hallway of Bahia del Mar, found the elevator and found my ride tied up alongside in the marina.

Andy’s kind gesture changed my life. Not only because the bloody maintenance on the boat half bankrupted me but because I know kindness when I see it and Andy was kind. Thank you my friend. You put a stamp on my life that changed it for the better; forever. – Brian Hancock.