From the optimistic ”Hope and Henry on the Hudson” answering-machine message to the twinkle in his eye as he describes his obvious love for his Ensign 1700 sailboat, Henry Ridder is a phenomenon. At 92 years old and a 46-year member of the Nyack Boat Club, Henry still races in the Ensign Fleet every Sunday.
With his crew of Marty Muller and Edward Luzzi, he usually can be found crossing the finish line among the three winning finalists. Henry’s love of sailing is expressed in his warm smile as he proudly points to his boat or when he talks about his own—and his children and grandchildren’s—sailing accomplishments.
Henry learned to sail “little punts” as a child at the Larchmont Shore Club, but he developed his enthusiasm for Hudson sailing while navigating a Grumann Canoe which he would regularly sail to Tarrytown for dinner, returning in the late evening. I suppose they didn’t have such stringent rules for night-running lights 48 years ago. You probably think I made a mistake here. Henry and his family sailed in a Grumann Canoe which he rigged, himself. In fact he still enjoys sailing his Grumann Canoe up modest white water rapids in the Catskills. Pushing small boats to their limits is a passion for Henry.
He is a little critical of “big boat” owners who just “turn a key” to solve any problem. Only small boat sailors have to “react to everything-waves, wakes, tides, winds, sails, and velocity.” As the owner of a Sunfish 46 years ago, Henry would regularly compete in 26- mile races around Shelter Island. Henry does express gratitude for having had the opportunity to sail “big boats” in Long Island Sound and Puerto Rico but his heart is clearly with hands on the tiller and sheets sailing.
When asked about his most pleasant experience in near half a century at Nyack Boat Club the 92-year-old responded, “Teaching the Thursday-night sailing class.” Henry loves instructing men and women of all ages who attend the 8-session classes to learn about sailing, the Hudson, safety, collaboration, and responsibility. His enthusiasm is contagious as he describes the pride he takes in returning participants’ tuitions when they have completed all eight classes.
During his 46 years at Nyack Boat Club, he has been a board member, financial secretary (they kept accurate records with pen and paper) treasurer, and fleet captain; he also served on the waterfront, mooring, and new-member orientation committees. Henry Ridder has rightfully come to deserve the title, “Lifetime Member of the Nyack Boat Club.”
Established in 1909, Nyack Boat Club is dedicated to sailing, teaching sailing, safety, and boat racing on the Hudson River
By Samuel Hedrick, Member of Nyack Boat Club