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Alerion Express creator dies at 78

Conn. sailor Ralph Schacter’s one-off 28-foot self-talking sloop became a modern classic


Ralph Schacter, who was the inspiration behind the Alerion Express sailboat, died March 5 of heart-related causes. He was 78.

A sailor from Southport, Conn., Schacter in 1989 wanted to build a boat he could easily single-hand. He hired California naval architect Carl Schumacher to design it and the result was the Alerion Express 28 sloop. (Schumacher died at age 52 in February 2002.)

The Alerion Express combines the traditional aesthetics of Herreshoff’s 1916 Alerion, with a high-performance keel, rudder and state-of-the-art hull construction. A self-tacking jib makes her easy to single-hand.

Schacter built the first boat, Moonrise, in Stuart, Fla., and then built another five boats before he sold the mold to TCI Composites in Warren, R.I.

Schacter’s Moonrise sits next to his Fortier 26, Blue Moon, in Southport Harbor.

Schacter was a former member of Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club in Westport, Conn. He was a member of the Greenhaven Boat Club in Westerly, R.I., and the Fairfield (Conn.) Harbor Commission. “Every town commission should have a Ralph Schacter to keep things from getting stagnant,” commented harbormaster Patrick Carroll.

A carpenter by trade, Schacter with his business partner built several hundred single-family houses in New York and Connecticut, and a number of Greenwich landmarks over a 50-year career.

Born in New York City, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17 and took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy while stationed on an LST. He later served as a volunteer to the Israeli Army during Israel’s War for Independence in 1948.

With his distinctive white beard and cap, Schacter preferred to be called “Ahab” and was the center of a “Moby Dick”-inspired circle of friends and relatives, who also assumed the names “Ishmael,” “Queequeg,” and “Starbuck” while sailing together.

He is survived by his wife, Helen Jankoski; son John Schacter and his wife, Mary, of Greenwich; son Alan Schacter and his wife, Durelle, of San Mateo, Calif.; and six grandchildren.

Those who wish may make contributions to a charity of their choice in Schacter’s memory.