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Roger Duncan, author and sailor, remembered

Roger Fenn Duncan, co-author of "The Cruising Guide to the New England Coast" editions five through 11, died May 15 after an extended illness in his hometown of Boothbay, Maine. He was 93.

Duncan was an avid sailor, cruising Eastward, his 32-foot Friendship sloop for 40 summers as part of the Friendship Sloop Society in Friendship, Maine, ( This is where Duncan met boatbuilder Ralph Stanley, based in Southwest Harbor, Maine, and a 50-year friendship blossomed.

"He was a good fella to sail against because he knew what he was doing," says Stanley.
Stanley, who is 80, says his friendship with Duncan developed into a business partnership when Duncan approached him in 1996 about building a ketch. Duncan was 80 at the time and his wife, Mary, was 82. They wanted a vessel that would be easier for both of them to manage.
"After we started talking, I knew a ketch wasn't what he wanted," says Stanley. "We decided a schooner would be better for his purposes."
The vessel would eventually become the Dorothy Elizabeth, a 28-foot schooner that was built between 1997 and 1998. The work was interrupted when Duncan suffered an aneurysm, according to Stanley, but "he was determined." After the vessel was finally completed, Duncan wrote a book called "Dorothy Elizabeth: Building a Traditional Wooden Schooner" published in 2000 by W.W. Norton & Company Inc.
"Not only are [Ralph's] boats a delight to the eye, but each is designed for its purpose, be it hauling lobster traps, cruising the Maine coast or racing," Duncan writes in the book's introduction.
In addition to co-authoring the cruising guides, he is also the author of "Coastal Maine: A Maritime History," "The Story of Belmont Hill School 1923-83," "Eastward," "Friendship Sloops," "Sailing in the Fog," and "Practical Sailor."
Stanley says Duncan sold Dorothy Elizabeth a few years ago and it is privately owned in Portland, Maine.
"I will miss having lunch with him and reading his articles that were published in the Working Waterfront News," says Stanley. "He was a good friend and sailing buddy."
Donations can be made to Fenn School, 516 Monument St., Concord, MA 01742; Belmont Hill School, 350 Prospect Street, Belmont, MA 02478; or Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741.

This article originally appeared in the New England HomeWaters section of the July 2010 issue.