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Volume 15, Issue 30 ~ July 26 - August 1, 2007

A Boat-Full of Memories

Restoring an old day sailor is tribute to a friend

by Carrie Madren

Kristin Sohr’s 1967 O’Day day sailor was made in the year of her birth. A gift from her father, the 19-foot vessel sailed and docked on Lerch Creek, outside the Galesville house of her mother, Sally Koch. That’s where it weathered Hurricane Isabel, and the other — more tumultuous — storms of Sohr’s life.

Sohr grew up in Maryland, moving out west with her MBA to make her fortune. She was buying a condo in Utah in September, 2003, when back and hip pain got her attention. She returned to Bay Country to fight chondrosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer discovered too late. She passed on February 17, 2004, after six months of fighting the invader, at the young age of 36.

Steve Morris bought the late Kristin Sohr’s O’Day day sailor (Sohr and boat above) for one dollar, promising to restore it and name it Kristin. Every night after working on it, he made a point to stop and watch the sunset.

After Sohr’s passing, her mother sold the O’Day to her long-time friend, Steve Morris. In the deal, which cost Morris one dollar, he promised to restore the boat, name it after Kristin and never sell it.

Two and a half years later, Morris, 44, is completing his restoration — piece by piece, by hand — in tribute to this lost daughter of the Chesapeake.

The painstaking hand-crafting of each piece of the boat’s interior brought catharsis. Though a strong boat, the O’Day had filled with water, Morris says, and water damage had weakened the interior wood. He lovingly replaced the worn wood with teak and mahogany, patiently coating each piece with triple coats of epoxy resin to seal it.

“The idea is for the boat to last longer than me,” says Morris. O’Day built the boat solidly with fiberglass before the line was discontinued in 1979.

On his first boat-restoring project, Morris sought the expert help of many friends.

“I asked a lot of questions and made a lot of mistakes,” he says.

Now, Morris has refinished the boat’s interior from top to bottom — with only the original gunwale rails and tiller remaining.

Two and a half years later, Morris (above), is completing his restoration— piece by piece, by hand — in tribute to this lost daughter of the Chesapeake.

“I tried to do everything well, taking the time and patience to do it right and not rush,” he says.

As he worked, he made the labor part of his tribute.

“Every night, I’d make a point to stop and watch the sunset,” says Morris, who typically spent three to four days a week and plenty of full weekends dedicated to the boat. He purposefully hasn’t kept track of dollars or hours logged.

Morris painted the inside of the boat light lavender and chose a sail trimmed in royal purple, Sohr’s favorite color. In the berth, he’ll have the cushion covered in purple polka-dots.

“The purple really draws attention. I wanted it to be over the top, because Kristin was always so vibrant, so inspirational,” he says. Since Morris and Sohr loved to share margaritas, his bailout bucket is a margarita bucket.

In one of the last touches, Morris will inscribe the boat’s name — Kristin — on the back, in purple. The lettering will replicate her signature on a Mother’s Day card to Koch.

Morris and Koch sailed the boat to Annapolis and back for its maiden voyage. They were welcomed into port at Koch’s house with a three-cannon salute from neighbor Bill Brewer.

Now, Morris will keep the boat for the Koch family and his to remember Sohr’s radiant spirit sailing on.

Read more about Kristin’s life and the foundation set up in her memory to research the causes and cures for chondrosarcoma. Find out how you can help a project to promote regular bone scanning for tumors:

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