Once a Sailor…

My name is Steve Lang – and I have led a very full and rich life. When I was 8 years old, my father and mother came home one day and announced we would be moving onto a 60 foot sailboat . . . permanently! When we pulled up to the dock in Essex, Connecticut, you can imagine the excitement of a young boy about to embark on a magnificent adventure.

Thus began a three year, full immersion process of becoming a sailor. Unknown to me at the time, my father had been given 6 months to live and therefore, this was to be his final fulfillment in life. He was only 36. In a hurry to get it all in, we shortly took off from the calmness of dockside never to return to Essex. I learned the feel of a boat, night and day in the ocean, sailing in all conditions ~ steering, eating off a gimbaled table, and basic navigation. Life at sea was much like flying, hours and hours of the tranquil joys of sailing, punctuated with moments of shear mind numbing terror.

When three years expired, and my father hadn’t, my mother demanded to go ashore (“like normal people”). We did, but now we are in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I grew up in St. Petersburg where racing sailboats at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club was a full time sport. My father was at my side from the first time I touched the wheel on our big boat through all those years of racing dinghies. As I neared graduation from high school, I had raced most of the popular boats of the day – Lightnings, Thistles, Bantams, Flying Dutchmans, Snipes, Luders, Y-Flyers, etc. I was already on course for West Point, the US Military Academy. My father was a Colonel in the US Army, and always looked forward to my attending the academy. Unfortunately, one week after I graduated from High School, my father suddenly died. He had earned 11 wonderful years past his six month sentence.

In 1963, I graduated from West Point, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, headed for my beloved tanks. I married my high school sweetheart, now a registered nurse, and away we went with nothing in our pockets but dreams for the future. In addition to normal duties, I was selected to go to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. There I studied the Thai language for 13 months. As a reward for my fluent command of Thai, I was next stationed in Korea!%#, where I was the liaison officer to a Thai unit remaining there from the Korean War.

My last big adventure in the Army was combat in Vietnam. There I served six months with a Thai division before getting command of my own U.S. tank company. Even though war is no fun, it was the highlight of my military career. On my wall are the awards I earned there, including three awards of the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor, which only serves to bring back memories of the brave men that fought and those who died by my side. Unfortunately, there was no nobler mission in Vietnam than bringing home as many of those men as I could.

Steve in Vietnam 1970

I returned to civilian life in 1970, and guess where I headed? Back to boats. Within a year, I formed a corporation, Fleet Indigo, to operate a charter fleet of sailboats out of Tortola, British Virgin Islands. In the following 10 years I expanded the operation to 70 boats and a new fleet in Belize, Central America.

In 1985, while sitting on my back porch in Florida, I conceived the idea of building a pond business. I knew just enough to be dangerous, but within six months, I had firmly established my new company, Southern Garden Ponds. Within two years I was hamming it up at the podium teaching hundreds of folks the inside secrets of making back yard ponds work. I loved this completely different part of my life and was totally immersed in ponds until 1991.

All of a sudden my bride and I had no children left at home. Both daughters had completed college and were on their own. We had been living in St. Petersburg, but not liking it very much. On a winter ski trip to Colorado with high school friends, we realized that we had always wanted to return to Colorado, where we were first stationed in the Army nearly 30 years before. So we abruptly sold our home, my pond business, and headed west.

We found our place in Evergreen, a mountain town just west of Denver, Colorado. In 1992, I decided to build my bride of 30 years a new home on a ridge at 8600 feet of elevation. Over that winter, I was able to take a kit of lumber, plumbing, wiring, windows, etc., and single-handedly build our new home in heavily forested wilderness. Here we thoroughly enjoyed the mountains, snow shoeing, back country skiing, hiking, kayaking, and hot tubbing for 11 years before my high school sweetheart unexpectedly died of cancer!

It took me almost two years to even think about going on, but now I am fully immersed in RC sailing and distribute RC sailboats and teach model sailing all over the country. I am a kid again in many respects. I am racing and enjoying all my new friends – and I rarely go anywhere without my dog.  In 2007, I remarried to Judy, and within a year we left Colorado and moved to TN where the living was a little less demanding in the winter.

Sailing the Geezer

Of course we choose a community with a premier model sailing lake and facility, where I can now sail almost year round.  Life is good.