CAMDEN – Hans H. Hoff, 93, crossed the bar on Sept. 15, 2022, in Camden, Maine. He was born on Aug. 10, 1929, in a small fishing and agricultural community on the Baltic Coast in Mecklenburg, Germany. Hans grew up sailing small boats, cycling through the countryside and generally getting up to no good. His father was a watchmaker, who died before the war, but his interest in clocks was passed on to Hans, who apprenticed under a watchmaker in Wismar at the age of 16. Years later, after escaping from East Germany (a tale in itself), Hans worked both in West Germany and London as a watchmaker, his house had several vintage timepieces.

On May 3, 1945, as the war ended, Hans’ village was occupied by the Red Army. Life changed dramatically at this point, but Hans still managed many escapades, evading the authorities as much as possible. His passion for music led him to steal a typewriter off the desk of a Russian officer, which he hastily fenced on the black market and bought his first accordion that he learnt to play and became an accordion player in dance bands in his local area.

East Germany was a difficult place for boys with an eye on wider horizons. Hans became a regular, illegal, visitor to West Germany, ferrying people across the border, or retrieving valued items for others. On May 8, 1952, he decided it was time to leave for good. Walking along the coast with two friends in the late afternoon, they entered the five-mile off-limits zone near the border. His two friends acted as decoys and were arrested by the border guards, allowing Hans to hide in the woods and wait several hours until it was dark. The barbed wire fence was patrolled by armed guards and dogs, but Hans calmly waited for the right moment, bent back the wire, and slipped under the fence into West Germany.

Hans worked as a watchmaker in West Germany and finally arrived in England in 1955 where he was offered a job.

In 1962, double-dating one night in London, he met a renowned West Indian yachtsman, Tim Hickman. Tim had been given the job of delivering Ramona, the 110-foot Herreshoff schooner belonging to Walter Boudreau, to St. Lucia. Hans was eager to go, but Tim felt Hans did not have enough sailing experience. Determined to prove him wrong, Hans enrolled in evening classes at an institute in London to learn seamanship and celestial navigation (most important, as that wasn’t Tim’s forte) and then answered a crew-wanted ad in the Times that read “no pay, no prospects, not much pleasure,” hardly one to encourage most of us to leap aboard, but not Hans – he was off. This trip to Greenland is recorded in great detail in the book “Mischief in Greenland,” as it was one of H.W. (Bill) Tilman’s DSO MC famous voyages on his 44-foot Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Mischief.

Five months later Hans returned to find Tim still had not left for the West Indies and was short of crew. He signed Hans on for the voyage as Mate. No more watchmaking for Hans, his life changed direction forever. On arrival in St. Lucia, Captain Walter Boudreau offered Hans the permanent job on board as Mate for the charter season.  At the end of the season, the whole Boudreau clan, including children, maids and dogs came aboard for the passage to Miami, where Ramona was to undergo and extensive refit.

On arrival, Boudreau offered Hans the job as skipper. Most of us start our career skippering somewhat smaller boats, but that didn’t seem to faze either Hans or Walter! After the refit, with Ramona back in St. Lucia, Walter asked Hans to deliver another Herreshoff schooner he owned, Voyageur (now known by her original name Mariette) to California. While in Martinique preparing her for the trip, a hurricane arrived, communications being very basic at that time, Hans had little concrete information to go on. He took the boat out of the shipyard across the harbor to Gros Islet. The next morning only three boats were left afloat, fortunately Voyageur was one of them. With the delivery done and back aboard Ramona, Hans stayed aboard her for three charter seasons.

Looking for new adventures he finally left to join Panda, a 116-foot schooner built by Camper & Nicholson, as navigator. After a transatlantic passage to England, the owner decided to put her up for sale. Somehow, and Hans still has no idea where this came from, he received a letter from Gordon Gould of New York City, offering him the job on a new Pearson 44, Wonny Larue. Hardly the boat dreams are made of, but Hans met Gordon and liked him instantly and spent four very happy years aboard her, travelling every year from the West Indies to the East Coast of the United States. Gordon, who frequently could not pay Hans a modest salary, always promised him that one day all debts would be paid. He was a man of his word, and when his patent for the laser beam was finally accorded to him, all debts were satisfied, and they remained fast friends visiting each other every year for many years.

Hans heard Panda was rotting in the mangroves in Antigua and came to the rescue. After patching her together, they completed one charter season and planned a big refit. Unfortunately, the money was never forthcoming and Hans decided to leave.

It was at this time Hans joined Fandango, a 98-foot Rhodes motor sailor. He stayed with her for 15 years, working for three different owners, and under two names (Anadarko). The stories are legendary. His faithful Mate, Eddie Cook and their great cook and friend Selwyn James were the crew stalwarts – Selwyn can time a boiled egg to perfection.

Meanwhile, one of Fandango’s previous owners was building a new 155-foot motor sailor in Japan, named Mikado, and eventually Hans left Fandango and joined Mikado in Australia. Again, working for different owners, but with his same crew, he stayed aboard her for seven years on a job share with another captain each doing six months aboard until he retired in 1997. This allowed him to go riding in Wyoming for a month each year, skiing in Colorado and Europe, fly his plane and travel extensively to the remote corners of the world, always returning to his beloved house on the shores of the Penobscot Bay in Maine.

All these pursuits he did routinely until just a few years ago – Hans never saw age as a reason to stop adventuring.

A man of exacting and precise habits, his many friends knew that it was an egg and pipe on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sundays were for hiking with a dog and friends and catching up with phone calls to his many friends around the world.

Hans set a high standard for all of us. He insisted his crew be well looked after, and they loved him for it – they all kept in touch with him regularly.

Hans is survived by his three nieces in Germany and his presence is sorely missed by the very many dear friends and devoted caretakers in the Camden area who provided Hans great comfort and companionship in his final years.

Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock St., Rockland.