Michael Walsh, traveler, author and small boat sailing enthusiast died in Gainesville, Florida on December 21, 2018. He was 81years young.
International travel must have been part of his genetic predisposition. Michael was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 29, 1937, the son of Robert Walsh an American engineer who had come to Argentina while working for International Telephone and Telegraph Co., and Doris Monkman, a lively Argentinian woman of English and German descent. They had two children, Michael and David. David died in Vietnam in 1968.
By the age of fourteen Michael had already lived in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Spain. When his father was posted to the ITT office in New York City in the early 1950s, the family moved to Westchester County, New York where Michael graduated from Scarsdale High School and continued his education at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He married Lucy Novotny and together they had three children, Nadine, Michelle and David.
After working for Corning Glass and Allis Chalmers as an engineer, marriage and children turned Michael’s interests to alternative educational theory. He taught at the Summerhill School in Minnesota and following divorce moved to Minneapolis where he started The City School which he ran for several years.
Michael’s sense of curiosity and wanderlust yet methodical approach to learning then led him to consider starting a school for older children which would be based on traveling. Among the applicants for staff positions for this new school was a young college student named Ida Little. Thus began a travel and writing partnership which spanned nearly 50 years.
Always able to build on the opportunity inherent in any obstacle Michael successfully piloted his life though an amazing series of adventures. A shipwreck in the 1970s of their 40’ wooden English Channel yawl in The Bahamas became the impetus to travel by Hobie Catamaran and canoe and to beachcruise in the Caribbean in small sailboats. He and Ida continued to happily return to the wonderful waters and people of The Bahamas throughout the next forty years.
For the first decade Michael and Ida cruised The Bahamas in winter they also managed a fly fishing camp in a remote section of northwestern Ontario in the summer. Gregarious and creative by nature Michael used his woodworking skills to build a log cabin in Canada.
One winter he and Ida built a 26’ Bolger designed shoal draft boat in which they cruised the Florida Keys, going aground on the low tide, and living aboard.
This unique cruising style suited them both perfectly and soon these cruises became source material for articles in several national and international sailing magazines. Their 26’ footer was followed by the 36’ ultra shoal draft Warren Bailey designed and built Beachcomber.
Both Michael and Ida continued to write for sailing magazines describing their adventures and over time compiled the information and photographs for their very popular book “Beachcrusing and Coastal Camping”. This book explains in exacting detail a type of cruising that instead of anchorages favored beachorages, places where a boat could be set aground by design. With the writing of this book, Michael’s idea for a style of teaching based on traveling had materialized; although perhaps not as it had originally been envisioned.
At age 60, now with a small toe-hold on land in the form of the small family cottage on Cape Cod, Michael suggested he and Ida chart a new course. So they began traveling winters in a pop-up camper, cruising across the USA, hiking the deserts and mountains, pursuing their shared passion for photographing nature.
A yearning for wild remote places attracted them to the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego, Bolivia. And of course sailing friends were always able to entice them to cruise with them in Italy and Greece and this past October, Croatia.
For the last twelve years of his life, Michael was treated for Hodgkins Lymphoma. During the final four years he was a pioneer patient on the forefront of immunotherapy.
Always an avid reader, when his treatments cost him most of his vision, Michael improvised by listening to his magazines and books via his iPad. He continued to travel, sail, hike and be a fabulous cook for family and friends.
Michael was as understated as he was competent. Few knew he had been a dancer who taught for Arthur Murray and danced throughout his life, or that he sang with a beautiful deep voice. He loved music and expressed his spirituality early on with the Humanist Society and the Ethical Culture Society and lived a conscious ethical life.
In between traveling adventures, his home for the last nine years has been near the wonderful community of Melrose, North Florida in winter, and the family cabin on Cape Cod in summer. A 19’ Grumman sailing canoe well equipped with Michael’s custom designed sail rig, rudder and leeboards has been essential equipment for voyaging adventures in both places.
Throughout his life Michael found the pleasures of traveling simply and living close to nature to be soul nurturing and an important element for living a contented life.
Michael was a devoted son, a loving and deeply affectionate husband, and a Dad and Grandfather who loved his children and grandchildren. To his friends he was a man of wisdom and uniqueness, humor, and an ability to always look ahead.
He is survived by his wife Ida Little; daughter Nadine Walsh; son David Walsh and his wife Jane and their two children Ian and Sarah.
In lieu of flowers Michael would have liked a donation to:
The Bourne Conservation Trust
P.O. Box 203
Cataumet, MA 02534
The Alachua Conservation Trust
7204 SE County Road 234
Gainesville, FL 32641
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