Ledyard - George H. Moffett Jr., 68, of Ledyard, died on Feb. 25, 2012, at home surrounded by his family after a courageous battle with melanoma.
He was born in Washington, D.C., to George H. Moffett and Margaret A. Truxal. As grandson of Admiral William A. Moffett, who became known as the "father of naval aviation" for having led the introduction of the aircraft carrier to the Navy, George had the sea in his blood. He was the third generation in his family to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, where he studied science and engineering from 1964 to 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War. He questioned the morality of the war and, much to his father's chagrin, transferred to St. Olaf College where he majored in studio art and developed an intense interest in philosophy. Searching for understanding and hungry to see the world, he went to Germany for graduate school to study theology at the University of Bonn. There he met his wife, Sabine, and they were married in 1971. After completing a Master of Divinity, he moved to England where he and Sabine had a daughter. He served for six years as headmaster of a small boarding school situated on the south coast. It was there that he fell in love with boats after buying a ketch and cruising the English Channel.
In 1981, George found a position that allowed him to combine his love of sailing and background in education on the schooner Brilliant at Mystic Seaport. During the 25 years that he served as her captain, he introduced over 3,000 teenagers and adults to sea as part of the museum's sail-education program. The job turned out to be a perfect match: as a teacher and mentor, he inspired self-discovery and courage by motivating his crew members to challenge themselves, persevere in hardship and never do things halfway. As an engineer, artist, and steward, he maintained the classic vessel to perfection. As a preservationist and communicator, he garnered appreciation for the yacht's mission and craftsmanship and raised an endowment to make its operations sustainable. As a wanderer and tactician, he took the boat to ever further waters and won races on the New England Coast and to Bermuda. Most notably, he raced Brilliant across the Atlantic from Halifax to Amsterdam in Tall Ships 2000 and won first in class and first overall.
George resigned from the Seaport in 2007 to pursue his terrestrial passion for motorcycling and explore the U.S. With friends, he rode a classic BMW motorcycle across country from British Colombia eastward. He was soon lured back to sea, however, by the opportunity to skipper the Fife ketch, Belle Aventure, until his retirement in 2009.
In the months before his death, George was honored to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Tall Ships America and the William P. Stephens Award from the Mystic Seaport in recognition of an enduring contribution to the history, progress, and appreciation of American yachting.
George was driven by a longing for understanding and knowledge that never left him. He was provoking, persistent, compassionate, witty, and eloquent. He appreciated simple beauty, made a life-long impression on many, and made life more fun for all around him.
In addition to his wife, he is survived his sister, Elizabeth; by his daughter, Jessica and her husband, Thomas.
Donations may be made in his name to the Brilliant program at Mystic Seaport, PO Box 6000, Mystic, CT 06355.
Published in The Day on Feb. 29, 2012.