In what part of town do you live?
We are in South Miami.
How long have you lived in South Miami?
I’ve lived here about 12 years. My wife, Ricky, has been here for over 40 in this house.
What brought you to town?
Ricky. We met not quite 50 years ago but kept our connection up over several marriages.
How did you meet?
Well, we have different stories. We’ve been dear friends for so long. After we went through a couple of marriages, we were so lucky to find each other again. When I was at University of Chicago, one of my best friends became her second husband, the father of their daughter. So, I knew her husband before she did. He was prelaw and I was working on a master’s.
Where are you originally from?
From nowhere and everywhere. I was born in Chicago and then went away to school. Then, I went to University of Chicago and then Berkeley to work on a PhD in Latin American History. After that, in 1968, my first wife and I took off in a small sailboat. We were planning to sail around the world.
Is that where the name Skip came from?
My real name is Robert, but nobody uses that. I always sailed and when I was little, I was Skipper. As soon as I migrated from Skipper, I became Skip.
How did you start sailing?
I grew up sailing. I had my first little sailboat when I was 10 years old. My father had sailboats and I sailed with him. I did a lot of racing as a kid. When I was 20, I bought my first big sailboat, which was a 1923, 35 foot Gaff Cutter. I bought her in England, and I sailed through the French canal system and spent a year in the Mediterranean, then brought the boat back to the West Indies. Then I went to college.
After college, did you make it around the world?
Well, we ended up towing the boat from California to Miami. We sold the truck and the trailer and set off to sail around the world. That lasted for a few months in the Bahamas. Then, we went to Spain and ended up staying 10 years and having three children. I built a house there and did some other construction work for money.
What kind of house did you build?
The house is very interesting. I rent part of it on Airbnb. I built the house out of all recycled materials and it is still standing. It’s an off-grid house. We make our own electricity. Before we were connected to the town, we just collected the water from the roof and put it in the ground in cisterns. I had goats and chickens and lots of ‘back to the land’ kind of activities. My daughter who lives there now just got a dozen chickens and they had their first eggs two days ago.
How did you know how to build an off-grid house?
When I was a graduate student in Berkeley, I was making money as a carpenter on the side. I learned to do some American building, and then I got to Spain and didn’t have any choice, there was no electricity around. I did some reading. I looked at the Whole Earth Catalog. I was always asked locally, how do you do this? How do you collect water? Now we have a proper solar panel with batteries and a generator. You can see some pictures online. The tower part is what we rent out.
We were thinking that we wanted something small and inexpensive and conscious of how it was laid out in terms of facing South with windows. Since it’s a very hot climate for two months, we had to figure out some way to make good insulation. So I made two walls. The outer wall was cement block and the inner wall was brick. Between them, there is about a 10 inch airspace which goes all the way around the house. So it remains very cool. I really enjoy building stone walls. It is one of my favorite pastimes.
What do you like about making stone walls?
Each stone is like a Zen puzzle in the sense that there are no two stones exactly alike. You’re dealing with each one to make a straight wall. Spanish houses are very heavy in their stone, as opposed to the American houses. In parts of this country, you’ve got all these stick houses. You put all these sticks together and the more you put the stronger it gets. In Spanish houses, every stone is strong. So it’s a whole different building mentality. I think that building is the most creative thing most of us ever do in life.
What is it about sailing that makes you feel good?
That’s a really good question. First of all, I’m very familiar with it. It’s very comfortable for me. The miracle of sailing is that you’re being pushed by the wind, so it’s a quiet activity, and yet it’s very adventurous. It develops qualities of independence. You must be able to invent things. You must be able to fix things. You have to be able to arrange things without the parts because you’re hundreds of miles off shore, and there’s nobody there to help you except yourself.
Would you share about something you fixed along the way?
I am reminded of a trip with another boat, a 37 foot wooden sloop that I had in Europe. We sailed from Italy to Spain. The motor was Mercedes, and Mercedes did not build transmissions. The transmission was something else. On the way to Ibiza, I burned up the transmission. It was August in Ibiza so there was no possibility of getting any parts or rebuilding it. So, I took the transmission out and found a welder to weld a drive shaft from the motor to the propeller shaft. So, when you started the motor, you were in gear. That was a good invention.
You and Ricky have been coming by our stand for a long time. Would you tell us a little bit about how you got to know us and what you get when you come?
We discovered you at the Pinecrest Market, which is a great luxury. It’s in a beautiful location with a lot of interesting food and a good collection of dogs. We just stumbled upon your turmeric and have been getting it from you since then. Last weekend, we got the bagels. You’re doing a terrific job with them. Usually, I scoop out all the soft inside of a bagel, but I don’t do it with your bagels because they’re so good. And of course, the other thing I like very much are the smoothies. And I like the new little Turmeric melts.
What other restaurants or businesses do you frequent?
We haven’t gone anywhere this year, but in South Miami we like Pastis, which is a little French restaurant. There’s a good pizza place on Sunset called Spritz. Whisk is a nice hidden restaurant next to Ace Hardware. And Red Fish Grill is very good and has a lovely water view.
What’s Miami’s Best kept secret?
The Barnacle. There are a lot of people that don’t know about it. It’s a two buck entrance fee and it’s a real treasure. Ricky turns 80 on Saturday and we’re having her birthday party there.
What for you is a worthy splurge?
It feels to me like my life is such a splurge. I can’t imagine anything more than I already have. Spending time with my children and grandchildren is probably the most wonderful thing that I can do.
Are there any community events or philanthropic groups that are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
I’m a volunteer at the Barnacle and also a volunteer at Shake-a-Leg. That’s a great program. I donate to Sea Shepherd. They broke off from Greenpeace about 35 years ago. They are fighting for the ocean, fighting for the seas, fighting for the whales. They’re the ones that put their ships between the Japanese and Norwegian whalers. They’re real progressive and aggressive fighters for the ocean.
Is there a question, challenge or words of advice that you would like to pose to the community?
It’s really hard for me to understand the present political fantasy situation, which exists in this country. We’re such a fearful country and a fearful country spends money on the military and on the police. We’re afraid of the Russians. We’re afraid of the Chinese. We’re afraid of the mafia. We’re afraid. We’re the most powerful country in the world. Imagine if we were spending what we spend on the military on useful things.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(SR) Are you still a regular bike rider?
(W) After two bad wrecks, I ride now on an indoor system. I put my bike, without the wheels, on a Wahoo trainer and use the Zwift app to ride and race. It’s a virtual world, like a video game, that controls the resistance and even raises and lowers the bike to simulate hills. It’s enabled me to ride with friends all around the country. And, it’s a lot safer.
We plan to interview Ricky next, what question should we ask her?
Ask her version of how she got involved with me?