Report on Rod (RC) Collins

Rod and his daughter Zoe taken about 10 years ago.

There are few people who have done more for us cruisers than Rod Collins, a deeply experienced boat technician who has run Compass Marine, his business in Maine, for decades. He also writes and publishes one of the most useful sites for all of us who own and maintain boats: Marine How To.

I can’t overemphasize how valuable Rod’s writing is. For example, whenever I write about anything related to boat electrical systems, I check Rod’s site, and if he confirms a fact I know it’s right.

As many of you know, Rod had a hemorrhagic stroke back in the late summer that very nearly killed him. The good news is that he did pull through and is now back at home after 53 very tough days in hospital.

Since he got home, I have had two long and wide-ranging telephone conversations with Rod.

The good news is that the stroke has not affected his powers of speech or his clarity of thinking. The latter confirmed by our deep discussions about electrical systems for boats in which his explanations are clear, concise, and fully organized, just as his writing has always been.

The bad news is that the stroke has severely limited his physical mobility, to the point that although he can make a few shuffling steps with the assistance of a four-point cane and someone always there to prevent a fall, most of the time he is still using a wheelchair. So it’s impossible for him to get out to his workshop.

As a person who went from physically active to a wheelchair in the blink of an eye, I have some understanding of how difficult this situation is for him.

However, in all of our time on the phone, I never detected note of self pity from Rod. In fact, he explained the sequence of his stroke and his current situation with the same matter-of-fact approach he takes to an electrical problem on a boat.

That said, perhaps even more frustrating for Rod than being in a wheelchair is that he still has no function in his left arm and so has lost his much-cherished ability to type at greater than one hundred words a minute.

A handicap that is now standing between his still quick-thinking brain and resuming his prodigious output at Marine How To as well as on multiple forums and Facebook. On the latter two (writing as “Maine Sail” on forums), he used to provide invaluable and unpaid help to hundreds…no, probably thousands…of cruisers.

However, the good news is that the very same morning I talked to him last, he was able to move his left arm for the first time, and even make a weak fist, thereby demonstrating that his brain is finding ways around the damage from the stroke to slowly regain control of his left side.

And that brings me to the future. Rod tells me that although he knows it will be a long road, he is bound and determined to get better and eventually to restart his business.

And to accelerate the process of returning to writing, Rod has used a generous donation from fellow boat-systems-guru Nigel Calder to buy high-end speech recognition software from Dragon, so we will all start benefitting from Rod’s wisdom sooner rather than later, although he did tell me that writing and especially editing with Dragon is challenging and will take him a while to master.

Talking of donations, this stroke has cost Rod his business, both the internet store that supplied a carefully curated selection of gear to thousands of customers—if a piece of gear had not passed his rigorous testing, he didn’t sell it—and the hands-on work that over the years made so many boats better and more reliable.

Bottom line, the day he had the stroke his income went to zero.

But then a bunch of his loyal customers and readers stepped in by clicking on a donate button that his brother put up on the site, and while the total has not replaced his business income, or even close, Rod wants all of you to know that your generosity has made a huge difference.

But he still has a long way to go before he is earning again, so if you can afford it, and particularly if Rod’s information has ever helped you, you may wish to make a donation. I’m going to make my second one today.

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