Barry Wooding Snell


Obituary For Barry Wooding Snell

Age 85, of Bedford, N.S., and one of Canada's best-known yachtsmen, crossed the finish line in the race of his life, one which saw many firsts.

Proclaimed 'King of the Basin' in the 1960s by Nova Scotia's highly honoured Race Officer the late Tom Taylor - Barry or 'Snellie' as he was otherwise affectionately known, was one of the leading analytical and instinctively skilled racing skippers and crews in a generation of many great names to emerge under his mentorship from Bedford and Nova Scotia generally.

His reign over the waters saw many triumphs including: the Prince of Wales Trophy presented by Prince Philip the late Duke of Edinburgh; several Maritime Bluenose Championships, the US/Canada Eastern Division of the Mallory Cup, coaching the national sailing team and as well as a local team of Larry Creaser, Gavin Flynn and Eric Koppernaes to second place finish in the Etchells Worlds, and many many wins in provincial regattas lastly in Rush, (the 'sled')

In winter, when the bays and lakes froze, he became one of North America's foremost builders and racers of ice boats in the DN Class.

His strong suit was analysis - he observed and questioned what others perhaps took for granted. Winds, tides, sail shape, mast bend, hull resistance and countless other factors were at once the active ingredients in a mind striving ceaselessly to perfect high performance of a boat and its crew. And, as one might expect, he demanded excellence and more skill and commitment than most crew could deliver. But his drive to win, and win he often did, kept them very loyal and willing to put up with his unrelenting quest to win.

Thrifty to a fault, Snellie decreed that his friends and crew were expected to pay their own way, because with him every penny was a prisoner. And he held true to this rule by using his craftsman's skills to manufacture much of what he needed - from masts to sails. Oddly enough, his genius, evident in timing on the starting line and with the reactive elements of boat building with chemical compounds and catalysts did not extend to the mysteries of meal preparation. This culinary blind spot was filled by the sympathetic ministrations of those who took pity upon him, and kept him well fed with an ongoing supply of delicious meal.

His charm and beaming face effusively on display after the flush of yet another race course victory might have seemed almost magnanimous, but it came as the pure product of hard work and when necessary a gruff and demanding demeanour. It hid his soft heart that perhaps he did not wish to be taken as a weakness by his rivals on the race course. His daughter and son can recall his stories which reflected his fascination with nature's free showing of the mysteries of the natural world - thunder, lightning and wind. Even a fish swimming innocently beneath a wharf was material for a tale.

He was no stranger to quiet generosity. For years he anonymously funded sailing school tuition for disadvantaged kids. He was Rear Commodore (racing) of Bedford Basin Yacht Club and assisted in the development of the club facilities and services for many decades commencing in the 1960s.

Born on April 29th, 1937 in Campbellton, N.B., the second son of parents (deceased) Frederick William and Francis Emmeline (Campbell) Snell, he is survived by his son Gregor Campbell Snell and daughter Margaret Hilary Snell, and grandchild, Benjamin James Corkum all of Halifax or Bedford and niece Jaimie Snell of England. Barry was predeceased by his former wife and mother of his two children, Elizabeth Ann Buell (Fenwick), and his brother James F. Snell of Bedford, one of his many close sailing rivals.

Educated at Rothesay Collegiate, he went on to a successful career with NCR. It was then that he gave up his youthful fascination with a motor boat (Playboy) and water skiing to turn to serious sailboat racing in the 23-foot Bluenose Class (Hustler), something at which he immediately excelled and which led him naturally to a second career in yacht brokerage and chandlery. He excelled at darts and tennis. Much more could be written of this departed sailor and to very good effect, and his friends (many of whom stepped in to assist him in his declining months and for which the family is truly grateful) will add their recollections and anecdotes on this website. So in keeping with Snellie's expressed wish, this formal obituary from his family must remain the soul of brevity so that others may also have their say.

For those wishing to do so, donations may be made in his name to either Bedford Basin Yacht Club or Bedford Baptist Church.

There will be an opportunity for all those who knew him to elaborate further on his life and times in person, both during and following a commemorative gathering to be held Labour Day Weekend, September the 4th at 5:00 pm at Bedford Basin Yacht Club where his ashes will be carried first over the club finish line and then committed to the currents and waves over which he ruled as 'King of the Basin'.

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  • 08/09/2022

    Gregor and Hilary, please accept my condolences on the loss of your father, a great sailor, and a wonderful, thoughtful competitor in those early Soling days. I will always be grateful for him letting us winter our Soling KC23 on your dock for almost 10 years. One vivid memory I have of him was him sticking his head out of his tent when John Vines and I went to the campground in Kingston where he was sleeping during the first 1969 CORK regatta. We had some great times back in the seventies when the Solings were the top racing fleet on the Basin. Savor your memories. Ron Gilkie

  • 08/07/2022

    Fortunate that he didn't suffer too much in his senior years and before his passing. I dont know which he loved more, winning races, or the seven decades of friendship and comradely at both the old Bedford Basin Yacht Club and the new Interhabs B.B.Y.C with his sailing friends, but to be sure it was both. Living all his adult life on the Bedford Basin at 167 Shore drive he was a passionate inspiration and promoter of racing and sailing through his company Basin Yachts and the B.B.Y.C. and is responsible for introducing many people to the joys of sailing and Iceboating. Years of lively family yachting and racing descussions took place between Barry, James, Gregor, and Jamie at Gangis' yachtside condo beside B.B.Y.C. where Gangi would make crispy lambchops. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Rest in peace Dad

  • 08/04/2022

    Reid and Barry were both born in April of 37. Reid always knew when Barry's birthday was and that Reid was 22 days older than Barry. It's hard to believe that Ron Locke, Barry and Reid died in the same year. They're trading stories up there I'm sure. Jeanette MacLean

  • 08/03/2022

    Snelly! Thank you for all the good times we had from buying my first boat a Tanzer 22 to letting me move in during transitions from one home to another! Nothing will transend the stars over my bed while he transformed his home from a cottage to one of Jim's Interhab creations! He was an unrelenting teacher for sailing and taught me many skills especially on the starting line, when we were not racing Wednesday Nights we were analyzing with Rum from his deck! Great times, I will miss him, RIP my friend. Lloyd

  • 08/02/2022

    Snelly was a profound influence in my life starting with my first visit to Basin Yachts when he promptly told me to F-Off. He was a born salesman! A visit to the basement was always a learning experience where he would command that you justify every decision you made on a race course or in setup of sails and equipment. He could be an acquired taste, but worth the effort. One of my favorite memories was when he lent me money at a crucial time for me. I repaid him in full with interest which I had calculated. A day later he arrived at my office to return a $.34 cent overpayment in my calculation. There will never be another like him, I feel the loss. JW Goddard

  • 08/02/2022

    I was in the basement the night the double maststep for DN's was invented. Within a day Snelly had built it and we were trying out on lake Williams. I was also in the basement nights when all kinds of things were invented that we then found out just would not work. Learning Snelly called it. He got me out of jail on day parole to "work" for him. Work was testing DN stuff. I owe him a lot. Boots

  • 08/02/2022

    Curmudgeon, friend, sailing wizard... tough to see him go, but in a better place. Oh the stories one could tell of a life that was lived the way he wanted. I had the pleasure of travelling with Snelly, living with Snelly, relying on him, and helping him. A few Etchell's regattas, a few ice boating regatta's, crewing on Rush, drinking rum, building masts, discussing life love and politics, and generally shooting the shit over a bottle of rum. Barry was a case study, an enigma. He loved you or hated you, often within minutes. But below the hard and carefully crafted crust was an odd kindness, an exceptional singing voice, a passion for opera, and a brilliant mind. Thanks Barry, you were my friend and I will miss you.

  • 08/02/2022

    The best..........Condolences to the family........

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