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Wednesday, June 19, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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William R. Nightingale Built Love For Boats Into A Long Career

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

William Richmond Nightingale built his love for boats into a career that lasted a lifetime.

"He'd wake up in the middle of the night with these great ideas for sailboat designs," said his son John Nightingale of Kent.

"Even at the end of his life, he held on to the dream that he could make one more little change in some design that would revolutionize sailing."

Mr. Nightingale, a Kent resident, died of cancer last Wednesday, June 12. He was 82.

The Bremerton native grew up with boats. A faded snapshot from a family album shows him at age 14, with his dog, plowing through the waves in a small sailboat.

"He and his brother found `The Old V' on a beach with its bottom eaten through," said his daughter Jennifer Nightingale of Seattle. "They learned to make a new bottom and sails, and that was the beginning of his profession designing and building fabulous boats."

Mr. Nightingale, who also played violin and read poetry, earned a mechanical-engineering degree at the University of Washington.

In the 1950s he owned Olympic Boat Works on Lake Washington. He built sailboats as well as the family cruiser, "The Cub."

In the 1960s he ran Air Filter Sales and Services to finance his sailing. He and some friends raced at Shilshole, having "a nip" and telling risque jokes, his daughter said.

Twice divorced by the late 1960s, Mr. Nightingale remarried and devoted himself to building his dream craft, the Variable Beam

Trimaran with telescoping arms that enabled it to plane in any wind.

"It was a piece of marvelous naval architecture and engineering, like a Leonardo da Vinci invention," said his daughter.

Such dreams had a price:

"Ours was a chaotic life," his daughter said. "It wasn't easy, but it was lovely."

Recently, Mr. Nightingale did contract engineering and learned three-dimensional computer-assisted drawing.

"Even though he was 82, he was going to beat hell until he became sick," his daughter said. "He had so much yet to do."

Mr. Nightingale's other survivors include his wife of 25 years, Laurel Nightingale of Auburn; his son Terry Nightingale of Bellevue; his daughters Bronwen Nightingale, Shoreline; Lorna Williams, Bothell; Camille Nightingale, Seattle; his sister Emily Nightingale Harrison, Bellingham; and four grandchildren.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Price-Helton Funeral Chapel, 114 N. Division St., Auburn.

Remembrances may go to the Center for Wooden Boats, 1010 Valley St., Seattle, WA 98109. .

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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