By Dennis Lesh

Editor’s note: With the author and his wife celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary this month, we share a story originally published by our friends at Points East in their July 2022 edition.

Painting “The Question” on Camelot’s old mainsail was one of many frenzied pre-proposal projects.

The night of July 19, 2014 was magical. It was the night I met my wife, Kristel, at a bonfire at our seaside neighborhood beach. The annual July 4th party had been canceled because of rain and re-scheduled for the 19th – a beautiful summer night with friends and neighbors that lasted well into the morning hours.

Kristel was designated to pull the town permit and was responsible for the fire and making sure it was extinguished at the end of the night. As the party dwindled and everyone slowly disappeared into the night, Kristel and I were the last ones remaining (I must admit, a bit by design on my part), and I wasn’t about to leave her there alone, so I offered to stay and we enjoyed the fire until the end.

As we sat at the water’s edge, the tide slowly rose and at exactly 3:01 am the last remaining embers washed away; it was time to say goodnight. I saw her off and dinghied out to my sailboat in the nearby mooring field where I was spending the weekend. Reflecting on the night, I wondered if this was a possible turning point in my life.

Later that morning I saw Kristel combing the beach for sea glass, but she was gone before I could get ashore. The evening had been so incredible, I had to see her again. I didn’t know how to contact her, and needed a plan to get her number. I contacted a friend with an offer to return the gloves Kristel had left on the beach, which led to a phone call and the rest of this story.

After many phone conversations and our first official date, the relationship began to escalate. We shared lots of interests like sailing, cooking, exploring, clamming, and enjoying the outdoors.

I wanted to marry this girl and needed a way to propose. I began thinking of ideas and came up with one I thought was unique, romantic and had never heard of being done before. When the time came, I knew how I’d ask the question.

The 4th of July is one of our favorite holidays, along with our love for fireworks, warm summer weather, and amazing sunsets, this date seemed to be a good candidate for a proposal. The other thought was July 19, the date we met. July of 2015 passed, as I wasn’t prepared to execute my plan. I’d have to wait another year. Then it was 2016, with July quickly approaching.

By mid-June, I had decided on July 4th as the date. The marital gods must’ve known I didn’t want to wait another year, although much had to be accomplished including finding an engagement ring, getting the boat in the water, putting a crew together, creating my idea with a sail, some paint and stencils, and hopefully a couple of miracles!

Our Morgan 30 Camelot was still on the hard. Every year there’s a mountain of work getting her ready to launch and this year was no exception. We had a launch date for the end of June and we worked on the boat every chance we had because if we didn’t meet the deadline, my plan was dead in the water. We made the launch date and I had just days to pull everything together, without a finished sail, a crew, or a ring!

I gave my friend Richard a call, and he said his good friend Scott owns a jewelry store in Sturbridge, MA. This was music to my ears.

I’d kept a photo of a ring Kristel had given me, and Scott said he could have something ready in time. I was ecstatic, nervous and skeptical as I looked at gemstones and design options. I wanted to be sure I got this right. The jeweler and I went through several versions until we finally landed on what I had envisioned. The ring was beautiful and unique, and I was hopeful she would like it.

Now I needed to work on the next major task: the way I was going to propose. I wanted to put my message on a sail and I needed a large workspace, so I decided to utilize our condo’s clubhouse. This project had to be completed while Kristel was at work so as to not tip her off.

My initial idea was to use stick-on letters because I didn’t want to ruin the sail, which was the boat’s original mainsail and now our back-up sail. But the more I thought about it, I didn’t want to risk the possibility of letters falling off and looking like an idiot, so I decided to paint directly on the sail.

I purchased some large stencils and red spray paint, laid out the sail on the clubhouse floor and started the design. I envisioned what I wanted it to say and how it would look when raised into position. I needed this to be perfect because once you start painting there’s no turning back. Finally, after many hours of configuration, the sail was finished!

The next step was assembling the crew. I reached out to our good friends Elizabeth and Richard. They were the original owners of Camelot back in the ‘80s, which would make the adventure even more special. Next, I reached out to Kristel’s cousin Matt and his wife Puja. They are amazing, lots of fun and would round out the crew perfectly. They too were on board! Within the next couple days, I had to write my proposal, travel to Sturbridge to pick up the ring, and visit with Kristel’s grandmother to ask permission to marry her.

On July 3, Puja & Matt came up from NYC and the four of us spent the day sailing down to Dutch Island where we anchored and spent the night. We partied into the wee hours of the morning while all along I was trying to negotiate all that had to be done before The Big Day.

Kristel had gone below to cook dinner for everyone. We had an icebox with a large, heavy wooden lid that was held up by a piece of webbing and a snap when open. Suddenly, a wake from a passing vessel hit the boat. As Kristel was steadying herself with her hand on the counter, the snap suddenly gave way and the lid came down smashing on (you guessed it) her ring finger. In excruciating pain her finger was swelling up and turning black and blue. How would I ever get the ring on her finger?

The following morning, July 4, we sailed back to our mooring near Wickford to re-group for the trip to Newport. Another sizable task still had to be accomplished, swapping out the sail. Prior to launching Camelot, Kristel and I had rigged the new mainsail we’d just purchased, and this had to be switched with the newly painted sail before heading off. The swap had to be done on the mooring and conditions had to be perfect to achieve it.

We lucked out with the weather, sent the girls to the store for more provisions and Matt and I were able to change the sails and stash the new one below where it hopefully wouldn’t be discovered.

One of the last details to coordinate was picking up Richard & Elizabeth, who suggested we meet at the marina in Jamestown. This would position us with just a short trip across the bay to Newport Harbor where we were headed to see the fireworks. Newport’s 4th of July fireworks is one of our favorite events, and seeing them from the water is nothing short of spectacular. This was the perfect cover for pulling off this adventure. I hadn’t thought about where or when I was going to execute my plan, but at this moment I had found the perfect place.

We picked Elizabeth & Richard up at the dock, and as we were leaving Jamestown the conditions were ideal. We had light winds from the south, the sun was shining and everything was falling into place. We motored across the East Passage towards the entrance of Newport Harbor, and the anticipation was growing. We’d all been keeping this under wraps and hadn’t had the opportunity to rehearse or even discuss our plan, but everyone instinctively adopted their role. I handed the helm to Richard, with the rest of the crew waiting in position.

Just as we were passing Fort Adams, I asked Kristel to go forward and raise the mainsail for a nice harbor cruise. As she began to raise the sail I could see the concern in her face. It was apparent that the new sail we’d recently put on was not there. She continued hoisting the sail and the words WILL YOU MARRY ME, KRISTEL? appeared.

I went forward to help secure the sail and brought Kristel back to the cockpit where I dropped to my knee in front of the helm, presented the ring, and made my proposal. She said, “Yes!” without hesitation! Everything had gone perfectly. Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” was playing on the stereo and it was a magical moment on Camelot!


She said “Yes!”



The Ring


Sunset over Newport Harbor

I had hidden a bottle of champagne below which we opened and the celebration began. Onlookers on surrounding boats began blowing their horns, and crowds on restaurant balconies were cheering and sending best wishes as we sailed through the harbor. The rest of the night was incredible. We had a gorgeous sunset, the fireworks were amazing, and it was a night we will all remember forever!

We were married on the North Lawn of Fort Adams on July 15 of the following year, and we were again blessed with a perfect day. As for the crew, Matt officiated the wedding, Richard stood up as the best man,

Elizabeth and Puja were included as bridesmaids and our families and many friends were in attendance.

Newport, Rhode Island will always have a special place in our hearts, as will that perfect summer weekend onboard Camelot.

Hey baby, it’s the 4th of July!

Cheers to fair winds, following seas, and The Proposal! ■

Formerly a touring drummer, Dennis Lesh works on private yachts and does deliveries to and from the Caribbean. He and Kristel live in Wickford, RI.

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