DELTAVILLE—Stephens C. Smith IV, known to all as Kaptain Krunch, passed peacefully from this life on August 8, 2020. The Kaptain left behind his childhood friend and wife, Raynell; his daughter, Lily; his son, Cal; and countless family friends to share many remarkable memories.
The Kaptain was born on February 9, 1945, in San Antonio, Texas, and grew up in Middletown, New Jersey. He began his maritime career early, spearfishing off the New Jersey coast, building kayaks for duck hunting and ice boats for racing on the Navesink River, and sailing up and down the east coast and beyond.
Kaptain Krunch was consummately cool—the class clown, but also the smartest person in the room, with a combination of artistic talent and scientific skill that few could match. He took off in a white Corvette convertible for Bucknell University in 1963, graduating as a mechanical engineer and going on to California State University at Long Beach for graduate studies in graphic design. He worked at Douglas Aircraft for several years before a bigger adventure beckoned.
In 1970, he returned to New Jersey to buy his own boat, the Jolly Roger, a 42-foot skipjack. Krunch and “Jolly Roger” were too much for Raynell to resist, and in 1973 she hopped on board in Ft. Lauderdale and never looked back.
This kicked off a dozen years of adventures for the Kaptain and Lady Krunch. Krunch often joked that they retired first and would have to work for the rest of their lives to catch up. They crewed on Puritan, a 124-foot gaff rigged schooner; sailed from Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to Lahaina, Hawaii; ran a restaurant at Faro Blanco resort in Marathon, Fla.; sailed and spearfished in the Bahamas; flew their seaplane in the Florida Keys; and on and on—meeting lifelong friends along the way.
Amidst these adventures Kaptain and Lady Krunch found Deltaville. They sailed into Jackson Creek on Jolly Roger in 1974 and fell in love with the town and its residents. Krunch started his business, “Boat Lettering by Kaptain Krunch” and they returned each year to work. Although Krunch talked too fast and made many wisecracks that usually took a minute to understand, folks in Deltaville soon warmed to his offbeat sense of humor, and he quickly became a fixture in the community. In the late 1980s, the Krunches sailed in on a new boat, Sequoia II, with Lily in tow and Cal soon on the way, and with a plan to settle down. Krunch built his family a house on Broad Creek and Deltaville became their year-round home, though the Krunches still regularly spent the winter months sailing on Sequoia II in the Exumas, Bahamas.
Krunch brought a sense of fun to everything he did and had an enthusiasm for life that was a joy to be around. He loved the annual 4th of July parade in Deltaville and created eye-popping floats each year: who can forget Krunch sailing the “S.S. Harbour Lost” down main street—a claw-footed bathtub in which the Kaptain floated in a speedo bathing suit? Or what about his call-in radio show co-hosted with Bubby Crown—Boat Nuts: “I’m talkin’ about boats and I can’t shut up.” His weekly column in the Southside Sentinel celebrated the area and gently poked fun at the same time: “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”
The Kaptain also gave generously of his time and talent to the community. He was quick to supply a nice sign for any charity—the rescue squad, the firehouse, the library and later the maritime museum. He designed the Deltaville Community Association logo and, in 1993, designed and constructed the first “Welcome to Deltaville” sign, which is still next to the community center.
Perhaps his greatest contribution to Deltaville, and certainly the one he held dearest to his heart, was the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Nature Park. Krunch helped found the museum and devoted countless hours to it over the years. He started (and for many years led) Family Boatbuilding Week, during which teams built their own copy of a John Wright wooden crabbing skiff. The program was tremendously successful, and since 2003, families have built over 150 12-foot and 14-foot Wright skiffs. Until a few years ago, the Kaptain personally lettered the names on each of the new skiffs before they launched.
In the early years of the museum, Kaptain Krunch was boat shop director, overseeing the restoration and construction of historic boats from the area. As part of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Krunch also helped build Explorer, a 30-foot open boat that was a replica of John Smith’s shallop. Explorer functioned as both a beautiful sailing vessel and as a traveling exhibit that Krunch accompanied on trips all over Virginia. In 2008, Krunch was a member of the cast that enacted the landing of Captain John Smith at Stingray Point near the actual location of the landing and on the approximate date 400 years earlier. Krunch’s last large project for the museum was the design and construction of a stage for the 2013 reenactment of John Taylor Wood’s capture of two Union gunboats at the mouth of the Rappahannock River during the Civil War. Krunch continued to participate in museum activities until his health began to fail. For him, the museum preserved the lifestyle and stories of the people that made Deltaville such an interesting place to live.
Krunch was larger than life, which makes his passing all the more difficult for those who knew and loved him. He was brilliant, hilarious and the life of any party. He was a world-class storyteller, spearfisherman, yachtsman and artist, with too many big ideas to count and the courage and wherewithal to bring many of them to life. He loved his family fiercely and gave them a life rich with adventure and so many stories to tell.
To share those stories, and give the Kaptain a proper pirate’s sendoff, the family will host a celebration at the Deltaville Maritime Museum in the fall. Until then, the family asks that Krunch’s many friends stay home and stay safe, and instead send any photos or stories to Krunch’s family at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to the Deltaville Maritime Museum in Krunch’s memory would be greatly appreciated.