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Phillip Ira Sax, 1948 - 2024
Solo sailor, celestial navigator, dear friend
March 4, 2024

Obituary by the family, submitted by his friends.

hillip Ira Sax, 75, completed his final voyage on Monday, February 26th in New Bern, North Carolina.

Born in 1948 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he was the son of the late Harriet and Mickey Sax. Phillip is survived by his sister, Aly Stratton and husband Mark Stratton, and nephew Marty Becker and wife Jessica Jansen-Becker.

Phillip, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, saw his first combat in 1966 at the age of 18. After he served, Phillip spent a decade solo sailing, and working on tugboats, commercial freighters, and oil rig tenders.

Phillip Sax on Ness February, 2022, in Broad Creek.

He put his sailing career on hold and bought 10 wooded acres on the remote Coyle Peninsula in Washington State where he milled his own lumber, and built his cabin and a brick, wood-fired oven where he baked bagels for the local food banks. Here he spent 15 years enjoying both his time alone and with others as he held community gatherings baking delicious breads and pizzas and joining his neighbors making music on his drum that would last well into the night.

The seas called to Phillip yet again and along came Ness, a 44-foot double-ended, steel-hull ketch. In addition to the thousands of nautical miles he had previously sailed, Ness gave him the best years of his life – accounting for another 70,000 nautical miles.

With Ness, he sailed from the Pacific Northwest to French Polynesia, around the Cape of Good Hope in Patagonia to Nova Scotia, Canada eventually settling in Oriental, North Carolina. This made him both a local and global legend: an ocean solo sailor, a master of celestial navigation, and a circumnavigator.

A collage of Phillip’s friends and adventures from his memorial service,, gathered from friends and family.

Prior to Ness on one of his solo sails, without any electronics on board and heading from Sitka, Alaska to the Big Island of Hawaii, he assured his family he would arrive in about 45 days. On the 43rd day as the fog lifted, he called his Mom to tell her that he had safely anchored in Hilo Bay.

Phillip will be remembered for his curiosity and thirst for knowledge that led him to be a voracious reader. Every available space in his cabin on Ness was covered in books.

He will be remembered for his generosity and kindness, and for his ability to connect with folks wherever he roamed. He made a lasting impression on every person he met on land and sea throughout the world.

Fair winds and following seas, Phillip.

Phillip Sax, waving from Ness near the mouth of Adam’s Creek.

An informal gathering was held at Whittaker Creek Marina in Oriental, North Carolina on Saturday, March 2nd at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to World Central Kitchen or American Cancer Society.

(photo collage by Phillip’s friends. Broad Creek & Adams Creek photos from TownDock archives)

Posted Monday March 4, 2024 by Allison DeWeese

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