Man found dead off Port Townsend had relocated recently
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Robert Letinich, whose body was found in the waters off Port Townsend on Monday, is shown on his boat, Axa, in an undated family photo.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A woodworker who was found dead in the waters off Port Townsend earlier this week had just moved to town to make a new start, his daughter said.

Robert Letinich, 58, had lived on his boat, Axa, in the Olympia area for about 20 years but had decided to relocate to the town he had loved for many years, said Hannah Letinich of Seattle, who was in Port Townsend to settle her father's affairs.

Letinich's body was found about a mile away from shore between Port Wilson and Port Hudson near a small skiff that was overturned Monday.

“We will never know what happened or what he was doing out there all by himself,” said Hannah Letinich, 28.

“But he had a history of seizures, and it is possible that he had one when he was on the boat and didn't know what to do.”

Autopsy results

No cause of death has been determined, according to Jefferson County Deputy Prosecutor David Alvarez, who is acting as coroner. An autopsy has been done, but results have not been received.

A celebration of life will take place Sept. 14 in Olympia at a time and place to be announced.

Hannah Letinich said the Sheriff's Office told her the death was not due to foul play, and there were no signs of suicide.

At the time of his death, Robert Letinich was living on his 28-foot sailboat, which was anchored near Union Wharf, and used the small skiff to get to and from the boat.

The area is subject to severe tides that could have carried a small craft out to sea very quickly, Hannah Letinich said she was told by police.

After living on the boat for more than two decades, Robert Letinich was hoping to sell the craft, which was built in 1948, and move to a small house or a cabin, his daughter said.

She said the family plans to sell the boat, and it will be on display at the Wooden Boat Festival, which takes place in Port Townsend on Sept. 6-8.

Port Townsend was one of Letinich's favorite places, and he had visited for several years but only recently decided to make a move, arriving in town earlier this month with the intention to find a permanent job, Hannah Letinich said.

He soon found work at Rain Shadow Woodworks in Port Townsend, where he hit it off with Sebastian Eggert, who owns the business.

“He took command almost immediately,” Eggert said. “He didn't need any guidance or supervision.

“It was like a gift from the gods that I had found a perfect employee because he brought a new energy to the place which hasn't been here for a while.”

'Gift from the gods'

Eggert said his business has suffered from the economy, and having Letinich as an employee was going to help him complete several unfinished projects.

“I only knew him for about three weeks, but it was like we were twins,” said Eggert, who was only a year older than Letinich.

“We had the same tools in our tool bags. It was uncanny, since the tools that you have in your tool bag are personal and almost like a fingerprint.”

“Some liveaboards get too comfortable on the water and forget to do things like wear a life jacket,” Hannah Letinich said.

“When you are familiar with your boat, you don't always follow all the rules.

“I'm sad because if my dad had his life jacket, it might have saved him, but we'll never really know what happened.”

Robert Letinich was born in Gary, Ind., in 1954 and grew up in Wisconsin, serving in the Coast Guard before moving to Washington state in the 1980s.

Those who want information about the celebration-of-life service or who just want to talk can email Hannah Letinich at

“If any of his friends want to contact me, I am willing to speak to them about what happened,” she said.

“When something like this happens, talking about it can help people to let go.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: August 29. 2013 5:46PM
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