While at home in Marion one evening in April, John Redler heard that a 20-foot fishing vessel was taking on water in Nasketucket Bay, and two people on board needed help. Even though the weather was bad, he took his tugboat out to assist.
“He felt he needed to step up to the plate and help these people out,” said his wife, Juli Collins-Thompson. “Whenever he would hear something on the radio, he would go out.”
As a captain working for a towing service for boaters, Mr. Redler liked helping people so much that sometimes after finishing a job, he would bring the people he had towed out to get a pizza.
“He was one of the most positive people I ever met,” his wife said.
On May 16, authorities said, Mr. Redler had completed a tow and was returning to Marion Harbor when his boat began taking on water during foggy weather. At about 6 a.m. that day, authorities found the boat partially submerged about 3 miles south of Hog Island Channel.
Mr. Redler, who was 38, had drowned, his family said.
“He wanted to be a captain of his own boat,” his wife said. “He really loved his job.”
Mr. Redler’s mother, Judy, of Chestnut Hill, said her son “always said: ‘You never desert the boat. The captain goes down with the boat.’ ”
Mr. Redler began working last summer for the towing service TowBoatUS, and had bought his own tugboat, which he had begun using for work this season.
“My brother was very much the kind of person who intended to be the master of his own destiny, and I think that’s what attracted him to the sea,” said Mr. Redler’s brother, Nicholas of Brighton. “The wide-open ocean was a challenge to him, and I just feel like the world to him, like the ocean, was open and full of possibilities.”
Born in Boston, John Manderville Redler grew up in Chestnut Hill and graduated from the Northfield Mount Hermon School.
“My earliest memory of him is on a boat,” his brother said. “He was a lifelong mariner.”
Mr. Redler graduated from Trinity College in Hartford with a bachelor’s degree in English and moved to New York City. He worked as an assistant broker at the Prudential Douglas Elliman real estate company, rising to become a vice president.
Mr. Redler and his future wife met in 2007 while she was working on Wall Street.
While they were living in New York, he surprised her at work one day and took her in a cab to the airport, where he had her bags packed, and said they were going to the British Virgin Islands.
“It was a really busy day, right in the middle of the financial crisis,” she said, “and he said, ‘You’re going. You’re coming with me.’ ”
Mr. Redler had chartered a private sailboat for the week, where he proposed.
When she lost her job during the financial crisis, Mr. Redler quit his job. In 2009, they bought a 47-foot sailboat, spent a few months fixing it up, and named it Lucky Escape.
“They decided that instead of bemoaning the layoff, they would make themselves a good life,” Mr. Redler’s mother said. “It was like a really long honeymoon.”
The couple sailed from Florida, where the boat had been docked, to New England. They were married in New Hampshire in 2009.
They had planned to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the boat, but could not because of mechanical problems. Instead, they bought plane tickets to Europe, where they spent about a month. Upon returning, after repairs were made to the boat, they set sail and eventually ended up in the Caribbean.
“We lived on the boat for roughly two years,” Mr. Redler’s wife said. “We got rid of everything and just moved onto the boat and sailed.”
She added that they “had a great time, and I will never, ever forget it in my whole life, those two years on the water.”
That time also helped Mr. Redler decide to pursue a career in boating.
“He just would pick things up really quickly in the water, and he really loved it,” his wife said. “After we went sailing, he realized he wanted to do something related to the marine industry.”
They moved to Massachusetts in 2011 and lived in Chestnut Hill briefly before settling in Wareham for about a year.
Their son, John Dereck Aubrey Redler, was born in July, and they bought a house and moved to Marion around the beginning of April.
Mr. Redler’s wife said they often talked about sailing the Caribbean again in about 10 years, once their son was older.
A memorial service was held earlier this week for Mr. Redler.
Although he had hobbies other than boating, the sea was never far from his heart. He was an avid reader, and his favorite books were Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels, which featured Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy.
Mr. Redler loved the books so much that he chose Aubrey as one of the names he gave his son.
Also a wine enthusiast, Mr. Redler made his own beer and wine, his family said, and he ran the 100th Boston Marathon without training.
When he was having trouble making it up the last hill of the race, his mother gave him a push.
“I said, ‘Go, Pookie, go,’ because that’s what I called him, and everybody starting saying it,” his mother said. “He finished in under four hours.”