In the world of wood boat enthusiasts, fiberglass boats — which make up the vast majority of all that floats — are known as “plastic boats.” It’s said with a playful derision and powered by a very personal relationship between man and vessel.
Most boat owners have a kindred connection with their crafts. There is something within that feels a gratitude for what carries us to new and interesting places and very often protects us from true peril. Boats are admittedly man-made, inanimate creations, but our sense of appreciation knows not the difference.
For wooden boat owners, these feelings run deeper. Perhaps it’s the fact that wooden boats are all handmade — crafted and not poured into a mold. It could be that wooden boat owners have a respect, curiosity and interest for things historic.
There is no disputing that wooden handcrafted vessels were integrally responsible for civilization, as it now exists.
Another possible reason for these feelings is the combination of strength and vulnerability a wooden boat possesses. On the one hand it is like a bulldozer, capable of barreling through the rudest sea, and on the other it’s one bad plank away from the deep six. These boats need care and maintenance and in exchange for that concern, they will provide and protect.
Maybe it’s all of these things or perhaps it’s simply the ride. All who have ridden aboard these crafts, particularly wooden sailboats, speak of how different the experience is from a fiberglass boat. The enjoyment in the way they move through what the ocean offers is a common denominator amongst the circle of devotees.
Saturday, February 23rd, boat designs from varying eras in our history assembled on the Santa Monica Bay for the One More Time Wooden Hull Regatta, hosted by the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club in Marina del Rey.
What started as barely a trot in a five-knot breeze turned into a full-fledged gallop in cold rain as the wind reared up to over 18 knots. But 18 knots is no great threat for these hearty designs.
“It’s like a 1960s Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors,” said Ruck Goldreyer, owner of The Yacht Exchange in Marina del Rey, who sailed his 38-foot Kettenburg to victory in the Sloops and Cutters A class, winning the Peggy Slater Trophy. “The feeling of going through the chop and waves is totally, totally different on a boat like this. It just powers through and holds on beautifully.”
Goldreyer was sailing on his 1949 design for only the second time, although he has owned wood sailboats before. His stylish sloop, like all the other boats in the fleet, has its own very particular and interesting backstory full of interesting anecdotes. Blondie was built for Southern California waters and was made from some of the Douglas fir that was left over from flight decks of World War II aircraft carriers.
In the back of the fleet was the 36-foot ketch, Siouxzie, a Herreshoff design owned by Chester Salisbury, who, like other owners in the fleet, has been a wooden boat enthusiast since he was a boy. The 65-year-old sailor began sailing wood boats when he was 12 and his passion hasn’t dimmed.
“The only boats I have ever owned are classic wood,” he says. “These boats hold a special place in the hearts and imagination of sailors, and romantics. They are the real deal, and while they certainly require more love and attention than a modern plastic boat, they give a lot more back.
“I hope that more people will realize that these are some of our most important connections to our maritime history.”
Salisbury and Goldreyer are representative of this fleet — infatuated by the style and craftsmanship of days gone by and addicted to a ride no longer pro- duced for mass consumption.
The winners of the One More Time Wooden Hull Regatta:
Overall winner, Line Honors, Peggy Slater Split Rigs B winner: Patience, Dennis Jensche, Herreschoff 36 ketch;
Sloops and Cutters A, Peggy Slater Trophy first to finish: Blondie, Ruck Goldreyer, Kettenburg 38 sloop;
Sloops and Cutters B winner: Norseman, Jim Garvey, Atkins Ingrid cutter;
Sloops and Cutters B second place: Noble Wood, Graeme Elliot, Luders 16 sloop;
Split Rigs B second place: Amethyst, Mack Steagall, Mariner 40 ketch; and
Turtle Trophy Last to Finish: Siouxzie, Chet Salisbury, Herreschoff 36 ketch.