Like many of you, I absolutely adore boats. Big, small, fast, slow, sail, power – there’s nothing better than being on the water, especially here in our beloved Newport Harbor. All things boating is all good by me. My favorite boat name of all time: Navigo Ergo Sum, Latin for “I sail (navigate, travel by sea), therefore I am.” Brilliant.
It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite annual events in town is our very own Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival, hosted by the Balboa Yacht Club. This year’s fth annual event will be held June 8 – 10. The call for wooden boat entries was announced this week.
The family-friendly event is free and open to the public. It was the vision of the late Ralph Rodheim, community leader and BYC member. Held on the beautiful waterfront grounds and docks of BYC, the event showcases more than 50 exceptional wooden-hulled vessels of all shapes and sizes on land and in the water. Ralph dubbed the festival the “Concours d’Elegance” of yachting, thanks in part to his perseverance and passion around bringing the most diverse and valuable collection of wooden boats in California to Newport Beach.
Show-ready wooden boat owners are encouraged to sign up early for the event which attracted close to 4,000 visitors last year. Whether yours is a nimble rowing scull or an elegant wooden yacht, applications are now being accepted with the $50 ‘early bird’ in-water entry applications due no later than 5 p.m. on March 30, 2018. After that, the in-water fee increases to $100, so there’s no time to waste.
One of the highlights of this year’s event will occur when Dennis Holland’s regal Spirit of Dana Point (formerly Pilgrim of Newport) makes her way into the harbor as this year’s featured vessel. If you’ve never seen the Spirit of Dana Point up close and personal you’re missing out. Currently berthed at the Ocean Institute, the Spirit is a traditionally built replica of a 1770s privateer schooner used during the American Revolution.
You may recall from local folklore that Holland began building the 118- foot vessel in 1970, laying the keel in his own back yard using plans he purchased from the Smithsonian Institute. Nearly 13 years later, his dream was launched and continues to sail the ocean today. With rigging 100-feet high and more than 5,000 square feet of sail, her visit to Newport during the festival will be a real treat.
Another impressive early entrant to this year’s event is the luxurious 85-foot schooner Astor, built in Scotland in 1923 by William Fife & Sons. Astor was featured in last year’s original artwork created for the festival by renowned artist Scott Kennedy, and recently returned home from 16 years of circumnavigation. Just having a chance to meet her owners, Newport residents Richard and Lani Straman, and perhaps hear any of the innumerable stories of their adventures aboard a nearly century-old wooden yacht gets me excited.
As is custom, the event, shuttle and water taxi rides are all complimentary, as well as children’s activities and live music. Maritime artwork and a variety of vendors will ll the grounds, and BYC will oer food and beverages for purchase. On Sunday, the event will culminate with a departing wooden boat parade and traditional sail by.
As a former wooden boat owner, I can say with impunity that every wooden boat has its own magical charm and distinct personality. The dedication, work and money they demand is defnitely not for the faint of heart.
But when you fall in love with a wooden vessel, every sleepless night and never-ending expense falls away – it’s a relationship like no other. While I don’t miss some of the torture associated with the love of my old wooden boat, when I close my eyes I can smell the perfume of teak oil and camphor wood, feel the warmth of a lazy afternoon sun streaming in through her portals, hear the gentleness of the sea lapping against her hull like a lullaby.
And I never regret any of it, ever. I’ll be writing a series of articles about some of the entrants and event highlights as the festival draws closer,
Contact Lynn Selich at LynnSelich@yahoo.com
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