Astor is a 95-year-old, 86-foot-long racing sailboat with the power and stamina to sail around the globe with the style and grace of a duchess.
That’s the appeal of a wooden boat: a boat of substance that does more than get by on its good looks.
“It’s built by craftsmen. It’s something to enjoy and admire,” said Astor’s owner, Richard Straman of Newport Beach. “At the same time, they’re extremely strong and able crafts.”
As one of just a handful of schooners designed by William Fife, Astor’s teak planks and Douglas fir masts make it “like a piece of Chippendale furniture in the water,” Straman said.
Astor is one of about 50 boats expected to be on display Saturday during the fifth annual Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival at the Balboa Yacht Club. Visitors can climb aboard the boats or watch them in action during a parade and sail-by on Sunday.
Astor is based at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. But Straman and his wife, Lani, have cruised about 90,000 miles in the boat over the 31 years they’ve owned it, sailing to islands as diverse as the Azores, Oahu and Catalina.
As a retired designer of cars from Honda to Ferrari, Richard Straman made his living on the pavement. But with Astor, he found a life on the water.
In 2000, when the Stramans’ daughter graduated from Newport Harbor High School, the family kicked off what became a six-year tour of the South Pacific aboard Astor. When they visited Australia, where Astor was famous as a racing vessel in the mid-20th century, other sailors recognized it.
Lani Straman likes to show off the boat’s gimbaled, self-righting table and flame-grained mahogany paneling in the main parlor. The space is decorated with carved masks and ceremonial staffs from the couple’s travels and photos of their 2-year-old grandson, whose favorite word is “boat.” Atop the table is a bouquet of miniature flags, one from every country the boat has visited.
In addition to islands in the Pacific, Astor has been to the Caribbean, the west coast of Mexico, the Panama Canal and the East Coast of the United States. It has crossed the Tropic of Cancer and toured the Mediterranean Sea and the United Kingdom.
Richard said the boat could make another world tour tomorrow.
The Stramans are Astor’s fifth and longest-tenured owners. They had wooden boats before, but Richard always wanted a schooner.
Wooden-boat enthusiasts say their vessels have personalities. Richard said Astor is good-natured, but not for beginners. She’s a “grand dame,” he said.
“We should all be so lucky to be 95 years old, let alone 95 like she is,” he said.
Rick Ingold’s Phantom will be making its second appearance at the festival. The 50-foot wheelhouse cruiser was launched in 1936. It’s a luxurious yacht made of double-planked cedar over oak stringers, with teak houses and deck and Honduran mahogany interior paneling.
Its Monel bathtub is impervious to the marine elements, Ingold said, and its ladies’ vanity now serves as a bar.
The boat used to have a fireplace too, but that is long gone, as is the 30-caliber Browning machine gun that was mounted on the foredeck when the Navy requisitioned Phantom during World War II to protect the Kaiser Steel works along Oregon’s Columbia River.
Ingold has owned 60 boats during his 74 years. Half of them have been wooden, a fondness he picked up from his father. Ingold was born and raised in Newport Beach, and he owned his first wooden boat at age 12 — a powerboat built in the lapstrake method. Its name was Skippy.
Ingold has owned up to three boats at a time, but these days he only has Phantom, plus a dinghy. The vessel is docked at the Balboa Yacht Basin, where maintenance workers spend about two days a week keeping it healthy.
Ingold acquired Phantom last year from a widow in Portland, Ore., who had researched him to ensure he would love the boat as much as her husband did.
Ingold said contemporary fiberglass boats have dramatic lines but aren’t pretty. Wooden boats have style, he said. And wood “smells better, goes through the water better, handles the waves better.”
Other boats expected to be on display near Astor and Phantom are Lady Isabelle, which was used to help evacuate 330,000 Allied troops stranded in Dunkirk, France, in 1940.
The Spirit of Dana Point will bring a tall ship silhouette to the harbor. The 118-foot replica of a 1770s privateer is familiar to anyone who has visited the Ocean Institute in the vessel’s namesake city.
The festival also will feature live music, maritime art and exhibits, food, a silent auction and the Kids Toy Boat Building Pavilion.
Parking and shuttle service will be available at 1600 Newport Center Drive, and a water taxi will pick up visitors at several locations around the harbor.
IF YOU GO
What: Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. parade and 1 p.m. sail-by Sunday
Where: Balboa Yacht Club, 1801 Bayside Drive. Sunday’s parade starts at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, 1601 Bayside Drive, and the sail-by starts at the top of the bay.
Cost: Festival admission, parking and shuttle and water taxi service are all free.