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The Harbor Report: It’s open season for yacht clubs

The end of March marks the Return of the Swallows at Mission San Juan Capistrano. And in Newport Harbor, the end of April marks the return of “the whining of buffers.”

That means it’s Opening Day for the harbor’s yacht clubs, and the whining buffers are those getting their boats ready for the upcoming season and their clubs’ opening day yacht inspections. On Saturday, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC) opened the season with a keel boat race from Los Angeles Harbor to Newport

On Wednesday, I ran into Gordon “Gordo” Johnson at the Basin Shipyard. He said they had a fantastic opening day race aboard Odyssey.

“We were in the last start and held the westerly breeze all the way to the finish line with everything flying,” Gordo commented.


The fleet had to deal with a 30-knot Santa Ana wind while sailing to L.A. that morning. By the time the fleet reached Alamitos Bay, the wind was in transition from north to west and had died down to zero.

During the race, Odyssey was able to bring the westerly breeze with them the whole way down the course, while the larger/newer boats had to fight through the same wind transition they had faced earlier in the day — this time at the finish line off Balboa Pier.

On Sunday, NHYC had its Opening Day ceremonies and yacht inspections. Everyone I talked to informed me that the day could not have gone any better, with most of the club’s members and guests enjoying the warm weather and the start of the yachting season.

This year’s NHYC Opening Day Yacht Inspection winners are:


Overall winner (Shirley Meserve Trophy): Checkmate, 1978 Peterson 50-feet, owner John Garrison.

Commodores Trophy: Conquest, 1929 Stephens 50-feet, Jim and Catherine Wolcott.

Traditional Sail: Encore, 1964 Columbia 5.5-meter, Vince Valdes.

Power over 40 feet: Shadow, 2005 Viking 52-feet, Joe Winkleman

Power under 40 feet: Runner, 2002 Hinckley 29-feet, Keith and Jenny Yonkers.

Sail under 40 feet: Violetta, 1977 Davidson 34-feet, Anthony Delfino.

Checkmate is a gorgeous 50-foot Doug Peterson-designed sailboat that Garrison restored and has kept in Bristol condition ever since.

Garrison does all the work himself getting the boat ready for opening day,” Gordo told me. “Another yacht that showed very well was Shadow … and Mr. Winkleman does all his maintenance also.”


Perfect, I thought to myself, that’s how it is supposed to be done.

In trying to obtain the previous results, I stopped by NHYC and ran into one of my favorite sailors in the harbor, Jane Farwell.

She was taking in the warm conditions and painting on a small canvass when I said “hello.”

We talked about opening days of the past and present, and I could not help but think how lucky we are to have access to our harbor. I hope I look as happy and content as Jane looks when I retire someday.

I then went by Newport Shipyard and talked to Dave “Half Deck” Johnson, Gordo’s brother.

Half Deck is the captain of Windward Passage.

Passage has been at the shipyard for a couple of weeks, receiving a completely new paint job.

I then walked over to the owner of the Santa Cruz 50, Flaca.


The first thing he said was, “Wait till you see the new paint job; the boat looks like new.”

Everyone seemed happy and ready to start the season.

I continued my way around the harbor and stopped by Basin Shipyard. The place was packed.

I noticed Bill Seals working hard to get his Tollycraft 57 Sonrisa ready for Balboa Yacht Club’s, day this weekend. Molly Lynch and Alan Andrews were also getting their boat Doubletime ready.

I am looking forward to the upcoming yachting season, and it appears that most of the harbor is dressed and ready for inspection.

Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.