Tall Ships

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Growing up on the waterfront in Newport Harbor during the 1950’s and 60’s was the greatest. The area lacked the density and local traffic we cope with now. The summer beach traffic we have always had. Many of you, like myself, have seen photos of bumper to bumper beach traffic of Model T’s and Model A’s coming here to escape the inland heat.

Many couples my parent’s age married after  meeting during summer vacations or “Bal Week.” I was 14 when the city fathers hired Jim Glavas from the big city, L.A., to “clean up” the mischief of “Bal Week” and summer partying. Soon after his military style policing with “Bubble Heads,” or helmeted troopers, the teenage rebels steered clear of  the Newport jail and headed to Palm Springs for Easter Week. I always felt that was a little heavy handed, and the future “Bal Weeks” were a dud. Summers continued in the same manner but the “Bubble Heads” were everywhere.

Our summers included sailboat racing, water skiing in the Back Bay (the upper bay of today), surfing our oceanfront, and of course, Catalina. Oh, I forgot, fishing in the harbor and ocean.

During the 60’s I often accompanied my Dad to one of his favorite “charities,” the Sea Base, to check in with Ralph and Corky Whitford and their children. Ralph was a school teacher at Newport Elementary and ran the Sea Base on weekends and the summertime. They lived on the base in a small home, and lived and breathed Sea Scouts. Their son Billy, helped out, and fixed and used the many assorted boats at the base.

Bill grew into probably the best rowing coach on the West Coast and was hired as a coach in  paradise – Hawaii – for many years. Many students excelled under his tutelage and some effectively medaled as Olympians. When Jim Warmington raised funds to spearhead creating our world class Newport Aquatic Center in the Back Bay (oops–I’m sorry, the “upper bay”), he made an offer Bill couldn’t refuse. He left paradise to manage and operate the center.

As a lot of us know, Bill’s hard work and organizational skills have, along with Jim Warmington, created a world class rowing center known all over the world. Many rowers from the center went on to scholarships at prestigious Universities and Olympic medals.

Often when I write I get sidetracked. I set out to write about the tall ship “Lady Washington” which was recently in town and berthed at our local Sea Base. I’ve included a photo I took from “Sundance” when returning from Gary Hill’s fuel dock. She’s one of the best looking tall ships of our era and the state flagship for the state of Washington.

Similar to the “Pride of Baltimore II,” the Maryland flagship which I wrote about, these tall ships are good will ambassadors and invite the public along for cruises to see, touch, feel and go sailing aboard recreated vessels of our past. The “Lady Washington” was here for a brief stop and did allow the scouts to board and inspect the grand ol lady. She and the “Hawaiian Chiefton” are on multi-month West Coast tours. Normally the two travel together and stage off-shore battle reenactments for those lucky few aboard.

The “Lady Washington” is a replica of a tall ship which in 1788 had completed a voyage from Boston around Cape Horn and anchored off Vancouver Island, B.C. Captain Grey and crew sailed this voyage on a fur trading mission. One anchorage was named “Grey’s Harbor” in his honor in Washington and is the present home port for the “Lady Washington.”

For more than 20 years the Sea Base owned a tall ship replica called the “Argus.” Ralph Whitford, my Dad, and others raised the original sum to purchase the “Argus” for the thousands of scouts who sailed aboard her. They purchased the ship from a family who outfitted her, sailed around the world and stopped at the Sea Base to share their experiences.

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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  1. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s I was a
    member of the MAUI Mariner “ship” ( Girl Scouts)
    which was led by Corky Whitford and Robbie
    Schoonover. Because of them, we had great
    summer programs @ the Sea Scout Base,,
    took a memorable sail to Catalina on the
    GOODWILL, and learned innumerable lessons
    of the sea and boating.
    Some of us who were involved in that program
    with Corky and Robbie are trying to locate
    contact information for them. So…if you could
    help us, we would be most appreciative.
    Gail McClain
    [email protected]
    (949) 494-5590