C.F. Koehler’s 10 meter Sally

If you love old wooden boats like I do, then you’ll love tooling around a boat yard. Koehler Kraft Boat Works, located on Shelter Island, is the hub of wood boat repair in San Diego. The boat works owner, C.F. Koehler, recently hauled out his 10-meter sloop Sally for extensive restoration work to her frames and hull planks. Sally is among the last four remaining Burgess designed 10-meters, from an original fleet of 14, built in the mid-1920s by Abeking and Rasmussen of Bremen, Germany. Commissioned by a group of New York Yacht Club members, the 10-meter fleet was designed for comfortable, yet competitive long-distance racing. Sally’s sister boat Branta also calls San Diego home, and the two can be seen going head-to-head in classic boat regattas. A third 10 meter, Blue Goddess, is currently being restored in Raleigh, North Carolina joining the 4th known surviving 10-meter Twilight on the east coast.

Sally is 59’ LOA, with a 36’ LWL, displaces 55,000 lbs, and has 1400 sq. ft. of sail area on a fractional rig. Her hull is of Honduras mahogany, and alternating steam bent oak and cold-formed steel angles make up the frames. Even sitting in the barn at the Koehler yard, with huge chunks of her hull removed, she looks every bit the thoroughbred. Stay tune, as I’ll be posting progress shots of her retrofit over the coming months. You can check out video of C.F. cutting into her hull with a skill saw here –http://www.koehlerkraft.com/In_the_Yard/Pages/Sally%3A_10-Meter_Sloop.html

Sailing to the Coronado Islands, circa 2005.

In the barn at Koehler Boat Works.

Closer look at her frames.

View of her topside and 10-foot beam.

Starboard planks removed.

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Common Sense, a.k.a. No Ka Oi

No Ka Oi is hull #1 of the Common Sense class of sailboats designed by Matt Walsh, of which five boats were built. Walsh began building the Common Sense Class in 1932, at the depth of the depression, as a way to keep his men at the Garbutt & Walsh boatyard in San Pedro employed. The 28 foot on deck design was fashioned after the simple characteristics of boats he had grown up with in Nova Scotia. Originally christened Common Sense, Walsh built the sloop for his daughter Helen, a student at USC, who needed a boat to compete in. During the mid 1980s woodworker Shane Ferguson, who grew up in Hawaii, found the hull in a junkyard. He proceeded to restore the boat and renamed her No Ka Oi – Hawaiian for “the best.” A second boat, hull #5 Red Witch, is known to remain and reportedly sailing in Newport Beach. The original Common Sense featured a flush deck, a spoon shaped cockpit and no engine. The boat in its present configuration has both a cabin and engine. John Arnold is the current owner of No Ka Oi and sails her regularly on the waters of San Diego. The following pictures were taken at a recent San Diego Ancient Mariners Yesteryear Regatta. Just the sight of her charging up the channel, rail down past Pt. Loma, stirs up a sense of nostalgia.

Note – Information for this post was gathered from the San Diego Ancient Mariners newsletter Albatross. You can read more about No Ka Oi and Matt Walsh here –http://www.amss.us/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/alMay2010.pdf

No Ka Oi

Rail down.

Holding her own with a PC.

Charging past Pt. Loma.

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A closing thought for the year.

Even though it’s a busy commercial port, and home to the world’s largest military naval complex, there are times when you can be the only one on the waters of San Diego Bay. On a recent morning, my buddies Paul Plotts and Steve Morgan enjoyed one of those rare moments while bringing the schooner Dauntless around Shelter Island to the Kohler Kraft Boat Yard. By contrast, we enjoyed a similar moment of solitude this past summer while anchored at Los Coches Prietas on the leeward side of Santa Cruz Island. As I reflect on this past year, it’s peaceful interludes like these in our busy lives that remind me how special our time on the water can be. Fair winds to all in the year to come.

Quiet morning on San Diego Bay.

Dauntless anchored off Los Coches Prietas.

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San Diego Hot Rum Series, Race 3

San Diego Yacht Club’s Hot Rum Series has always been one of my favorite regattas to shoot. Unfortunately, going into the final race of the three weekend series, the weather report was calling for winds in the minus 10-knot range. Hmmm. Not the kind of conditions that favor rail down, bone in the teeth competition. After a delayed start, a passing wind cell made for some decent gust to the first mark. To the dismay of the fleet the wind gods decided to take an early holiday break that left everyone trying to squeeze what little they could out of their spinnakers. Boats struggled to get around the leeward buoy only to find themselves drifting to the clearing mark. The race committee decided to abandon the day, thus ending the 2010 series that saw terrific conditions on weekend one, a rain drenched second, and a final race that ended up being a float under grey skies. You can see the complete series results here – http://www.sdyc.org/raceinfo/results10/hotrum_res.htm

White Knight

Blue Blazes



Stars and Stripes





Leeward mark

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San Diego AMSS Herreshoff Regatta

The old saying goes, the small boat makes the sailor. And if that small boat happens to be a Herreshoff, the more fortunate the sailor. Recently, the San Diego Ancient Mariners gathered an impressive fleet of Herreshoffs – including a couple Buzzard’s Bay 12 ½ – for a friendly, competitive day on the water. Originally designed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1914 as a training boat for young sailors, the 12 ½ is perhaps the most beloved small craft of all time. It was fun to watch them dicing it up on La Playa Cove. Add to that a dramatic late afternoon sky, a stiff autumn breeze and you have the recipe for some very memorable moments.

Learn more about the Herreshoff legacy here – www.herreshoff.org
And the San Diego Ancient Mariners Sailing Society here – www.amss.us

Across the line.

Tight quarters.

Headed for the first mark.

The small boat makes the sailor.

Timeless moment.

Windward mark.

Classic beauty.

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Puerto Rico’s Traditional Chalanas

Caribbean regattas are famous for their racing fleets of traditional fishing and working sailboats. Native to Puerto Rico are the high octane Chalanas. Designed over a century ago for the hauling of sugar cane and fishing, these woodened flat-bottomed boats could easily sail up to the beach with their cargo. By the early 1970s Chalanas began racing for fun and today there’s an active racing fleet of about 75 boats. Still backyard built, they range in size from 16’, 20’, 24’, and 28’ – with the 24-footers being the most popular. Per Carlos Marrero, of the Puerto Rico Chalana Association, there are no hard fast rules dictating what a Chalana should be. Constructed of plywood, they are wide boats that narrow at the bottom, have no ballast, use crew on a trapeze, with most flying second hand Melges 24 sails. I had a chance to see just how athletic Chalanas are at the Heineken Culebra International Regatta. With 4 crew on the wire, the biggest guy is stationed closest to the mast with the remaining crew stacked in descending order of size back to the stern. Here’s two boats mixing it up in a gusty 20-knot breeze and 5-foot seas to the windward mark. We couldn’t help but let out a cheer of encouragement as these boats teetered on the edge of exhiliration and disaster.

First of six shots to the mark.

The "Big" guy hikes out.

The rest of the crew follow.

Balanced for speed.

Flat and fast or a whoops moment.


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24-gun HMS Surprise

The HMS Surprise, a replica 18th century Royal Navy frigate, has been a part of the
San Diego Maritime Museum fleet since 2004. Originally christened Rose, she’s best known for her appearance in the film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The filmmakers painstaking desire to recreate a 24-gun Lord Nelson
era warship resulted in a fully functioning vessel unmatched in its authenticity and attention to detail. When her massive sail plan appears on the horizon, you can almost hear her crew being beat to quarters as she bears down on her next quarry.
Surprise was recently cast for an upcoming feature film, but details are few as her crew were sworn to secrecy.

Learn more about HMS Surprise here,  www.sdmaritime.org/hms-surprise/

Sails breaking the horizon.

Sail plan

Reaching off San Diego

Bearing down on her prize.

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SDYC Hot Rum Series

San Diego Yacht Club’s annual Hot Rum Series, conducted over three weekends in the fall, is one of the largest and most competitive regattas for Southern California sailors. Having missed this years first race I dug into my files for some pictures from previous contest. With such a large fleet there’s plenty of opportunities to frame some great shots. Pt. Loma offers a dramatic backdrop for back lit spinnakers, and the close quarters around the marks makes for some lively action.

2010 race #1 results can be found here –

Running past Pt. Loma



Sail change





Leeward mark

Leeward mark

Tacking up the channel

White Knight

Rolling Thunder

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Privateer Lynx

The construction of the replica 1812 Privateer Lynx was a labor of love by life-long sailor and student of maritime history, Woodson K. Woodson. His goal was to create a living history museum that brings to life America’s struggle to preserve its independence during the War of 1812. I had the good fortune to sail aboard Lynx on San Francisco Bay in a stiff 25 knot breeze. As well as photograph her sailing on several occasions off San Diego. Hopefully this collection of images will give you an idea of her grace and character. Carved into her wheel is the ship’s motto, “Be excellent to each other and to your ship.” That attitude is embraced with pride by all those connected to her. If ever there was a ship with a soul, it is Lynx.

You can follow Lynx progress as she prepares for the War of 1812 bicentennial here – http://www.privateerlynx.com/

Lynx charging across the Golden Gate.

Morning fog with stunsail booms set.

S.F. City Front, Captain Craig Chipman at the helm.

Crew going aloft.

Hoisting the mainsail.

American craftsmanship expressed in every detail.

One of four 6-pound carronade.

One of four 6-pound carronades.

Sliding on a glassy day off San Diego.

Another magical moment sailing alongside Lynx.

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The historic Star of India

The San Diego Maritime Museum maintains one of the world’s finest collection of historic vessels. The fleet includes the oldest active sailing ship in the world Star of India. Living in San Diego has afforded me several opportunities to capture this magnificent vessel under full sail. A veteran of 21 circumnavigations, she is a vivid reminder of a bygone era when tall ships ruled the seven the seas. Learn more about the San Diego Maritime Museum and the Star of India’s rich history here –

Star of India crew setting sail.

Star of India sailing off San Diego.

Star of India starboard side.

Star of India bowsprit.

Star of India ghosting along.

Star of India on the horizon.

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