This serves as a maritime obituary for a grand old San Francisco Bay classic wooden boat SY Escapade, one whose life will soon be terminated on land. A vessel with quite the pedigree, over the years she has fallen on hard times. Black and white photographs from the 1950s and 60s display the grace within her four sails. At her best in wide open waters when reaching and running in moderate to strong winds, she is today at her worst.
Brought into the boatyard more than 16 years ago for repairs to the bow area, her at-the-time owner was pleased with results and requested that additional restoration be started. Further work ensued, but payment was not forthcoming. Eventually KKMI of Pt. Richmond was forced to take title to the yacht. Sailing yacht Escapade has now been resident at KKMI for 16 years; the past 11 of which she’s been owned by the yard’s partners.
Since that time, efforts have been made to find a suitor capable of restoring her to glory but, notes yard owner Paul Kaplan, after a decade and a half it may be time.
SY Escapade Classic Wooden Boat
Escapade had until the end of this past week to locate a white knight. Her price has even dropped to $1.00. If no one stepped forward by that time, the team would commence with parting out, disassembly, chop-chop–no matter how you slice it, it hurts. Like a fickle lover, her once caretaker left this classic wooden boat jilted.
The Birth of Sailing Yacht Escapade
In the late 1930s, America was enjoying post-Depression euphoria and yacht building was heady, particularly for vessels stout enough for ocean going. During those days San Francisco Bay hosted the crews of Baruna, Good News, Athene, Orient, Adios, Chubasco and more.
She is a 1938 72′ 6” double-head yawl rig designed for Henry G. Fownes of Stamford, Connecticut. She boasted 2,630 square feet of sail area. Fownes, a post-Depression era businessman, wanted the largest boat that could fit under the size limit for the Bermuda Race.
He also required that design be fashioned with draft shallow enough to navigate the Intracoastal Waterway. Philip L. Rhodes engineered an innovative design with centerboard plan that afforded a varying depth range from seven feet minimum to 14 feet maximum. She was built at Luders Marine Construction Company in Stamford.
Off and Running
Shortly after her christening in 1938, Escapade was entered into the regatta circuit with her first competition being that year’s Bermuda Race. This was the first time she’d spar with Baruna, a Sparkman & Stephens design also of LOA 72’, but narrower, shorter at the waterline, lesser displacement and carrying sail area of only 2,340 square feet. In successive years Escapade would again race Baruna, as well as Bolero; eventually the trio came to be known as “The Three Great American Ocean Racing Yawls.”
SY Escapade did not win the Bermuda Race and in early years was not successful until under the care of Wendell Anderson, who acquired her in 1947. Anderson brought the boat to the Great Lakes area, and it was in that part of the world where she earned the name “Queen of the Lakes,” proving five times to be unbeatable in the Mackinac Race.
In 1948 while racing the Acapulco Race off of Mexico, the on-watch crew identified astern a burning vessel in the distance. The crew took down the sails and powered in the opposite direction for an hour to reach fellow race vessel Celebes, finding all 14 crew members in the water and Celebes burned to her waterline. Continuing on with the race, Escapade campaigned to a second place finish despite her increased crew of 30 and the rescue time.
The majority of her race success came in the 1950s and 60s, on both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as Great Lakes. Over the years Escapade has docked in San Francisco, West Palm Beach, Acapulco, Newport, Maine, Key West, Bermuda, Cuba, the South of France and other ports. During 70 years at sea she navigated a global route, earning plenty of race silver and touching the lives of many.
SY Escapade Epilogue
During the last two weeks of research and writing, sending last minute pleas for help to a global network of peers, conversations with a very empathetic representative at the Rosenfeld Collection, Mystic Seaport, plus hours of exchange with Paul at KKMI, I had to find comfort in that Escapade can still live on, albeit in another form. Her plight is not unique. Hundreds of wonderful old boats fall into ruin every year. Thankfully a very small yet dedicated circle of patrons soldier on, preserving and protecting this slice of history.
Rosenfeld Collection at Mystic Seaport
Stunning photographs capturing the power, drama and beauty of wind, sail and sea, by Morris Rosenfeld and Sons, include images of sailboats, steam yachts, naval vessels, powerboat races, leisure activities, classic wooden boats and every America’s Cup Race, from 1885 to 1992. Visit online for research, fine art decorative prints, and gifts. http://www.rosenfeldcollection.org
Keefe Kaplan Maritime, Inc. (KKMI)
530 W. Cutting Blvd., Point Richmond CA 94804
Escapade Wooden Boat Specifications
DRAFT BOARD UP 8’
DRAFT BOARD DOWN 14’
SAIL AREA 2,630 sq. ft.
DISPLACEMENT 110,000 lbs.
Regatta Racing History of a Wooden Boat
History of Regatta Wins for Escapade Yacht
1980 – Opera House Cup – Overall Winner
1976 – Opera House Cup – Overall Winner
1967 – Port Huron-Mackinac Race – Overall Winner and last time raced in the lakes.
1966 – Miami-Nassau Race – First to Finish ( breaking 26-year-old record set by Ticonderoga)
1965 – Annapolis-Newport Race – Set New Elapsed-Time Record
1963 – St. Petersburg-Venice Race – Overall Winner
1962 – Channel Island Race – First to Finish
1961 – Miami-Jamaica Race – First in Fleet
1960 – Bermuda to Sweden – First to Finish
1960 – Miami to Montego Bay – Overall Winner
1958 – Acapulco Race – Rescued 12-man crew of Celebes still sailed to a second place finish
1954 – Port Huron-Mackinac Race – Overall Winner
1953 – Mackinac Race – Overall Winner
1951 – Rochester Cup – Overall Winner
1951 – Chicago-Mackinac Race – Overall Winner
1951 – Port Huron-Mackinac Race – Overall Winner
1951 – Toledo Yacht Club (Mills Cup) Overall Winner
1950 – Port Huron-Mackinac Race – Overall Winner (set course record 25:47:19, beating the old record by 2 hours)
1941 – Miami-Nassau Race – First to Finish