April 9, 2012

Bon Voyage, Ka’iulani

Ka’iulani’s majestic presence won’t be felt on the Bay until next year.

© 2012 Jim Rimmer

It was clear, sunny and calm this Saturday when the Sausalito-based 86-ft gaff schooner Ka’iulani cast off her dock lines and headed for Tahiti. After more than a decade plying the Bay as a charter schooner, educational vessel, and more recently as a private yacht, Ka’iulani finally headed out for a year-long excursion to the South Pacific.

Ka’iulani is no stranger to bluewater — her original owner had her designed by Bill Crealock and built in 1984 to go around the world. During her voyage, the owner fell ill and passed away in South America.

Ka’iulani returned to California and soon after landed in San Francisco Bay, owned by sailing entrepreneur Rob Michaan, who had hoped to make her a successful charter boat. A marathon effort to certify the schooner as a passenger yacht was followed by years of struggle to make ends meet. Eventually Michaan sold the boat in ’06 to Chris and Holiday Johnson of Sausalito.

The Johnsons were by no means novice sailors — they sailed their Sausalito-based Swan 46 Bluefin to South Pacific in ’01, and cruised for three years while they filmed a documentary about sharks called Stewards of the Reef.

The Johnsons had hoped their three-year cruise on Bluefin would satisfy their appetite for cruising and allow them to ‘get it out of their system’, before returning to settle down and raise a family. But their cruise did the opposite; it whet their appetite for more. So they returned to Sausalito, sold Bluefin and began looking for a boat that would not only accommodate their many friends and associates, but also the family they planned to have. A friend told them about Ka’iulani and it met their needs.

Chris, Holiday and their kids, Mia (9) and Larsen (5), aboard Ka’iulani.

© 2012 John Skoriak

Fast forward to ’12 and, after years or refitting nearly every inch of Ka’iulani — from rig to engine, deck to galley, as well as raising two children while doing it — the Chris and Holiday finally decided they were ready for, well, a holiday. So they threw a ‘standing room only’ going away party last month at the Sausalito YC, complete with a South Seas motif, Tahitian buffet and Polynesian dancing, with Holiday herself — a former professional dancer — taking part. It was a way for the Johnsons to say thank you to all the local vendors, shipwrights, mechanics, riggers, sailmakers, and others who made their trip possible.

After good-byes and good wishes, Ka’iulani departed this weekend with a crew of seven local saliors led by Capt. Jim Linderman. Next stop Hawaii, Marquesas and Tahiti. The Johnsons’s plans are to return next year for the America’s Cup and make Ka’iulani available to local non-profit sailing programs.

Meanwhile, the Johnsons believe that no matter how big or small of a boat a person can afford, or for how long one can cruise, that one should go when they can, rather than wait. “It’s all about fulfilling the dream,” says Chris.

We couldn’t agree with him more. Bon voyage, Ka’iulani.

It’s Boat Show Week

Sailors from all over the Bay Area and beyond are clearing their calendars this week in order to make the most of the annual Strictly Sail Pacific boat show (April 12-15) at Oakland’s Jack London Square. It is, of course, the largest all-sailboat show on the West Coast.

Precious cargo: An AC45 is lowered in to place at Jack London Square in advance of this week’s massive boat show.

© Mitch Perkins

Among the most eye-catching attractions will be an AC45 catamaran identical to those being raced in Naples, Italy, this week, and the 10 Clipper Round the World Race boats which recently arrived here after completing the 6,000-mile leg from Qingdao, China. They will depart the Oakland-Alameda Estuary Saturday about 11 a.m. for their next leg to New York via the Panama Canal.

There’ll be a treasure trove of gleaming sailing yachts, all open for inspection.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The yacht basin at Jack London Square will be a veritable ‘sailor’s candy store’, as it will be chock full of new and late-model sailing yachts, all open for inspection. With a packed house of exhibitors, who’ll be selling and demonstrating everything from sailing dinghies to cutting-edge electronics, the show will offer an ideal opportunity to talk shop with experts and buy all sorts of gear at too-good-to-pass-up boat show prices. Throughout the show, dozens of free seminars will help you expand and refine your knowledge of a broad range of topics. In fact, we’ll be hosting a few of our own: ‘Baja Ha-Ha How-To’, 2:15 p.m. (both Friday and Saturday) in seminar room D; and ‘Cruising Tahiti and the Pacific Puddle Jump’, 3:30 p.m. Saturday in room D. And on Friday afternoon we’ll host a special two-hour gathering of West Coast Circumnavigators (wannabes welcome) with a panel of six speakers, each discussing going around from a different point of view. Also in room D.

Don’t forget to drop by the Latitude 38 booth to say hi, talk shop and perhaps pick up some official Latitude swag.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

From free boat rides, to kids sailing instruction, to one-on-one chats with famous authors. . . you name it, this show has it all. Click here to get discounts on show tickets, and here to check out the full line-up of show activities. And don’t forget to drop by the Latitude 38 booth to say hello. See you then!

The full-throttle sailing times keep on coming in the Caribbean for locals and visitors alike, including many sailors from Northern California and elsewhere on the West Coast.