Carl Schumacher, 1949-2002
We still can’t believe it, but Carl Schumacher – gifted naval architect, talented sailor, family man, and friend to so many of us – passed away unexpectedly at his Alameda home after dinner on February 5. The sad news sent shockwaves through the West Coast sailing community, and even now we are struggling to make sense of this incomprehensible loss. Carl was just 52 years old and ostensibly in great shape – he didn’t drink, smoke, or even put caffeine in his body, and we always thought he would outlive all of us.
To those who only know him by name, Carl will be remembered as the designer of over 50 production and custom sailboat designs. The production boats included the popular Express line (27, 34, 37), the Alerion-Express line (20, 28, 38), and the Capo 30 (which later became the Olson 911-S) and 26. Four of his designs have won Sailing World’s prestigious Boat of the Year awards, most recently the Synergy 1000, which won ‘sport boat’ honors in ’99. Among Carl’s best-known custom designs are Summertime Dream, Wall Street Duck, National Biscuit, Heart of Gold, Swiftsure II, Recidivist, Surprise, and Q.
Carl was working on at least six custom projects when he passed away, four of which are under construction – a pair of 50-foot racer/cruisers down in New Zealand, a 77-foot performance cruiser up in Seattle, and a 23-foot daysailor in Massachusetts. His career was in high gear, and the phone was ringing off the hook. Carl’s reputation, both professional and personal, was impeccable, and everything had come together perfectly for him.
Outside of work, things were just as good. Carl was devoted to his wife Marilyn, whom he was planning to take touring in New Zealand this month, and his children – Sutter, 25, and Evan, 21, who are both fine young adults. He had countless friends and admirers all over the world, and traveled extensively to race, cruise and oversee production of his various boats.
Carl loved to race sailboats, both distance races and around the buoys. He grew up sailing in Newport Beach, progressing through the ranks from Sabots to Snipes to Stars. He burst onto the national scene with his breakthrough 26-footer Summertime Dream, winning the Quarter Ton Nationals in ’79 and ’80. Subsequently, Carl owned and successfully campaigned two Express 27s, Moonlight and New Moon. He raced to Hawaii, Mexico and down the coast dozens of times, and also competed in the Bermuda Race, the Pineapple Cup, the Fastnet Race, Kenwood Cup, One Ton Worlds and just about every other major event imaginable. Lately, Carl was partners in three boats – a Mercury (Left Schu), a vintage Chris Craft powerboat (Hubba Hubba), and an Express 37, Golden Moon (ex-Bliss).
Carl was a member of Encinal and St. Francis YCs, and gave his time and knowledge unselfishly to many sailing organizations, especially the NorCal PHRF Board and Sailing World’s Boat of the Year competition. He was also active in his church, adhering to the principles of Christian Science. He crammed a lot of living into his 52 years, always managing to balance working hard and playing hard. He was perpetually busy on one project or another – but still made time for his friends, and was always there when you needed him.
Carl grew up in Newport Beach and knew from the age of 12 what he wanted to do – design sailboats. He entered his first design contest at age 14, a three-man keelboat competition sponsored by Yachting magazine. After college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Carl put in his time with the Navy Reserve and a brief stint with Jensen Marine, learning how fiberglass boats went together. In 1973, he moved north to work for Gary Mull, spending four years in that Oakland office before growing weary of Mull’s philosophy of heavy boats, big rigs, and pinched sterns.
Eager to test his own design concepts, Carl hung out his shingle in 1977. After struggling for two years, he concluded that the only way to draw attention to his skills was to design and build a fast boat, and then go win some races. Summertime Dream – a light, easily driven, simple boat that, like all of Carl’s boats, was fun to sail – was the result, and the rest is history. The late Shimon Van Collie wrote a wonderful five-page story about Carl in our December, 1984, issue, which we have dusted off and posted on our Web site. It chronicles Carl’s boyhood years and his early struggles, ending just as his career was taking off after designing the Express 27 and the IOR 38-footer Wall Street Duck.
A complete list of Carl’s designs appears at the end of this article. It’s an impressive body of work, especially considering Carl was a ‘one-man’ office. The boats are Carl’s most tangible legacy, but he affected everyone he met with his humility, his infinite patience and intelligence, his dry wit, and his kind spirit. He enriched the world with his gentle presence, and will not be forgotten – as evidenced by the tributes which follow.
Carl’s many friends – some from as far away as New Zealand – will gather to celebrate his life on Sunday, March 24, at the St. Francis YC between 1-3 p.m. A Cityfront boat parade, naturally with an emphasis on Schumacher designs, will follow. For once, it will be a time to sail slow, and reflect on the life of a great man. For those inclined to honor Carl another way, a junior sailing fund in his memory has been created at Encinal YC. Checks may be made out to the “Carl Schumacher Fund, Encinal Sailing Foundation,” 1251 Pacific Marina, Alameda, CA 94501.
I first met Carl at the SORC in 1976 when he was working for Gary Mull and I for Britt Chance. Later that year I moved to Mull’s office and had the pleasure of working with Carl there for the next two years. Even then, as a Mull employee, Carl had an air of authority and seriousness towards his work. Behind the formal designer persona was a man with a sense of humor and kid who loved the thrill of playing with cool toys.
It seems silly now, but I suppose our friendship over all these years has partly been that we just enjoyed teasing one another. He was always so well-balanced. I loved trying to tilt the balance just a bit and bring out the kid behind all that maturity and self-control. I don’t think that was common among Carl’s relationships. He strove – successfully – to be such a good person. I never once saw him take anything but the high road.
Mull once asked all of us what physical attribute we were most attracted to in a woman. Carl’s answer was “a pleasant smile.” I was struck by the wisdom of that. What physical attribute is attractive unless backed by a beautiful spirit? Moreover, it was an answer that reflected the nobility that was so typical and consistent in Carl.
Carl soon went off on his own, starting the hungry years, which I can identify with all too well. His first office was a desk behind the dryer in his laundry room. His first answering message, back in the early days of answering machines, was even cornier than mine – with the music from “Victory at Sea” playing in the background, Marilyn’s voice explained that Carl was up on deck tucking in a reef and would have to return your call at the next watch change.
I remember admiring Summertime Dream when Carl was outfitting her himself to save money. There was some innovative thinking there, like lever runners, a flexible mast tip, and a sealed rudder root. It was one of the early IOR boats designed more to go fast than trick the rule. There is no higher compliment I can offer another designer than to say I would have been proud to have designed that boat. Summertime Dream was the first of several Carl did that stirred similar emotions.
For a long time, the boat had just one bucket, used for bailing, washing dishes, and bathroom facilities. “We wash it out in between,” Carl explained. I remember a San Diego race where the waves were so huge that I started looking for little waves to run into to slow down as we plummeted down the face of the big ones. It was wild, but I had no trouble sleeping when Carl was on watch.
We sailed many ocean miles together – to Drake’s Bay, the Farallones, Hawaii, Manzanillo, Cabo. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have on board, always calm, confident, and competent. And when you poked at him a little bit, that mischievous grin would appear under the bushy mustache and his eyes would light up behind the salty glasses. Time to get ready for some good-natured ribbing.
I’ll miss you, buddy. The world has lost a talented designer and a truly fine human being.
– jim antrim
My fondest memory was at Sy Kleinman’s christening of Swifty 2. Carl was there with Marilyn and his mom sitting on a couch in the Northwest Room of the yacht club. I was sitting next to them and was commenting on how wonderful Carl was and I just had to ask ‘mom’ and Marilyn, “Is Carl as nice at home as he is to everyone outside the home?” The reply was, “He’s nicer,” and I believed it. What a great loss.
– joyce andersen
For those of us who were lucky enough to know Carl and fortunate enough to call him a friend, he was a quiet force. Carl was always a winner, and now, as I reflect, I know why. He respected people and had an ability to match their talents. He could keep things, great and small, in perspective. He knew how to have fun. And he was always there when I needed him, if only to review a sticky issue related to the Express 27 class, to proofread an article for the newsletter, to help us deal with a related design issue or just to gab with while racing in the Big Boat Series.
So, as Tony Pohl, Mike DeVries, Hunt Conrad, Gary Sadamori, and I sit here on the new Schumacher-designed Synergy 1000 which Tony and Mike have just splashed today, I know that there will forever be an empty place in our hearts because we will never again hear that quiet wit. However, Carl, I also know that we will carry your smile with us every time we sail and we will never forget the great times and wonderful friends your boats brought into our lives.
In tribute to Carl, Tony and Mike have named the new red boat Summer Moon.
From the crew of Mad House, thank you, Carl. You will sail with each of us forever!
– ken moore
I first met Carl Schumacher in 1970 at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. We were on the sailing team together and because I was a freshman and he was a sophomore, I was his crew for many of the intercollegiate races. One race in particular stands out. It was called the Sweet Regatta, held at Newport Beach in Shields. The course was set among the many anchored yachts in the harbor. If you have ever sailed a Shields, you can appreciate the amount of apprehension maneuvering these boats in close quarters. We were in contention for a trophy, and during one of our matches we starboard-tacked our competitor to get to the mark first. We won the race but found out we were protested by the competitor. During the very raucous protest hearing, it was determined we did not give the port-tack boat enough warning before we tacked onto starboard, although we felt they had enough time and distance in our crossing to land a 747.
It was the first time I had ever seen somebody thrown out for being on starboard tack. At the time, I was a hot-tempered 505 sailor, so I was very upset. While Carl had the most to lose by the protest and with his crew very upset with the race committee, it was Carl who maintained the air of dignity and grace during all the commotion. And while I have kidded Carl over the years for being the only person in the history of sailing to be kicked out for being on starboard tack, it was his gentleman’s attitude and demeanor in that regatta that I always admired and tried to emulate.
After college, I had the great fortune of sailing with him many times on many boats and in many races and through him, meeting so many great people. Every sail seemed to be a delight and an adventure. Carl always made a point of getting a crew together that never yelled at each other, always respected each other and always had fun – no matter what mess we found ourselves in at the time. Every time I sailed with Carl, I would want to do it again next weekend. I cannot say that for everybody I have sailed with.
As I got to know Carl, the naval architect, I realized I was seeing something so rare today: Carl was living his dream. He had combined his avocation with his vocation. And while I’m sure the pressure was intense for him to succeed, especially when he went out on his own as a designer, I admired him for doing what he dreamed of. He was one of the most-respected and liked persons in my life. I shall miss him and never forget him.
– scott owen
Since hearing the news, I have been thinking of the many miles I had the pleasure of sailing with Carl. Not sure of the total, but it includes a couple seasons on the old Wall Street Duck in the early ’80s, two trips to Hawaii on Heart of Gold, occasional Express 27 sailing and one BBS on Swiftsure. In almost every case, he was the reason I committed to the program. I can’t think of another person in sailing – or the world at large – that was as talented as he was, and willing to share his knowledge so freely. It sounds like a cliché, but he was a genuinely nice guy.
– eric baumhoff
The passing of Carl Schumacher, whose designs are legend, has left those of us on the NCPHRF committee shocked and terribly saddened. No more valued or finer member has ever served on our committee both as a Past Chairman and as a continuing member. He was truly one of my ‘heroes’ and one of the most knowledgeable and admired men I have ever had the privilege to know, patient to the extreme and giving unselfishly of his time to NCPHRF. He was first and always a gentleman with an unlimited willingness to serve the sport we all love. Without question he was our most respected member and though we will carry on, Carl will be impossible to replace.
– dave few
Past Chairman, NCPHRF
We have lost a great gentleman, a great sailor, and a great friend. Carl has, for decades, been the gentle genius of Bay Area sailing. With never a negative word (and perhaps seldom a negative thought) for anyone, Carl has always been immediately generous of his time and incredible talent and insights to anyone who approached him for help. In every encounter, one could not help but sense that Carl truly lived his every minute and every day to the highest Christian principle. I truly hope that we can all honor his memory by endeavoring, regardless of our faith, to model our behavior towards others more after his.
– bartz schneider
Expeditious, Express 37
Unlike most of us, at an early age Carl Schumacher knew not only what he wanted to do, but had the confidence and drive to do it. By the time he was in high school he was drawing 12-Meter designs. In his high school and college years he not only worked at Jensen Marine learning the marine construction industry but also took on any job that would help him understand boats. I remember in the late ’60s we decided to build new wooden masts for our Star boats. Both masts were light and stood the test of 35-knot winds.
Family, personal improvement, and designing good boats were always Carl’s top priorities. Sometimes he would mention to me that he wanted to change some facet of his personality, and sooner or later I would observe that a subtle change had occurred. It didn’t take Dr. Laura or some psychobabble book, just his own observation and formidable self-determination.
I always admired that Carl and Marilyn would put their children first. No matter the sacrifice, the education, development and love of their children was first, and it shows. We owned several boats together over the years, and all decisions concerning our boats involved a discussion of Sutter and Evan’s participation.
Last year, while in Virgin Gorda, Carl crewed for my wife Jane and friend Helen in a six-race series at the Bitter End YC. In true Carl form, Helen was the helmswoman and Jane the jib trimmer on a Rhodes 19. Throughout the six races Carl never touched the helm. He only offered counsel and after winning all six races he faded into the background letting the ever-joyous women shine in the spotlight.
Thinking back, I realize we spent over 35 years sailing together. We crossed the Atlantic, sailed in New Zealand, in Hawaii, and in the early years sailed our Star boats on the West and East coasts as well as Canada. Over 30 years of adventure, both good and bad, fun and harrowing. I find that sailing in his wake will be far more difficult than making that wake together.
The only light that emits from this tragic loss is the knowledge that Carl not only believed in everything he did, but lived as he believed.
– john franklin
I think I’ve sailed something like 10,000 miles with Carl Schumacher, including TransPacs, Pacific Cups, Mexico races, and a host of local ocean and Bay races. I have sailed on many of his designs, and have worked with Carl on the Northern California PHRF Committee for many years. I can’t recall a single unenjoyable interaction with him. He was always a positive force.
One summer we raced Jim and Sue Corenman’s Heart of Gold, a Schumacher 50, in a Friday night series on the Oakland Estuary. A 50-footer in the Estuary is a little tight! Sue was driving, and it was decided that I would be starboard tack tactician, and Carl would be port tack tactician. Carl and I managed to test Sue with totally opposite suggestions about when to sail extra high and when to foot. She just complied. And I think it was Jim who dubbed the tacticans ‘Pinch’ and ‘Foot’. I don’t even recall who was who.
Racing TransPac on Larry Doane’s Express 37 Morning Star, Carl decided to test the off-watch at the three a.m. change by getting the instruments to graph the ocean temperature and to see if they could figure out what was on the display. Scott Owen woke up Carl an hour later to tell him the answer!
It seems that I cannot tell a story about Carl without talking about how much others enjoyed his companionship. He continues to be a shining example of the ‘play hard, play fair, have fun’ approach to life. But there was more to Carl than sailing. The importance of family is clear from his devotion to his wife, Marilyn, daughter Sutter, and son Evan.
With every passing day comes an opportunity for us to learn something new, and an opportunity for us to share something we know with others. More than an opportunity, Carl also saw both as a responsibility.
We are about to learn what it is like without Carl here to help us. We also have to learn how to help others as much as Carl did.
Sooner or later we, too, will run out of days.
– kame richards
I was privileged to race offshore with Carl recently and quickly learned that he was one of the good guys in our sport. He was a totally respected and extremely competent competitor. But more importantly, you simply could not a find nicer, more caring or giving person than Carl. He was a gentleman and a gentle man who will be missed for his always-friendly manner, his positive attitude and his freely-given advice.
– tom leweck
Behind those twinkling eyes, bushy moustache, and genuine smile lived a wonderful caring person. His boat designs are remarkable, but the experience of working with Carl on a new design was even more so. He matched creativity with patience and understanding to produce an exceptional result. After three years of designing and building Surprise, our only regret was that the delightful experience was over.
Carl’s beautiful boats are lasting reminders of his talent and skill, but his unwavering integrity, unassuming style and caring attitude live on only in our memories. They are memories we should cherish, standards we should live and sail by.
– steve chamberlin
Carl was one of my closest personal friends. A large piece of my life is gone. I met Carl in 1985-’86 when I bought a new Express 27. This boat was too much for me to handle solo in any sort of breeze. Carl and I started talking about designing a new boat – not for racing, but for the pure joy of sailing. That boat, the Alerion-Express 28, was one of Carl’s favorite designs and it was his most successful one in terms of numbers. Nearly 200 boats have been built and sold as of this past summer. Very few people seem to know this.
In 1988, I was building the original A/E 28 in Stuart, Florida. Moonrise, which I still own, is hull #1. (Carl bought my Express 27, Moonlight.) We built the molds and six boats, then quit. Everett Pearson, of TPI, fell in love with the A/E 28 and bought the molds. TPI continues to build the boats. Carl was ‘hands on’ and closely involved in every aspect of the Alerion-Express 28, from start to finish and beyond. The design was a precursor to some of the thinking and design of the head-turning 40-foot daysailer, Q, in San Francisco Bay.
The A/E 28s have been sold in many parts of the world including Sweden and Japan. In Sweden, hull #3 was sold to Bengt Jornstedt – editor/publisher of Segling, the Swedish sailing magazine. The three of us sailed together at least once a year, in places like the Caribbean, the Pacific and the New England coast, comprising what we fondly called the “Ahabian Circle.” I was Ahab, Bengt was Queequeg and Carl was Ishmael, the quiet, observant narrator of Melville’s Moby Dick. Carl’s quiet strength and magnificent presence touched us all and remains with us.
– ralph schacter
Carl was a once-in-a-lifetime mentor, friend, naval architect, helmsman, crew, business partner, and overall hero. Such a role is too big to fill. He shall live always in our thoughts and aspirations. Thank God we crossed paths often and meaningfully. We are surely the better for it.
– gaby & glenn isaacson
I am not sure why Carl chose to befriend me, but I will always feel grateful and privileged that he did. Carl has, does, and always will inspire me to be a better person. He constantly strove to live principles most of the rest of us just mouth. He centered every day on trying to be a better person, in his family, his work, and his play. He never hesitated to stop to answer a question, giving it his genuine concerned response. He sailed with people, not for his own glory, but because he wanted to support those he admired and liked.
I will always be grateful that he showed confidence in my abilities, even when I questioned them myself. Whether racing to Hawaii on the Express 37 Mélange, or building spinnakers for his own Express 27, or struggling with boat evaluations at Sailing World’s BOTY, he supported and encouraged in his quiet way that made me feel I could be better than I was.
Whenever Stan and I stopped by his little office, perched on the Alameda Estuary waterfront, he was always delighted to have our company and would stop what he was doing to show us his latest designs, glowing quietly with justified, unspoken pride. He was doing what he wanted to do and loved his life, his family and his work. He leaves a legacy to inspire us all.
– sally lindsay honey
Carl Schumacher was a man I always wanted to be like. Although separated by a continent, I was lucky to see him just about every year one place or another – usually in Annapolis, where he either had a new design showing or was helping our magazine judge the best boats of the year. Carl served for eight years (non-consecutive) as a judge for Sailing World’s Boat of the Year awards, and he was one of the finest people our editors had the chance to work with, whether judging, being a resource, or occasionally writing an article. Typically, his was the quiet voice that brought focus to any discussion that needed it. When he wasn’t judging, he often had designs entered in the competition, and several times his boats emerged as winners.
Those of us who got to sail and work with Carl Schumacher are feeling a great and untimely loss. His passion for the sport and insight into what makes a sailboat good or not will be missed, as will his contributions to Sailing World. But even more so, we’ll miss his thoughtful way of making observations, his gentle competitive nature, and the twinkle in his eyes that let you know he was listening with undivided attention.
I met Carl many years ago and remember visiting him in a little office in Alameda. I’d been down to see Terry Alsberg’s shop where Express designs were under construction. The world of West Coast ultralights was fascinating for a young editor from the East Coast. Carl and another friend hooked me up to crew on a 27 in a fantastic MORA race from San Francisco to San Diego – still one of my favorite offshore races ever. I think we did about 200 miles in the first 24 hours. . . then took two or three days to go the next 200 miles. The 27 was like a Laser, planing right down, up, and over the big swells that first night; the key position wasn’t driver but ‘advisor’ – the
guy holding the flashlight up the backstay on the Windex to tell the helmsman when the apparent wind was getting too far forward, or worse, too far aft. Eventually we did bust our first spinnaker pole on a sudden windward broach. But what a ride, what a boat!
Thanks, Carl. I’ll never forget.
– john burnham
Editor, Sailing World
Schumacher’s Design Legacy
1) 38-inch Model
6) 32′ DWL Sloop
7) 36’8″ DWL (for Dick Denny & Bob Golding)
8) 23’1″ DWL Sloop
9) Summertime Dream (26 ft.)
10) 3.6m Dinghy (for Nate Berkowitz)
11) Pyramid 660
12) 13′ LOA Pulling Boat
13) Pyramid 30
14) Felony (30 ft.)
15) 30′ LOA (for Long Beach Marine)
16) Express 27
17) Capo 26
18) 15′ Rowing Dinghy (for Fine Yacht Works)
19) 30′ Sloop (for M. Filmore Harty)
20) Eclipse (44 ft. ULDB)
21) Sonoma 30 (for Gannon Yachts)
22) Wall Street Duck (37.5 ft.)
23) 28′ Sloop (for Dr. John Neighbours)
24) Express 37
25) Capo 30 (later became the Olson 911-s)
26) 51′ IOR Sloop (for Warren Hancock)
27) Second Offense (31 ft.)
28) Express 23
29) Express 34
30) Lightwave 48 (originally custom boat for Paul & Jamie Berger)
31) National Biscuit (36 ft.)
32) Lightwave 395
33) 41′ Sloop (for John Puttergill)
34) Alerion Express 28 (originally custom boat for Ralph Schacter)
35) Heart of Gold (50 ft.)
36) 68′ Sloop (for Mick Schlens)
37) Gas Light (50′ Scow Schooner)
38) Ultimate 30 (for Pt. Richmond Racing)
39) Ultimate 30 (for Albatross Racing)
40) Cepheus (40 ft.)
41) 13′ Canoe
42) 14′ Fly Fishing Boat
43) 18′ Pulling Boat
44) Alerion Express 20
45) 25′ Sloop (for Jack Sheldon)
46) Swiftsure II (54 ft.)
47) Recidivist (40 ft.)
48) Alerion Express 34
49) 26′ Sloop
50) 22′ Shell
51) Sailing Pram (for Jim DeWitt)
52) Surprise (46 ft.)
53) Alerion Express 38
54) 44′ Cruising Sloop (the Outbound 44 for Phil Lambert)
55) Synergy 1000
56) Pelisa (90′ Molokai Houseboat for Chris Schnoll)
57) 28′ Sloop (for Dick Horn)
58) 77′ Sloop (under construction for Tom Alberg)
59) Q (40 ft.)
60) 52′ Sloop (under construction for Mac Lingo)
61) 23′ Daysailer (under construction for J.S. Poor)
62) 50′ LOA (under construction for Jim Gregory)
63) 50′ Sloop (preliminary work for Jim Cooper)
64) 38′ Racing Sloop (preliminary work for Rick Orchard)
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