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March 8, 2013

The Loss of the Schooner Raindancer

Raindancer was lost on a reef at Grenada.

© 2013 John Rogers

Maybe it’s because wood yachts are organic, like us humans, that we find the loss of a wooden boat to be more depressing than the loss of a fiberglass or steel boat. And perhaps the most depressing of all is the loss of a classic wood schooner. Alas, that’s what John Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow — previously sailed around the world in just 16 years by George Backhus of Sausalito — had to report on from Grenada last month.

It seems all the more tragic that such a beautiful wooden yacht is no more.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"On February 20, we were at Clarks Court Bay, South Grenada, for the South Grenada Regatta. The regatta events started with a concert with the band on a barge in the middle of the bay. You attended by showing up in your dinghy. Maybe 100 dinghies rafted around the barge for the live music at the unique venue. Front and center for the festivities was the beautiful 75-ft schooner staysail schooner Raindancer, built by Stevens in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, many years ago. Nobody could suspect that she was just hours away from her demise.

"After the concert, we watched Raindancer make her way out through the reef in the direction of the Le Phare Bleu Marina, which is in the next bay to the east. To tell you the truth, I was glad that I didn’t have to navigate Moonshadow through the reef at night, because I wasn’t sure that I would make it. Unfortunately, Raindancer, which had been chartering out of Grenada for years, didn’t make it through the narrow passage. She hit the reef, and before long was driven hard on it.

Raindancer failed to negotiate the narrow channel in the dark.

© John Rogers

"Pumps were quickly started and brought to the stricken schooner, and fingers were crossed that she could be pulled free during the next high tide. It was gut-wrenching to see such a beautiful boat in distress.

"The owners attempted to refloat her the next day by pulling her off with a tug, but she began to break up under the strain. They had no choice but to abandon the attempt to save her. Consequently, it looks at though Raindancer will stay on the reef until she is no more.

"According to the boat’s website, Raindancer had been working out of south Grenada for about five years, and has ‘prospered’ under two captains, owner John Whitsett and his associate Kevin Dakin. We’re not sure who was in command when she went on the reef.

The gorgeous yacht in happier days.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The website noted that Whitsett grew up in Southern California, where he started sailing as a teenager. He later moved to Northern California after a tour in the Navy, and ‘eventually purchased the famous Stone Boat Yard in Alameda.’During his tenure, the yard built six boats, including one of the last wooden 6 Meters and three cold-molded yachts — including his own racing boat, the 36-ft Chuck Burns-designed Rolling Stone. After leaving the marine industry for a time, Whitsett returned to the Stone Yard to help in the restoration of the 103-schooner Eros, now long-owned by Bill and Grace Bodle of Pt. Richmond. It was during the reconstruction of Eros that Whitsett located Raindancer in Grenada, purchased her, and began her restoration."

The beautifully restored schooner, with varnished topsides, was a frequent participant in classic regattas in the Caribbean. She will be missed.

More Darling Strangeness

The weird tale of the theft of John Fruth’s Sausalito-based Oyster 82 Darling and her subsequent grounding at Pacifica’s Linda Mar Beach just keeps getting weirder. After we wrote our update on Wednesday, it was announced that two of the three suspects aboard had been released. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Dario Mira and Lisa Modawell, a couple from Aptos, after it was determined they had no idea the boat was stolen. They say Leslie Gardner of Gilette, Wyoming claimed he’d received a huge inheritance that included the boat. After partying on the boat all day and well into the night, Gardner wanted to sail the boat to Half Moon Bay, said Mira after his release. We all know the outcome of that little trip.

Prosecutors remain baffled by Leslie Gardner’s motivations for stealing Darling.

© San Mateo County Sheriff

Be sure to check out the April issue of Latitude 38, which will include a letter from a fellow who picked up a scruffy hitchhiker on Monday with an amazing tale to share. "He had been partying hard on a boat that he had been hired to crew on by a very unpleasant character named Les, who claimed to have recently inherited $270 million, including the boat," writes Victor Vesey of the South Beach-based Winga 862 Swedish Promise. "He said it was a 98-ft sailboat with six bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, and it was stocked with ‘more liquor than a liquor store’. Eventually things became stressful on board, and my passenger was yelled at for having drank the last of the beer, which he explained was really unfair since he hadn’t been having any of the speed."

Read more on April 1.

Almost Nothing

Remember the lawsuit filed by Todd Tholke, the liveaboard musician and member of the St. Francis YC, against French Energy Team over the ‘salvage’ of their AC45? You’ll recall that the lawsuit was settled in February and, as is always the case, the financial settlement was not disclosed.
A Latitude source, who has seemed to know the inside scoop of such things for years, reports that the Tholke received "almost nothing."
Naturally, we don’t know that to be true, and "almost nothing" is open to wide interpretation.
Having managed to escape the snow of Newport, Rhode Island, and made it to St.