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Commodore Tompkins Celebrates 90 Sailing Years in Sausalito

Saturday, February 26, was Warwick ‘Commodore’ Tompkins’ 90th birthday, which was celebrated at the Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito. It was a festive and fitting celebration for a local sailing legend who has built a renowned and respected sailing life that has extended far beyond his home waters of San Francisco Bay. Despite a lifetime sailing from Sausalito, Commodore started out in the Atlantic at two weeks old when his parents brought him aboard the 80-ft LOD, 1896 Elbe River pilot schooner Wander Bird in 1932. He did five transatlantic crossings by the age of 4, when his family sailed Wander Bird around Cape Horn, eventually coming to San Francisco Bay.

Commodore & Nancy Tompkins
Commodore and Nancy Tompkins looked ready to set sail again as they greeted guests.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Commodore Tompkins
The entryway was adorned with a selection from 90 years of sailing photos.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Wander Bird and Commodore became fixtures along the Sausalito waterfront for many decades. When he turned 9 in 1941, World War II arrived, ending Wander Bird‘s cruising days. He then had to make the difficult transition to life ashore. While challenging, his eventual course led him to a flourishing sailing career as he was in demand to join the most prestigious racing programs, deliver boats, rig boats, and build a long résumé of sailing successes.

Spaulding Marine Center
A great crowd of sailors gathered at Spaulding Marine Center.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Kim Dessenberg
Anna and Kim Desenberg, Suzanne Statler, Tom List and Milly Biller were some of many on hand to help Commodore start his 10th decade.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Commodore Tompkins
One candle for each decade and one for good luck!
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

As Commodore, wearing his favorite birthday shirt, prepared to blow out the candles, he reminded the crowd of the pandemic threat before blowing out the candles with a hair dryer he pulled out from below the bench. Commodore has always kept people safe at sea and ashore.

Commodore has been the foundation of endless successful racing programs, mentored countless future sailors, and cruised the Pacific aboard his fast and elegant Wylie 39, Flashgirl. It’s impossible to capture all the adventures, wisdom and stories from the lives that have been touched by Commodore’s many years on the water and on the waterfront.

Commodore and Nancy Tompkins
The 90th birthday was sealed with a kiss.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

On behalf of the many Latitude 38 writers who have shared his wisdom and many tales, we wish him a happy 90th!



  1. milly Biller 4 months ago

    That was an amazing and epic party ! Carry on Commodore !!!!!
    And many many thanks !

  2. Memo Gidley 4 months ago

    What a great man with so many awesome adventures!!! Happy belated B-Day Commodore!!!

  3. Jack van Ommen 4 months ago

    I am one of the many touched by Commodore Tompkins kindness and skills. On Flashgirl’s maiden voyage arrival at Papeete in 2005, he recognized my predicament when I tried to med-moor under sail, with a broken engine, and came to my rescue. Wishing him and Nancy many more. Looking forward to the centennial party.

  4. Tom Van Dyke 4 months ago

    This great man was in my thoughts the last few days and lo and behold I found this article through the magic of the interwebs! What a legend!

  5. Vinny Scully 4 months ago

    Happy Birthday Commodore! Your incredible life story has inspired me to get out and sail!

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