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A Sailor’s Memories of the 109-ft Herreshoff Schooner ‘Ramona’

A few weeks ago, we were invited to attend a Wednesday evening talk at the Sausalito Yacht Club. The scheduled speaker was Margaret (Pinkie) Pomeroy, an SYC member and Sausalito native. Pinkie was to give a talk about a South Pacific cruise she took with her family when she was 10 years old. Armed with a slideshow and a mind full of memories and humor, Pinkie engaged the room with stories of her six-month-long adventure.

The ship was Ramona — a 109-ft Herreshoff schooner (148-ft if you include the bowsprit). She had a steel hull, two diesel engines, a 108-ft mainmast made of Douglas fir, a 92-ft foremast, and 16,000 square feet of sail area. Built in 1920, Ramona passed through a number of loving hands, including her first owner, Carl Tucker; H.W. ‘Bill’ Rohl; a New York banker named Guernsey Curran; and the first mayor of Beverly Hills, Silsby S. Spalding, before joining the Pomeroy family in 1952.

Ramona on the Bay
Ramona as she appeared on Opening Day on the Bay, 1952.
© 2022 Pinkie Pomeroy

That year, Sausalito experienced a particularly fierce March storm and Ramona was swept across the Bay.

“It was two months after Dad bought Ramona. She was moored off the old Bait Shop (presently the Trident). I thought some of the Sausalito old-timers would remember that exciting storm when winds on Mount Tamalpais measured 70 mph,” Pinkie explained. “When those winds blew through the Sausalito harbor, Ramona was torn loose from her mooring and she drifted a mile and a half into Richardson Bay before the Coast Guard got a line on her and towed her around to the lee of Angel Island.”

One year later, Ramona and the Pomeroy family were ready to cast off and set sail for Tahiti.

“Okay, Peg, we’re going to leave on your birthday (March 19,1953),” Dad says. And, being March, it was rolling, pitching stormy weather.

Pinkie’s father, Bill, was the second son of J. H. Pomeroy, a pioneer in the engineering and construction business whose company had many contracts in the Far East and the Middle East. Bill was to become the company’s executive vice president, but not before he took his family on the adventure they would cherish for the rest of their lives. Together with the Pomeroy family of Bill, Peg, Pinkie, and her brothers John and Bill, Ramona carried a crew of six, including a captain and a cook.

Equator ritual aboard Ramona
On April 25, 1953, they crossed the equator for the first time and everyone took part in the traditional rituals with King Neptune and Queen Neptunia.
© 2022 Pinkie Pomeroy

Pinkie and her brothers were taught to sail the same way their father had been taught. “He grew up in Puget Sound and learned to sail by being sent out in small boats.”

Pomeroy kids on Ramona
But it wasn’t just a leisurely cruise. Among their many chores, the kids had to clean scuppers, polish brass, sand and paint the dinghy, paint waterways, and sandpaper the mainmast.
© 2022 Pinkie Pomeroy

The family sold Ramona in 1957. Ten years later, on December 2, 1967, she would come to grief on North Rock Reef in Bermuda.

This is just a small snippet of Pinkie’s story, which was as interesting as it was delightful, and we imagine every sailor in the room felt themselves at the heart of Ramona‘s journey. Yes, she met a sad ending, but during her 47 years on the water she was the source of adventures and memories for dozens of sailors from all walks of life, shahs and actors among them. Before passing Ramona to her next owner, Bill Pomeroy took the Shah of Iran for a sail on San Francisco Bay. Ramona later starred in the 1959 movie A Summer Place, with Sandra Dee and Richard Egan.

Sausalito YC Speaker Series organizers Abe Rademacher and Alia Andrews were pleased with the turnout for Pinkie’s talk, and hope to fully resurrect their club’s monthly speaker series.

“We are always looking for stories that the club might be interested in hearing at the series,” Abe said. “The talks tend to focus on topics that resonate with sailors, either from a historical perspective or more current affairs. We also have talks specific to what could be considered as Sausalito culture, and even a little politics. I’ve always come away feeling like I’ve learned something interesting from each talk.”

Ed: In January 2014, we shared a query from Keith Fullenwider, who asked if anyone knew what had happened to the schooner Ramona that was anchored off Sausalito in the mid-’50s. A reply came from Skip Allan, who wrote, “In December of 1967, Ramona, then under Canadian ownership, hit a reef off Bermuda and sank. Five lives were lost. Ramona ultimately was raised, but she was too far gone, and was ultimately scrapped. Mariette remains the finest example of this class of schooner, and is a stirring sight under sail.”

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