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Mystery Boat No More

With 32 responses — and counting — a family ‘mystery’ of over half a century has finally been solved. I thank all of you who wrote.

A photo of a photo of a former mystery boat (you can just make out the silhouette of the author, snapping the shot).

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The boat in the photo is a California 32 named Amorita. The Cal 32s (no relation to the later fiberglass Cal boats) were designed by Nicholas Potter, the "Herreshoff of the West," in 1936, and seven of the eight produced were built at the Fellows and Stewart yard in Newport.

Potter’s nickname was well-earned. He was a disciple of Nathaniel and lifelong friends with L. Francis, and worked with both of them back East at Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. He even employed the Herreshoff technique of building the 32s upside down on a ‘mold’.

According to several articles to which I was referred online, the first five 32s (Amorita being #5) were built in 1937 — and launched together! The remaining three were built after the war. The last, Pegaso, was a slightly modified model constructed in Hong Kong in 1965.

By the way, as was the custom back in those days, the "32" refers to the waterline length. The Cal 32s were 46 feet on deck. In the racing of the day, they soon became the boats to beat, winning numerous Lipton Cups, the 1941 Transpac and many other West Coast events.

While most of the folks who responded got it right, what I’ll call the definitive answer came from Larry Somers . . . 

"She is the Cal 32 Amorita owned by my family from 1952 to 1957, and moored on the peninsula in front of the family home in Newport Beach. I have the same shot hanging in my hall. I am the young guy without the hat lying on the cabin top. My brother is just aft of me. Dad is at the helm and Mom next to him. I believe the race is NHYC’s Huntington Tidelands Race in the mid ’50s. The headsail is a Watts reacher, the only sail my dad bought for the boat during his ownership. (Those were the days.) He did quite well with the boat over those five years.

"Amorita was owned by five different members of Newport Harbor YC. The photo was a contest winner by a professional photographer named Andy Graham, and was later published in Yachting. Amorita was a Lipton Cup winner for San Diego YC after my dad sold her. She then went up to the Bay Area and was very successfully raced by Hank Grandin. Later she sold to an owner in Italy along with two other Cal 32s (Cholita, #1) and (Altamar, #2) and was totally rebuilt.”

Here is Amorita today:

The 46-ft Nicholas Potter designed Amorita.

© 2018 Sandeman Yacht Company

As far as the unusual two forward hatches, several folks suggested that they facilitated faster headsail changes — down the rearward one with wet sails and up from forward one with fresh. However, there were a couple of notes that harkened back to the times of paid crew who didn’t necessarily mingle with the owner and his guests. At least one source says when the early boats were built, there was a solid bulkhead in between the two forward hatches, and the forward one was used by crew to access ‘their’ forward cabin. All these were eventually opened up to provide access through the entire boat.

Of the eight California 32s built, six survive. Attorante, #6, sank during the 1975 Transpac (the six crew were rescued by Nick Frazee’s C&C 48 Swiftsure) and Escapade, #6, was "broken up in Hawaii." I now know more about Amorita than I ever knew about Alex Irving’s Sparkle (the boat to the left in the photo — with my dad on the bow). That boat also lives on, sailing these days out of Port Townsend.

I thank all of you for the informative and entertaining responses. I plan to get the photo matted, re-framed and up on the wall again — now with an even cooler story behind it.

PS: As it turns out, there’s a short piece about another California 32 — Altamar —in the current issue of WoodenBoat magazine, under the title "Save a Classic" (at the very end of the issue). "Altamar is a rescue boat," wrote Maynard Bray. "Doug Jones, who runs Traditional Boat Works in Port Townsend, saved her from the chainsaw several years ago and has stored her in one of his sheds ever since. She awaits a savior. Given the Cal 32’s heritage and outstanding racing record, it’s hard to believe she’s languished this long."

Look what we found while having coffee this morning.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

1 Comment

  1. Steven B Grandin 2 years ago

    I grew up sailing/racing on Amorita. The two hatch business is silly. The aft, forward hatch, was over the galley for ventilation and the forward was over a focs’l that was not a state room, but used for sail storage primarily – it was never set up as a place to sleep… We took her to Mexico multiple times and to Hawaii in 1969. My father raced her quite successfully in SF Bay for 10 years before selling her to a SF fireman who lived on her for many years before selling her and having her sent to Italy – KKR marine in Richmond, CA crated her up for the journey to Europe. We lived aboard the summer of ’64 and spent 2+ months cruising the California coast and down into Mexico. Many, many great memories!! Steven Grandin – youngest of the Grandin clan!

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