On March 18, traditional sailing vessel owners and enthusiasts gathered at the Point San Pablo Yacht Club (PSPYC), Richmond, for the Master Mariners Benevolent Association’s (MMBA) Spring Fling potluck. Bobotie African meat pie baked in iron with traditional carrots and spices and turmeric rice, homemade meatballs, vegetarian lasagna, and old-fashioned chicken stew aside cheesy biscuits are just a sampling of homemade dishes shared by the sailors as they spent the afternoon “shaking out” their metaphorical sails at the rain-or-shine event.
While most participants drove to the event, John and Gena Egelston of Water Witch and Michael Zolezzi of Yucca sailed in and joined the discussions about preparations for the 2023 sailing season and a much-anticipated race and party set for May 27.
“I consider the MMBA spring potluck as an annual ritual to see old friends and meet new ones,” owner of the 1970 gaff-rigged ketch Makani Kai Ken Inouye said. “It also offers a time to compare notes with other members and their progress of winter/spring projects being done in preparation for the annual regatta. This winter has been brutal to the outside cosmetics of boats, but I learned that many have been able to complete a lot of upgrades and replacements of hardware on the interiors of boats.”
Hans List, MMBA commodore and owner of the 1940 Tahiti gaff ketch Sequestor, is excited about the upcoming sailing season and says his marine shop has been very busy helping local sailors prepare for the upcoming season. Speaking as MMBA club commodore, he shares that MMBA has kicked off a campaign to “revive and rejuvenate.” After a COVID-19 slowdown, the board is focused on rebuilding momentum and refreshing awareness for this 156-year-old association. A membership drive to attract both boat owners and lovers of traditional sailing vessels is underway. And, to improve communications, The Shellback newsletter has been greatly updated, and the website will see a refresh in coming months.
“Traditional boats are not being produced at a level they once were. Costs of maintenance, slip fees and insurance only seem to rise. Schools and exposure to this historic sport are limited and not always available to a would-be-interested youth. So, what can be done to build awareness and momentum? I think the answer is plain and simple… participate. Get involved and help expose others to the joys of sailing traditional vessels.”
Seconding those sentiments is board member Liz Diaz, owner of the 1956 Japanese 23-ft wooden sloop Kaze. “Our future is bright right now, as led by an enthusiastic board and great boats that still sail the whitecaps of San Francisco Bay. Our captains, humble custodians of these great old vessels, continue to keep the flags waving over the fleet.”
The revive campaign is working, reinforced that afternoon by a welcome for MMBA’s newest member Wesley Nunez, a 30-year-old sailor who, along with his father, recently purchased 30-ft Stone Boatyard-built wooden sloop Flotsam. “I heard about MMBA through John and Gena Egelston,” Nunez said. “They invited me to join them for the New Year’s Race 2020, and to a few parties at Point San Pablo YC. It was a lot of fun and I really dug the vibe. I like classic things, such as cars and antiquities, so it’s natural to fall for an older boat. Joining MMBA was part of the reason we got Flotsam.”
Rumor has it that Flotsam was produced in 1963 by John Linderman and his sons for use by the family. It was the third and last Yankee One Design the clan built, so a perfect vessel resulted with laminated frames and all bronze fastenings.
Also at the event was Phil Mills, part of the Water Witch crew and a Maine native who has spent many hours on boats. Not yet a wooden-boat owner, this young racer is thrilled to have found the MMBA. Back home he was dialed into the sailing community (fiberglass and traditional vessels) so it was easy to land a crew spot; here, the route was not so obvious. “The S.F. MMBA has opened a pathway to both sailing on classics, plus becoming part of a community. I think the maritime history for San Francisco is more rich than any other port on the West Coast. I want to contribute. I want appreciation of historic vessels to gain more visibility in this region,” Mills said.
Next up for the MMBA is the annual regatta and after-party hosted at Encinal Yacht Club. Having participated in the MMBA regatta since 1984, Inouye jests, “I also attend the event to secure commitments of my crew; they are talented and can potentially be shanghaied by other skippers.”