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Richardson Bay’s Iconic Wooden Yacht ‘Vadura’ Demolished

Local sailor and recent Good Jibes guest Arnstein Mustad wrote to us about the demise of a once-grand sailboat that had been towed from its mooring in Richardson Bay to Svendsen’s Bay Marine in Richmond. Arnstein sounded a little forlorn at the loss of this boat, and shared his thoughts below.

Does she look familar?
© 2024 Tim Sell

“I have been sailing out of Sausalito for a long time, some 300 times or more, I’m sure. I can’t remember not seeing a large wooden custom sloop with a really tall wooden mast sitting there near the channel and swinging around on her mooring outside Schoonmaker Marina. I would look for her as a point of reference much like I would a buoy.

“I saw activity on her in the early years, the owner busy at work trying to restore her. I admired his ambition. It was a helluva big job! Small sections started to look clean and refinished. I was always waiting to see if he got to the mast. He never did.

“Alas, like a broken dream she lay there, wallowing and without purpose. Years went by and slowly she became just another floating wreck in Richardson Bay. Those days are over. She’s about to be cut up … her dreams unrealized. Another ignominious end to an old, dignified sailing ship. I never even knew her name …”

Another woodie bites the dust. The mast on the ground is from a different boat.
© 2024 Arnstein Mustad

The vessel’s name was Vadura, a 91-ft Alfred Mylne-designed yacht, built of solid teak in 1926. According to the story in Latitude’s April 2011 issue, written by former owner Ernie Minney (owner of Minney’s Yacht Surplus in Costa Mesa), he purchased Vadura in March 1983 from a Frenchman in Papeete who never sailed her.

Ernie sailed her for three years, through the Marquesas, on to Hawaii and across the Pacific to Ensenada, before finally arriving in Newport Beach, CA. Here she lived on the family’s mooring, often serving as a charter boat or movie set, and also participating in races, including the Ensenada Race.

Ernie Minney helms Vadura during the tall ship parade at the commencement of the ‘84 Summer Olympics.
© 2024 Tim Sell

After parting company with the boat, Ernie would seek her out when he was in the Bay Area. “The last time I saw her was about six years ago and I wanted to cry,” he wrote in Latitude. “She was a gutted-out hulk at anchor off the Sausalito waterfront. In total shock, I saw that the decks were gone and so was the interior. What a shame because a brand-new interior had been installed in New Zealand. Had the foolish owners left her alone and only maintained her, she would have given them another 50 years of service.”

Apparently Vadura was never refitted to her former glory. She sat on a mooring in Richardson Bay for over 30 years, taunting those who appreciated her fine lines, and terrifying those who feared she would lose her footing in a storm and come down on the Sausalito docks.

John (Woody) Skoriak told us of a moment during the February 2023 storms when he worried that the boat would come loose and head straight for the Matthew Turner, docked at Sausalito’s Bay Model.

“Diver Dave came back from Sausalito Yacht Harbor, and noted the wind and waves, and Vadura straining at her mooring, which he knew was completely inadequate, since he had looked at it under water. So he called me and I went over to the end of the dock and saw it. Nothing I could do, nor anyone else, and we were sure Vadura did not have any more ground tackle on board (it was on a flimsy mooring). And we did not have a boat heavy enough to catch her and re-anchor. All I could do was alert the crew [of Matthew Turner] to keep a watch and hope she didn’t break.

“Luckily she didn’t. It’s likely that the owner (?) would not have had any insurance nor funds to fix any damage to Matthew Turner, which would have been significant, nor the Bay Model Pier, nor any salvage if she sank at the dock after crashing into it.

“So … good riddance …”

Vadura is now gone, destroyed by the indifferent machinery at Svendsen’s Bay Marine in Richmond. Scroll through the gallery below. All photos courtesy of Woody Skoriak.

Woody’s final words echo those of others whose interests lie on the Sausalito waterfront. She had been a liability for years, with harbormasters telling Woody they are happy she is gone.

Read more about Ernie Minney’s time with Vadura here.

36 Comments

  1. Dennis 2 months ago

    What a sad story of a great yacht that as recently as 1984 (or more recent) was still in its glory. I’ve sailed and motored by this neglected beauty for over 20 years wondering what she may have been like when loved. May she rest in peace now.

  2. Phil L 2 months ago

    I worked on this boat in 1982 or 83 in Papeete as a teenager to make a few bucks while we were cruising in the South Pacific. She was beautiful back then.

    • David Castillo 2 months ago

      You are now part of her storied history. Few can say that.

    • Lon Woodrum 2 months ago

      Yes, I did some deck work when, was a teenager sailing with mom an step dad, on Te Matangi, a 35 ft ketch he built. We were next to that boat in Papeete. 1957.

  3. Chris Ashley 2 months ago

    I don’t understand how a boat built in 1926 had never been sailed in 1983. Must mean never been sailed by the guy who sold her?
    “he purchased Vadura in March 1983 from a Frenchman in Papeete, saying she had never been sailed.”

    • Monica Grant 2 months ago

      Hi Chris, you might be right. It did seem unlikely, – now, rereading the original story line, we could have misinterpreted. Thanks for bringing it up. And thanks for reading!

  4. Beau Vrolyk 2 months ago

    Here’s VADURA with her original rig. Mylne was a great designer. In good condition, that boat would have been worth around $1million to the Classic Yacht owners in France. Mylne is beloved there.

    https://www.charterworld.com/images/framework/3208/Classic%20Sailing%20Yacht%20Vadura%20-%20Photos%20taken%20on%20the%20Clyde%20in%201934%20by%20G.L.H%20Blair%2C%20Paisley%20(FRPS)%20(1).jpg

    • Shel ham 2 months ago

      Link broken

    • Beau Vrolyk 2 months ago

      I can’t figure out how to put a picture into this tool. Just google Sailing Yacht VADURA and it’ll come up under images.

  5. Lorraine Willgress 2 months ago

    VADURA was a grand old lady! I was privileged to share 1986/87 aboard with love and passion for her care, sailing in Freo with special charter guests watching the races, living the dream. I am truly saddened to hear this on Valentines Day. The loss of a loved one 🌹

  6. Danny L. WIlliams 2 months ago

    A beautiful rig. Truly sad and inappropriate way for her to go her final rest. SOmething more appropriate in blue water-but maybe there was not enough integrity left to risk towing her out. RIP.

  7. Cyril Kollock 2 months ago

    Here is that link with details of Vadura and her history and former glory
    https://www.charterworld.com/index.html?sub=yacht-charter&charter=vadura-5275

  8. James T Linderman 2 months ago

    It’s always a sad day when a beautiful classic is not only cared for & neglected to the point where she is a risk to other vessels & the environment & then the recourse is demolition.
    I personally have been approached by friends in Europe who were interested in purchasing her not that long ago. Unfortunately, the owner was not interested in selling her!
    I am certain that if these friends knew of Vadura’s demise she would have been saved!
    Fortunately, Pursuit escaped the same fate thanks to those in Europe that appreciate the grand yachts of a bygone era!! Thanks to Jeffery Rutheford too for his dedication to yacht restoration.
    The same fate is also closing in on the world famous four masted full rigged ship Falls of Clyde even though a group from Scotland have been fighting the Hawaiian DOT to have her transported to Scotland for a complete restoration to the like of our own beloved Balcutha & the C.A Thayer & not to mention other significant sailing vessels around the world whether sailing or as a maritime museums exhibit.
    We all need to speak up to save our maritime heritage. Reach out to Friends of the Falls of Clyde & show your support so she may be saved to the likes of: Wavertree, Elissa, Moshulu, Star of India, Glenlee.
    Just to mention a few & don’t forget Wander Bird that was restored here in our own back yard. These vessel have been restored under the watchful eye of the Bay Area’s unrecognized talents of Master rigger Steve Hyman & Jamie White for example.
    This subject would make a great article with interviews of these two great master riggers/ sailors!!
    Help save maritime history!
    Thank you,
    Capt. James T. Linderman
    Classic Yacht Specialist

    • Chris Burke 2 months ago

      Jim, really great to read your letter on Classic Yacht Restorations, I also remember Vadura on the Sausalito shoreline, as a student at the SEA, from Clipper Y.H. She was a beautiful mystery to me, and I remember some work being done back then, but that diminished along with the condition of the big boat. Sad, but as I have recently read about wooden boats and their crews; “The sentence is passed,…only the day is undecided.!”……….. . “But not yet!!!” as J. Buffet reminds us …. so I will look forward to more of your incredible knowledge and affection for the history and traditions of the sea and those who build and maintain the ships we sail.
      Aloha Chris

  9. tony c johnson 2 months ago

    Here’s my account from 2016:
    Fortified by provisions from Salito’s, I rowed over to this big girl, 105 feet overall. Sailors will open up willingly about their boats if you can manage a compliment or two and throw in a knowing detail. Are those Barlows? Almost without exception, their boats are their pride and joy and they would much sooner tell yarns about them than work on the engine. So the captain of about 40, his mate, and a woman invited me aboard and regaled me with tales of this fancy lady, Vadura, who was built on the Clyde River in Scotland in 1926 with teak on iron frames. She has been neglected of late and is gutted inside. The crew were living in a completely open space with thrift shop furniture, a wood burning stove, and, I’m guessing, no power. The captain was a painter who liked to dribble paint onto a horizontal canvas as the boat rocked, and let the motion of the sea create the image. They offered me a glass of wine or two—minus the actual glass—and I spent a very pleasant hour hearing stories of the sea.
    I have a photo of her in her glory but don’t see how to post it here.

  10. pete radclyffe 2 months ago

    any interest in a 20 metre similar boat c+n 1930

  11. Jonathan Livingston 2 months ago

    I too worked on her and got stoned on her in Papeete in 1980 and before …she was black back then…

  12. John Arndt 2 months ago

    Former owner of Vadura, Ernie Minney, emailed in a comment, “Thanks for the update on Vadura. I had a GREAT ADVENTURE with her. God really looked after me and my crew. We survived a hurricane in Papeete harbor and another one while enroute from the Tuamotos to the Marquesas Islands. Knowing Vadura had a fractured stem and a teak rudder post half eaten through with worms we made a fast passage from Nuka Hiva to Ensenada, Mexico. I tell my friends I went through 3 cyclones with Vadura and lost her in the third one. CYCLONE DIVORCE !!” Ernie also sent in a favorite image of Vadura under sail”
    Ernie Minney's favorite photo of Vadura under sail.

  13. Angelina m Serafino 2 months ago

    i spent a lot of time on this boat… lived there for a while i will miss you ms. vadura….you kept me safe from the storms …. when i was scared you hugged me tight. thank you for all the memories….

  14. Jo Birch 2 months ago

    There is an entire chapter of Vaduras history being missed here.
    Minnie sold Vadura to Dennis and Lyne Callagy who sailed her down to Fremantle for the Americas Cup in 1986/7.
    They loved Vadura and were great owners with a correct sense of stewardship for such a fine classic.
    I met them in Fremantle and joined them ostensibly to help with a delivery to Sydney via Hobart.
    I stayed for basically 4 years, as crew under Dave Wright the skipper after Dave left.
    I could go for hours on the stories…
    Suffice to say Vadura returned to San Diego …and was put up for sale .
    She was still fully functional , but irked and worn….and in need of a refit.
    The hope was to find new owners to take on this task for this beautiful old girl.
    Suffice to say that didn’t happen.
    The new owners ask me to stay as skipper …but it was an easy position to decline when amongst other things , they discussed removing the mizzenmast to make room for a speedboat , and took a sawzall into the galley to cut out room for a microwave in the galley fwd-bulkhead…yea..I declined!
    Shortly after , this is 1991 ish , she made her way up to San Fran / Sausalito….to sit and rot 😔
    She was one of the highlights of my sailing career…her destruction is so incredibly sad.

    • Dennis callagy 2 months ago

      TKY Jo Birch for filling in the rest of the story. When I sold Her to Ralph garside of Bolinas he promised to do the decks and refit her. I reduced price for him based on that promise he never fulfilled. Shame on him.

    • Karen Cleal 2 months ago

      Hi Jo, it’s been a long time, Nige and I often wondered where you got too. 😄

    • Jill Southworth 2 months ago

      Jo!
      I’m having a party of 4,999 people, would you honour me by being my 5,000th guest?
      Jill ( from Vadura)
      I adore you

  15. Lyrinda Snyderman 2 months ago

    I really miss the Vadura. I have watched her over the years and spoken with the workmen who were trying to fix her up. I had always hoped to one day see her under sail in the bay….

  16. Capt. Rick Whiting 2 months ago

    I had their sad assignment to perform the condemnation survey on the vessel. Going below was a true nightmare. The bulkheads had been torn out of the hull. There was so much debris and detritus below, one could barely maneuver. I have never, in over twenty years of doing this work, seen anything like it. A true disgrace.

  17. Gillian Tiffin 2 months ago

    I was lucky enough to have spent a year on board her, also with Dave Wright as Skipper, 1986/87. It was the best time of my life to this day. I joined her for what was to be a charter in Fiji that never happened. I crew voluntarily to Vanuatu and on to Darwin where I then became officially paid crew. We carried on to Fremantle for the America’s Cup and then round the bottom to Tasmania and up the east coast. I had to go home and it was one of my saddest days to leave her. Many years later I randomly saw her through the fog, sitting forlornly on a mooring in Sausalito. Just last week I was there and looking for her when friends told me that just a few days prior she had been hauled out for demolition. My tears flowed and my heart sank, so to speak, as the dream of finding her returned to her glory was crushed as I was there. Vadura, you were a huge piece of my life. Thank you Grand Lady.

  18. Paul Olsen 2 months ago

    I sailed on her for 3 years from NZ all the way to Europe, via Australia and many places in between. 1987’ to 1990’ Such a special boat and time in my life. Thank you to the Callagy family and Capt Dave Wright for so many amazing memories. Farewell Vadura, you did not deserve this end to your story.

  19. Darryll Henderson 2 months ago

    Sailed on her during 1989 from Port Royal, Jamaica, to Fairhaven, Massachusetts with a fantastic crew! (Still in touch with most of them). The best times, the best memories!

  20. Jo Birch 2 months ago

    WOW… <3
    Dennis , Karen & Nigel , Jill ( My queen, 5000 it is!) ), Gillian and Paul…
    …great to see your names here , sad to hear from/about ya all under these circumstances 🙁
    I ended up staying in San Diego after declining to remain as Vaduras Skipper for the new owners…and have been here ever since .
    Any and all of you that find yourselves down this way PLEASE..Holler…….
    ……. the "Too Much Fun Club" has some unfinished business 🙂

  21. Capt Kennedy USN 2 months ago

    I remember Vadura well,having owned Alita,a couple boats to the north on Richardson Bay. I knew one worker/livaboard named Tim,who helped keep her alive for awhile. I went aboard once and was taken aback at the lack of anything resembling original accoutrements,bulkheads,charm,those days were over. The owner lived in Bolinas and paid a stipend for any help. At one point,Kelly went aloft ,stripped,sanded and varnished the mast,and on reare occasions,she even got a fresh coat of hull paint.
    To her credit, Vadura never broke loose and despite decades of neglect,she held up to the elements remarkably well. Sad the French yacht connesours never brought er home…

  22. Tim Henry 2 months ago

    Was Vadura originally a ketch or a yawl?

    • Jo Birch 2 months ago

      Tim Henry
      Vadura was originally rigged as a Gaff Yawl.
      I have photos, but it doesnt seem possible to post here .. 🙁

    • Tim Henry 2 months ago

      Thanks for that, Jo. I found some great photos that we’ll publish in the April issue.

  23. Anders Swahn 1 month ago

    What a pity! She was gorgeous and I admired her (and Pursuit) all these years in Sausolito. I believe a full set of construction plans still exist at the A. Mylne archives in the UK. I have her lines plans.

  24. Holly Treger-Wild 4 weeks ago

    Beauty in my beholden eyes while myself anchored out, witnessing history being demolished taken away n not to be rewritten or built no saving her to view no place to put a piece of in a library case we are all about viral n on the internet.forever in the clouds

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