Santana. Even today a smile softens weathered faces at the mention of her name.
"She was beautiful." says William Solari, a San Francisco lawyer who owned her from 1966 to 1969. "The kind of boat you look at and think. I'll go anywhere in the world on that boat.' "
"Did I miss Santana?" says Emil (Babe) Lamerdin, who maintained her for almost a decade. "Oh. God, I couldn't even look at her for years afterward."
Humphrey Bogart owned Santana for 12 years, longer than any of her 11 other owners. He named his movie production company after her, and when he died a glass-encased model of Santana rested where a casket might have been during the memorial service.
July 19, 1981
Of all the attachments that sportsmen form—for dogs, horses, racing cars—perhaps the strongest is for their boats. A man's love affair with his boat is a form of legitimized adultery. He can lavish care and attention and money on the object of his obsession and still be indulged by a loving wife, children and friends, all of whom know they have no option. Lauren Bacall wrote of her late husband's mania in her autobiography. By Myself: "When he bought that boat he was enslaved—happily so—and truly had everything he'd ever dreamed of." Only extremely competitive yachtsmen, the kind who change boats as they change ties, seem impervious to the emotional entanglements of a yacht. And deep in their hardened racers' hearts, probably even they harbor a tender feeling for some long-lost dinghy named Rosebud.
Santana, however, seems to have had an exceptional appeal, an appeal that has intensified as the years have passed and lovely old wooden-hulled racing yachts with teak decks and graceful lines have become rarer. Nowadays, when a barrel of chemicals today is a boat tomorrow, the sight of a Honduran mahogany hatch cover gleaming with seven coats of varnish is soul food.
Now in her 46th year, Santana, the dowager queen of San Francisco Bay, rocks serenely at her mooring at the St. Francis Yacht Club, a yacht among boats. Behind her the glittering city rises on hills like a modern Cadiz, and at sunset of a clear day both are washed in gold. Looking at her now, no one would guess that only a few years ago Santana was a battered relic, abandoned by those who had cared for her. Had she not been rescued at the eleventh hour by two determined young men, Tom and Ted Eden, twins, architects and sailors, she would be only a glorious memory.
Santana began her life as a rich man's mistake. William Lyman Stewart Jr. of Pasadena, Calif. was the son of the founder of the Union Oil Company of California and was married to Julia Valentine, of the Pasadena Valentines. They lived with their two children, Margaret and Bill, on East California Street in a large Monterey colonial house surrounded by orange groves. Stewart had learned to sail as a child on a skiff at his family's summer home on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor. As an adult he and his younger brother, Arthur, became involved in the ownership and renovation of a 62-foot schooner named Miss Tacoma, built by the Foss Launch and Tug Co. of Gig Harbor, Wash. The Stewart brothers and their families and friends cruised the waters off Southern California and Mexico, racing occasionally, until Arthur was sent on Union Oil business to China. At that point, W.L., an MIT-trained engineer, bought his brother's share of the boat, redesigned her, and eventually renamed her Paisano.
In 1934, when W.L. decided he was ready for a first-class boat, he and Julia traveled East to consult the young designer, Olin Stephens, of Sparkman & Stephens, in New York. Stewart wanted a schooner. Stephens suggested he might be happier with a yawl. Stephens had already designed the celebrated racing yawl Dorade, and the days of the schooners were numbered. But Stewart insisted on a schooner, and so a 55-foot staysail schooner it was. Pacific Motor Boat reported at the time,"...the general purpose of the design was to develop as fast a type of schooner as could be combined with good easy going qualities and comfort below deck."
The new schooner slid off the ways at the Wilmington Boat Works, in Wilmington, Calif., on Oct. 24, 1935. Wilbo, as it was called, was the most famous boatyard on the West Coast in those days. On the day of the launching, Julia and the two children arrived by car from Pasadena with lunches for the Wilbo people while W.L. came directly from his office in downtown Los Angeles. "As you can see," said Julia shortly before she died in 1977, peering closely at a photograph taken that day, "Mr. S-was not dressed for sailing." There was no wind that day and the waters of the harbor were flat and oily-looking. The relentless California sun beat down, and Margaret, a chubby little girl of about 10, wearing a plaid dress and dark felt skimmer and carrying a bouquet, looks hot and uncomfortable in the picture.
Santana, the name that has always sounded so right for a Southern California boat, was not easily arrived at. The word is a contraction of Santa Ana and refers to the hot wind that often blows in from the desert in the early fall, causing dogs and people to behave peculiarly all over the Los Angeles basin. Julia Stewart's father, W.L. Valentine, a yachtsman himself, let it be known in no uncertain terms that, for luck, the boat's name should have either five or seven letters, that it should be "appropriate in meaning and local in origin," and that he, himself, preferred a name beginning with the same letter as his own. Stewart, dutiful son-in-law that he was, called upon his friends for help, but months passed without a satisfactory suggestion. Finally, with the christening drawing near and desperation setting in, the National Geographic arrived in the mail with an article about that meteorological oddity, the Santa Ana, or Santana, wind. The perfect name.
Hardly had the schooner Santana been launched, however, than Stewart began to think that perhaps Stephens had been right. A yawl would be easier to handle, he told Julia. Maybe the boat should be rerigged. But while W.L. pondered, he raced. In 1936 Santana was first in her class in the Transpac race to Honolulu. In 1938 Stewart shipped Santana to Newport, R.I. for the Bermuda Race, an occasion considered noteworthy enough to be recorded in the Los Angeles Times: BILL STEWART HEADS EAST. YACHT CLUB CHIEF AND CREW OFF FOR BERMUDA RACE JUNE 21. "It will be almost 'the West Against the World' when Bill Stewart takes the helm of Santana June 21 to race against a fleet of forty of the finest yachts on the Atlantic seaboard in the Bermuda Race," said the Times.
It was not uncommon then for a West Coast yachtsman to buy a boat in the East and race her there, but it was most unusual for a Western boat to make the trip East, and when that boat did well—well! Alfred F. Loomis wrote in the August, 1938 Yachting: "Santana, shipped east by W.L. Stewart Jr. of Los Angeles, sailed a fine race and captured the schooner trophy, defeating her nearest competitor of that rig, P.S. du Pont Ill's Barlovento, by 4 hours 36 minutes 25 seconds elapsed and 8 hours 55 minutes 25 seconds corrected time."
Baruna, a Stephens yawl, was the overall Bermuda winner that year. Santana was ninth on corrected time. Stephens, ordinarily a reserved young man, was so thrilled, according to Julia Stewart, that he threw his arms around W.L.
"It wasn't until the Bermuda Race that it really impacted on Stewart that he had made a mistake," says Robert Keefe, a former commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club, who in his youth had been a friend of Bill Stewart's and an occasional guest at the house in Pasadena.
"I was the reason he sold Santana," said Julia Stewart. "I said I thought it would be a shame to rerig her. She was built to be a schooner. I told him, 'You need a bigger boat to accommodate you and your fat old friends. This is too small.' Of course, I was only saying what he wanted to hear."
W.L. listened, and after the '38 Bermuda Race, he consulted again with Stephens. This time the designer came up with a 67-foot yawl that Stewart named Chubasco, Spanish for a small storm, or squall. The new boat was delivered in time for the start of the 1939 Transpac to Honolulu and finished first on elapsed time. Meanwhile, Santana, thrown over for a new mistress, went back to Wilbo briefly and then was sold, in September 1939, to a San Diego businessman, Charles Isaacs. Isaacs was married at the time to Eva Gabor, that Hollywood Hungarian who always understood that it is just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one. Isaacs held on to Santana for two years, during which time he had two small jewel lockers installed in the aft cabin.
George Brent, the actor, bought Santana from Isaacs in 1941, thereby launching her in movie society, where she remained, the belle of the Hollywood fleet, for the next 16 years. It was Brent who was responsible for the conversion of Santana to a yawl. When he consulted with Sparkman & Stephens about the project, they suggested he increase the length of the mast six or eight feet for greater efficiency in light weather. "But he didn't do it," says Babe Lamerdin. "He didn't want to go to the expense, I guess."
Lamerdin is a soft-spoken man of 59 who has worked on the boats of rich men for most of his adult life. His bearded face is deeply creased, and the weathering around his eyes almost hides the pale blue therein. He is a gentle man who rarely speaks ill of anyone. But he also is a hard-nosed, thoroughgoing perfectionist in matters having to do with the maintenance of fine boats.
Today Lamerdin is building a schooner of his own, to a 1929 plan, at a tiny boatyard an hour north of San Francisco. He remembers seeing photographs taken of Santana in the '30s, before she was rerigged. "She was a fabulous-looking schooner," he says. "That hull just takes a schooner rig. And she was very fast. Gene Vigno up here used to sail on Dorade. He was on her in 1937 when she sailed a match race with Santana to Catalina Island. Santana won. She was that fast with a staysail-schooner rig."
George Brent's conversion, which entailed moving the main mast forward and installing big bronze chain plates, was done at Wilbo. According to Keefe, the work was not up to Wilbo's usual high standard. Keefe is a San Franciscan who worked on boats and crewed in Southern California races on his school vacations as early as 1947. "Bob Carlson ran the office in those days," he says. "Carlson was God to the yachting crowd in Southern California. He owned those Hollywood types. He could tell them to fill their cockpits with concrete and then chip it out the next week and they'd do it. The money that went through there was staggering."
Until the Korean War and pleading letters from his mother combined to get Keefe back to San Francisco and into college, he worked on Santana and other boats around Los Angeles for 500 an hour and raced whenever he could. Because he was small, he spent a good deal of his time keeping the rigging shipshape. "It was really low class down there to have rigging marks on the sails," he says. "On opening day they had an inspection of the yachts. All the officers would line up on the deck of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in yachting caps and dress blues and they'd award a trophy for the best-looking boat. God, there were beautiful boats in ^Southern California in those days, all that gleaming varnish and polished brass and sail covers with no wrinkles in them. We'd scrub them with Clorox. Of course they'd rot, but they didn't care, as long as they were white. They had a good group of boats down there then—50-and 60-foot yawls—Evening Star, Santana, Jada, Odyssey. They'd go around Catalina and back, or L.A. Harbor to Newport and back. There were no Mexican races then, like Ensenada or Mazatlan or Acapulco. Only Honolulu every other year."
Brent owned Santana through the early years of World War II. Though no written record remains of her wartime service, it is said by some that Santana, like many other privately owned yachts, was commandeered by the government in 1942 for submarine scouting duty. The period was known to yachtsmen as their own Battle of Midway.
"They commandeered these boats," says Keefe, "painted them gray, assigned a Navy officer or two to them, made sure they had working radios and lined them up off Point Arena in the north and Point Conception in the south, every 50 miles for 750 miles out to sea. Often they were manned by their owners and a crew of volunteers. Now, what one of those boats was supposed to do if it was fortunate enough, or unfortunate, as the case may be, to sight a Japanese submarine, I don't know. It was kind of comical, but it was meant to be very serious. There weren't enough patrol planes or boats to go around early in the war. By 1943 there were enough and there was no more need for the yachts."
Keefe doesn't know whether Santana was one of those called up, but a man named Norman Picotte, who lives on a boat in San Leandro, Calif., says he stood watch on Santana during her brief military career, and there seems little reason to doubt him. Someone who knows boats isn't likely to be misled by a coat of gray paint.
In June 1944 Brent sold Santana to Ray Milland, who, according to the records, sold her three months later to Dick Powell. No one knows why. Keefe suspects that many of the boats supposedly owned by yachting movie stars in that period were in fact owned by the studios and used primarily as publicity vehicles for the stars. Milland, however, was said to be a good sailor.
In December 1945, Bogart acquired Santana from Powell for $50,000. He had previously owned a cabin cruiser, inelegantly named Sluggy, and a Dyer sailing dinghy, but now he was ready for the big time. According to George Roosevelt, a West Coast boat enthusiast who raced with him occasionally, Bogart the yachtsman was no product of the Warner Brothers publicity department. He was a good seaman, "one of the finest on the West Coast," and very competitive. Furthermore, Bogart spent a large part of his life on the boat, 45 weekends a year, according to Roosevelt.
A typical weekend on Bogart's Santana began Saturday morning and ended Sunday night. The usual destination was White's Landing or Cherry Cove on Catalina Island, a barren, rocky place, 30 miles out to sea where there was little to do but sit in the sun, swim, eat illegally caught Pacific lobsters and drink. The crossing from Newport or San Pedro took about four hours. Often the crew was Bogart, his skipper, Carl Petersen—a Dane who was also known as Pete, Kraut, Squarehead or Dum Bum—and two young actors named Jeff Richards and Dewey Martin. Sometimes David Niven, an enthusiastic sailor, went along. According to Nathaniel Benchley's biography, Humphrey Bogart, it wasn't always easy to find compatible people with sufficient skill and the inclination to spend two days at a floating stag party. Except on the Fourth of July, when women were invited, the cruises were usually all-male. Bogart once said, "The trouble with having dames along is you can't pee over the side."
Bogart did a lot of local racing with Santana and had a very respectable record against some good boats. Santana and Bogart took first in their class in the San Clemente Island Race of 1950 and first in the 1952 Channel Islands Race of the Voyagers Yacht Club. Small brass plaques, still affixed to the companion-way, commemorate both achievements.
The changes Bogart made on Santana were small ones. The most notable among them was a wooden drink holder that fit around the base of the binnacle in the cockpit with 10 highball-and two shot-glass-sized holes.
Not long ago, a stranger approached Ted Eden, 43, who with his twin Tom now owns Santana, and said, "You know, Bogart owned that boat." Strangers had said the same thing to the Edens several hundred times before, but Ted replied politely, "Oh, did he?" The stranger said, "Yeah. I used to race against him in Southern California. He only said one word to me. We were becalmed one day when Santana blew by us. She had enough headway to make it through. Later 1 saw Bogart in the bar of the yacht club and I said, 'What makes that boat go like that?' Bogart said, 'Scotch,' and walked away."
To be the owner of Santana, now that she is a full-fledged legend, is to be an oral historian, the repository of hundreds of memories. A doctor from Oakland who had crewed on Santana in the late '50s and early '60s met the Eden brothers for the first time at a party soon after they had acquired the boat in 1974. "It's not your own boat, you know," he told them. "It's public property. You merely perform a custodial function."
Some of the Bogart/Santana lore was studio publicity—shots of Bogart "showing Bacall the ropes," etc. But some was Bogart's own doing. When he formed his production company in 1947 he called it Santana Productions, and when he starred with Bacall and Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo as a hard-bitten ex-soldier, his boat in the film had SANTANA lettered on its transom. It has also been said that the real Santana was used in the film High Society as the True Love, and in Lady From Shanghai as the yacht skippered by Orson Welles. Neither story is true, but that is the way of legends. They grow.
Here is a Santana story told by Niven in his memoirs, The Moon's a Balloon: It was the annual Fourth of July cruise, with wives, to Catalina. Niven and his wife, Hjordis, were aboard Santana as guests of the Bogarts. Frank Sinatra and his party were on a chartered cruiser. In the evening Sinatra's boat tied up next to Santana, and Sinatra, accompanied by Jimmy Van Heusen on piano, sang, literally, all through the night. People from other boats rowed over in dinghies and sat in a circle around the two yachts, under a full moon, listening, until the sky began to grow light and the singing ended. Then they rowed quietly away.
There must have been other boats in the '50s in Southern California that were just as nice to look at and just as fast and just as much fun, but it was Santana that seemed to be enchanted. Even schoolchildren knew her by sight. They also knew Errol Flynn's Zaca, but Santana was the one they pointed to when she was moored in Newport Harbor and they were on their way to the beach.
After Bogart died in 1957, Santana was bought from his estate by Willis E. Short, a San Diego interior decorator. Short raced her locally for about three years and made one striking change in her appearance. He removed two cabinets with doors of diamond-shaped leaded-glass panes that had flanked the entrance to the galley. Short felt the cabinets made the cabin too dark and he replaced them with translucent panels. Lamerdin, who later removed Short's improvements, said, "When Mr. Short bought it, being in the decorating business, he put in one of those fiber-glass things with seahorses and seaweed on it, you know? On both sides. With a light behind. It was like being in a shower."
After Short came Brigadier General W.H. (Wally) Nickell, U.S. Army, Ret., an independent oilman from Sacramento, a man Lamerdin describes as "the keenest little guy." Lamerdin and a partner owned a small boatyard in San Rafael then. Babe had maintained Nickell's various boats and had done odd jobs for him, but in 1960, when Nickell bought Santana, Lamerdin went to work for him full time. Together they took part in two Transpac races, 1961 (SI, Sept. 25, 1961) and 1963, and three Mazatlan races, but the results were only moderately satisfying. By then, Santana and the other ocean racers of her vintage were outclassed by modern boats, but being a good heavy-weather boat, she continued to do well on San Francisco Bay, racing as many as 20 times in a season. She even won the championship for Class A boats one season in the early 60s. But the old Cruising Club of America rule that had governed handicapping for offshore racing was being challenged by new boats designed to take advantage of loopholes in the rule, and the sport was changing. Boats became obsolete almost as fast as they could be built. The racing days of wooden-hulled yachts would soon be over.
Today Santana is an antique. A few years ago Lamerdin looked around the St. Francis Yacht Club and said, "See that one, Ballyhoo, the orange and green one over there? She goes to windward at maybe 28 degrees. Santana might sail at 36 degrees, 32 if you're lucky. If you get up too high, the boat stops. Those old boats just can't compete."
Nickell was a very competitive fellow, but he also knew how to enjoy himself. Lamerdin remembers running down the Santa Barbara Channel one night on the way from San Francisco to Newport Beach. Nickell and a friend, a doctor from Oakland, were enjoying the evening. "It was a nice night," says Lamerdin. "The moon and everything; blowing nice and hard; the boat was flying along. These two guys finished dinner and they were sitting up in the cockpit drinking brandy and smoking cigars, and just laughing like little kids, two of 'em, just having the greatest time. The crew couldn't go to sleep for fear they were going to wreck us."
In the end, though, Nickell, the competitor, became frustrated. He wanted a faster boat, so in 1966 he sold Santana to William S. Solari, a wealthy San Francisco attorney. Lamerdin, given a choice between going with Nickell or staying with Santana, chose Santana and went to work for Solari.
"Babe to me is Santana," says Solari. "Our first time out we won the Farallon Race. That was the best we ever did in an important race." Santana raced three times in the St. Francis Y.C. Perpetual or "big boat" series, and once each in the Mazatlan and the Acapulco races. "I don't remember where we finished in either of those races, but we had a marvelous time," says Solari. "I used to fish off the stern. People will usually tell you that ocean racers don't fish, but I did. And I caught some wonderful mahimahi."
"Once we did pretty well, a third or fourth, I think, during the series here on the Bay," says Babe. "Pretty good, considering we were racing against Baruna, Audacious and Kialoa II, some of the big guys. After one race Bill was talking to his wife, Marion, and he said, 'Gee, I don't know what to do. I talked to this guy, and he said, 'You got to raise the main boom up about four feet'—that was a kind of a fad at one time, to cut the sail area down they were raising the booms way up in the air—and another guy said, 'You got to go to a double head rig.' Marion said, 'Hey, Bill, who won the Mazatlan race the last year that we were in it?' He said, 'Gee, I don't remember.' She said, 'See, a year later nobody remembers.' Bill said, 'You're right;' and so he didn't do anything."
Marion Solari was famous in San Francisco circles, social and boating, for her Sunday sailing luncheons on Santana. "They were exquisite," says Liz Robinson, a writer and Babe's longtime companion. "She would invite 16 of her nearest and dearest and most intimate friends."
"We did a lot of that," says Solari. "We'd take a lunch and some friends and two or three in crew and we'd anchor in the lee of Angel Island."
Solari's most ambitious project was entering Santana in the 1968 Bermuda race, 30 years after her triumphant debut there. Babe and Liz took her from Cozumel oft" the east coast of Mexico around to New York and then up to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, R.I. In Miami they picked up a professional cook who was on his way to New York to start a new job and who claimed he was an old sailing hand. "We were on our way out Government Cut in Miami," says Lamerdin, "and the guy said, 'Aren't you going up the inside?' When I said no, he said, 'Oh, my God, I have a heart condition,' and after that he never did a thing the whole trip. We'd say, 'Do you want something to eat?' and he'd say, 'Oh, no, I can't eat,' and he'd sneak into the galley and stuff himself."
In June, Solari's crew assembled in Newport and set off for Bermuda. Said Solari, "We performed very poorly...I zigged when everybody zagged."
Lamerdin threw his back out heaving sails just before the start of the race and was replaced by Dennis Riegler, a manufacturer of boating equipment. After the race Riegler paid a visit to an old friend, Bert Darrell, who owned a tiny boatyard in Hamilton Harbor. Riegler took along a broken spreader to be replaced. Their conversation, as related by Lamerdin, went like this:
Darrell: "You came in the race?"
Darrell: "On what?"
Riegler: "Oh, you wouldn't know it. It's an old timer."
Darrell: "What one?"
Darrell: "Oh, Santana, huh. Wouldn't know her, huh."
Whereupon Darrell climbed up to a loft and, after searching through the dust and lumber for a few moments, found an old broken spreader. "Here is the spreader I replaced on the Santana when she was here in 1938," he called down in triumph to Riegler.
The following June, with some regret, Solari, too, sold Santana. In a year and a half he and his family had been on board their boat a total of two months. "We all loved the boat," says Solari. "But racing was in a period of transition. They were bringing out one hot-rod type of boat after another and I didn't know which way to jump, forward or backward, and I didn't want to jump sideways. Some people have enough money to try this and if it doesn't work, to try something else. I didn't."
Solari was the last owner to race Santana seriously and also the last, until the Eden brothers, to treat her like a treasure. Her next owner, Charlie Peet, was part owner of a restaurant in Sausalito. He paid approximately $37,000 for her and he sailed her for fun, his own and that of his friends. Early one Monday morning in September 1969, well before dawn, he and his wife and four friends were returning under power to San Francisco from the Monterey Jazz Festival. They were three miles outside the Golden Gate when someone spotted a tiny light bobbing in the darkness. When they drew nearer to investigate, they found five nearly dead men clinging to four life jackets; one had a flashlight. The five, all bartenders, had set out for Los Angeles three hours earlier and just outside the Gate their boat had sunk under them. They had drifted on the outgoing tide and had run out of hope and strength just as Santana happened by. One of the men still carries a laminated card in his wallet that says, "God is alive and sailing on the Santana." And whenever any of that Santana crew walks into 12 Adler Place, a San Francisco bar, the bartender shouts, "Here comes my savior!"
Peet was adventure-prone. If it didn't find him, he went looking for it. In 1971, he, his wife, Marty, Jim Leech, a young sailor who works in a Sausalito sail loft, and Leech's girl friend at the time ("She split in Tahiti") set off on Santana to sail around the world. The trip took more than two years. They picked up help in ports along the way—surfers, wharf rats, "a guy from the Seychelles." Everywhere they went they found people who knew Santana.
"At Rarotonga in the Cook Islands," says Leech, "a godforsaken hole, middle of nowhere, a photographer met us. He kept asking weird questions. Turned out, his mother, who ran a shop there, had told him she lost her virginity on the Santana in Avalon in 1945. You meet all kinds. In New Zealand a guy said, 'That's not the original mast.' He didn't ask, he told us. He said, 'I have the original plans. My father was a naval architect. He was going to build one just like it and so he wrote to Sparkman & Stephens for the plans.' "
Their biggest scare was losing the mizzenmast in a storm between Fiji and New Zealand. "The wind was blowing about 85 knots," says Leech. "I thought Santana was a goner. The mizzen was under the boat, threatening to bang a hole in the hull. We all thought it was gone, but we got it back on board and the sail wasn't even ripped."
Santana survived her 40,000-mile voyage, but barely. The last leg, from Cabo San Lucas in Baja California to San Francisco, was the worst. It blew so hard that the boat couldn't move to windward. Three times they set out from Cabo and three times they were beaten back. Finally, Marty Peet flew home, in tears, friends say, unable to bear any longer the beating the old boat was taking. She once told Tom and Ted Eden that she was so distraught she talked to the boat, saying, "Don't worry, we'll get you home and back among your friends."
When Peet returned to San Francisco, he sold Santana to one M. Lloyd Carter, a "drama therapist" from Marin County, for $50,000. Carter had it in his head that he. too. was going to sail her around the world. Happily for Santana, the trip was canceled.
According to Lamerdin, at one point Carter couldn't get the engine started, so he asked Babe for help. "I said, 'I haven't been on that boat for so many years I don't know whether I know where all the things are, but I'll take a look.' I crawled down in the engine room and I just couldn't believe it. It was a pit. Full of grease and old empty oil cans lying around. I just left. I said, 'I can't start it, you'd better get a mechanic' "
Such was the condition in 1974 of a once beautiful boat, the enchanted boat on which the California sun always shone. Santana had been used hard by her last two owners, and she had been forced to exist for six years without the loving care of a Babe Lamerdin. She leaked badly. Forty-four of her 125 ribs were broken. She had popped a plank off Pitcairn Island during the round-the-world cruise and the repairs had been shoddy. Her bolts were corroded and the screws needed replacing. Her future looked bleak indeed. Who in these days of inflation and high taxes would take on an old boat, well past her prime, a boat no longer a contender for glittering prizes, and restore her to her former state? Who would know enough? Who would care enough? Who would spend enough?
Enter Thomas F. and Theodore A. Eden, successful young architects with backgrounds in structural engineering, students of Frank Lloyd Wright, antiquarians, restorers of old houses, tall, blond, good-looking twins, lifelong sailors, with clients as diverse as the Bank of America, the U.S. Navy and the Oakland Zoo. (For the last they designed a gorilla sanctuary.)
The Edens paid Carter $50,000 for Santana in June 1974, and in the next 18 months they spent $60,000 more on her. They re-rigged, reballasted, rewired, overhauled, replanked, repaired, re-drilled, refastened, recaulked and revarnished—and to save money they did much of the work themselves. They dealt with the weakened ribs by installing new ribs next to the old ones, transferring stress from the shrouds to the keel. Where once she was known as a wet boat, now, they say, she is tight as a drum.
In the early days of the restoration, the Edens hired one man, Ralph Lucas, to work full time on Santana at a boatyard in San Leandro. They pressed their young nephews, Frank and Paolo Bergamaschi, then both students at Berkeley, into service in exchange for the use of a cottage in Sutro Forest. And the twins themselves worked every weekend.
One day Lucas was working on the planking with an electric grinder when an elderly man approached, a codger by Lucas' description. The codger asked if the boat was the Santana. Lucas grunted a yes and kept on grinding. He was in a foul temper, a mood brought on by the seeming endlessness of the job.
"I once worked on that boat," said the codger.
"That's the trouble with this boat," growled Lucas. "Too many jackasses have worked on it."
"I'm not a jackass," said the codger, who was in fact Norman Picotte. "I'm a master shipwright, and 1 worked on that boat at the Wilmington Boatworks and we didn't use grinders like these young jackasses. We used fairing planes."
Santana was hauled out of the water three times that first year. The goal was to have her ready in time for the 1975 Master Mariners Regatta, a glorious event held every year on San Francisco Bay in the last week of May. More than 100 sailboats, all of them either pre-World War II vintage or replicas of that era (the oldest are the sloops Frieda and Adelaide, both built in 1885), race from the St. Francis Yacht Club across the Bay to a mark off Sausalito. Then they proceed back to the city front off the Presidio, sail around marks off Alcatraz and Angel Island, go back up to Sausalito, and finally return along the city front to the finish line at the yacht club.
Santana not only made it into the water for that 1975 race, she won. From her starting position far to the rear, she made her way through the entire fleet, passing every boat, except one that had had an hour's head start. "It was really fun going past all those boats your first time out," says Ted Eden with a laugh.
Since then she has won five more times. She won in 1979, when the wind was a whisper, and she won in 1980 and again this year, when it was gusting to 35 knots.
By May the valleys of the California interior have heated up to furnace levels, creating an inversion that sucks wind and fog from the Pacific into San Francisco Bay through the narrow passageway of the Golden Gate. When that happens, the San Francisco sailing season is on. The winds of summer and early fall are so strong and tricky that it is said, "If you can sail San Francisco Bay you can sail anywhere."
"The thing about the Bay," says Tom Eden, "is you can be in the densest of fogs, where you can't even see the bow, and suddenly there will be a canyon in the fog, with sunshine and blue sky above, and then the fog closes in again."
In the fall, when the valleys begin to cool, the winds die and the racing season is over, but cruising to Sausalito for the evening, or picnicking at anchor in Hospital Cove in the lee of Angel Island, goes on for a while longer. "We sometimes stay out until two or three in the morning, just because it's nice," says Ted. "Everybody has fun on Santana. If you have to be back at a certain time, you don't belong aboard."
Leech, who had crewed on Santana's round-the-world cruise, holds to the theory that restoring old yachts is part of the arts and crafts revival, "nostalgia, living in the country, all that. Like restoring a Victorian instead of buying a new condo. It fits in." Leech himself is involved both professionally and avocationally with new boats, the newer and faster the better, but he says, "Santana is a yacht in the grand tradition. All that teak and varnished mahogany. That's what a 'yacht' should look like. The new boats are sort of boxy and efficient. They compare like a Chevy to a Stutz Bearcat."
Commodore Keefe, once general manager of the Barient Corporation, manufacturer of high quality winches, backstay adjusters, halyard reels and the like, waxes almost romantic on the subject of wooden hulls. "I was fortunate to start my life on the waterfront around yachts," he says. "We don't have yachts anymore. We have boats. And there's a helluva big difference. I feel sorry for the kids today [here he waves an arm in the direction of a group of youths, the cream of the St. Francis Yacht Club racing crop]. All they know is boats."
The Edens were once those same kids. They raced Thistles and Lightnings on Biscayne Bay in Miami and grew up-thinking they knew all about sailing. "We intend to return Santana to the condition in which Mr. Stewart kept her," said Ted recently. In fact, the Edens still haven't formally invited Lamerdin aboard for an inspection tour, even though he isn't far away. The reason is embarrassment. The boat isn't yet perfect.
The Edens are the same way about their houses. Ted and his wife, Diane, a decorator, live in one of the most spectacular Victorian homes in San Francisco, a sparkling white confection on-Pierce Street, which they have renovated from basement to cupola with an attention to detail beyond the ken of normal folk. Meanwhile, Tom is working on the conversion of a big house with breathtaking views of the city, changing it from a dark, old-fashioned pile into an aerie of glass and redwood that bears the mark of his mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright.
The twins spent two years as architectural fellows at the Wright ateliers in Wisconsin and Arizona, Taliesin East and West, before moving to San Francisco in 1963. Now they have their own firm, Eden & Eden, and their offices occupy the top floor of a restored brick warehouse on the Embarcadero whose tall, arched windows look out on the Bay. Santana is never far from their thoughts nor more than 10 minutes by car from any part of their lives. On the bookshelves in their office two volumes of American Practical Navigator reside comfortably next to Leaves of Grass, Chinese Household Furniture and Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910. On top of the shelves are Santana's six Master Mariners trophies, and on the wall are four photographs of Santana under sail.
The Edens have a glamorous existence. They live in style and they enjoy themselves at play. They are not rich men, not like many of Santana's other owners. They are not heirs, or oilmen, or movie stars. In a way, the Edens are a cross between W.L. Stewart and Babe Lamerdin. They are yachtsmen and craftsmen, and the combination is just what an old boat needs. Santana will be around, classing up the waterfront wherever she goes, for a long time now.