New Age Metal Meets Old World Wood
When not rocking hard on stage, a progressive-metal band lead singer rolls gently aboard his classic wooden yawl, the John-Alden designed Malabar XV.
Starting in 1921, Alden had designed and had built a series of Malabar schooners; they were named for a shoal off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, that’s now eroded away. He would own and sail each boat extensively for a year or two, then sell it off and go back to the drawing board to fine-tune his thinking. These designs ranged from 41 to 58 feet and displaced up to 61,000 pounds. He followed this pattern through to his last Malabar, now Geoff’s boat, the one then known as the XV 901-A (yawl rigged), which he had built in 1955 and sold in 1957.
There are no records regarding the vessel’s welfare and whereabouts from 1957 until approximately 1964. That’s when Geoff picked up the paper trail, which establishes that Malabar IV had numerous U.S. East Coast owners, made a transit of the Panama Canal, and had an Alaskan owner who nearly lost her to ice damage.
Thus, much like her present owner, this salty child of the 1950s shows the character lines of a life fully lived. There’s no denying that the boat needs some tender loving care, but Geoff’s busy work schedule presently precludes a full refit.
For now, he’s happy just to enjoy this historic craft as is and effect one or two notable upgrades per season. But with time and care, he hopes to restore her to her original glistening glory.
“This is the finest boat that I’ve ever sailed,” Geoff says.
He finds her performance, especially in light airs, so surprisingly stellar that he hopes one day, in his elusive spare time, to organize a regatta series for classic wooden boats in Seattle in which to campaign her yet again.
I suspect that they’ll make beautiful music together.
After countless bluewater miles, CW contributing editor Alvah Simon is back home in New Zealand preparing the 36-foot steel cutter Roger Henry for a refit.