Carried by a slight ebb, the schooner slowly headed down the channel to the mouth of the harbor at Newport Beach, California. Santana’s uncluttered teak deck with the companionway offset to starboard, spotless white topsides, sparkling brightwork, and epic overhangs set her a world apart from the modern craft surrounding her, craft in which style had been traded for efficiency. She drew admiring looks and compliments from all around, just as she had 60 years before, when Humphrey Bogart sailed her out of the same port on his regular stag cruises to Santa Catalina island, 27 miles to the west.
On this April day in 2005, however, Santana was one of 460 entries in the 58th annual Newport-to-Ensenada Race, a 120-mile run down the coast to Mexico that attracts sailors of all stripes, from industry titans who want to win at all costs to ordinary folk who just want to have a good time. “Let’s go yachting” was exactly how Santana’s owner, Paul Kaplan, phrased his invitation to join the crew. On this adventure, apparently, suffering and discomfort were expected to be minimal.
Outside the harbor, the wind was light, but traffic was heavy. In a state of prestart anxiety, the armada of boats, from basic weekend cruisers to high-tech supermaxis, drifted, bounced, or dashed about. Kaplan decided to keep motorsailing, alert and ready to dodge others who had their heads in the bilge or were simply gawking at the majestic Santana. Even Dennis Conner, skippering Mongoose, his vintage Santa Cruz 70, found time to acknowledge her with a nod and a smile with the starting gun just a few seconds away.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the schooner handled in close quarters. Only the main needed a trimmer’s attention, as both staysails were self-tending. The yankee and fisherman were rigged and ready to hoist once the starting gun sounded.
Soon after the maxis crossed the line in a downwind start–dropping quickly over the horizon with every ounce of “canvas” flying–it was the Ancient Mariners’ turn. Among those seven wooden classics was the 82-foot schooner Curlew, our nemesis in the race. Fighting the current, we kept clear of the line and found enough air to bear away at the gun to a course of 140 degrees, headed for the buoy off Espiritu Santo, 120 miles away. “Slidin’ down the pipe on the fat side” was how watchmate Billy Brandt summarized the strategy. The schooner moved well, with the breeze just aft of the beam. Borrowed light-air sails were stowed in bags on deck in case conditions changed. We wanted to get there fast, but not at the expense of style and fun.
Santana’s most famous owner would’ve approved of this approach. Bogart–who bought her from fellow actor Dick Powell in 1945 soon after marrying the young and strikingly beautiful Lauren Bacall–loved to sail and to have a good time. His son, Stephen, wrote in his autobiography: “While most people know that Bogie and Bacall had a great love affair, probably fewer know about my father’s other great love–sailing. Specifically, it was with his 55-foot sailing yacht. . . . The sea was my father’s sanctuary.” Aside from escape, Bogart also sought competition. Commemorative plaques in the galley, earned in the 1950 and 1951 San Clemente Island races and the 1953 Voyagers Yacht Club Channel Islands Race, prove that he knew how to win.
A Rich Man’s Mistake
Most of her life, from 1942 to 1999, including the 12 years that Bogart owned her, Santana was a yawl. But William Lyman Stewart Jr., son of the founder of the Union Oil Company, had defied conventional wisdom when he commissioned her from Sparkman & Stephens in 1934 as a staysail schooner. In the early 1930s, racing yawls such as the S&S-designed Dorade had proven superior to schooners–they were more easily handled by a small crew, performed equally well on all points of sail, and were favored by the rating rules. “He was a bit of a spoiled rich boy and sometimes acted as if he, not his father, was the principal at Union Oil,” Olin Stephens said in a recent interview. “[But] I got along with him fine.” S&S delivered design Number 59, an elegant boat with long overhangs, narrow beam, a fine stern–and a schooner rig.
Santana, a contraction of “Santa Ana,” was named after the hot, katabatic winds that fan wildfires and wreak all kinds of other havoc in Southern California during fall and winter. Built by the reputable Wilmington Boat Works in San Pedro, the vessel was splashed on October 24, 1935, a hot but calm day. Her deck beams and deadwood were cut from fir, and the hull was planked with Philippine mahogany over oak frames. The construction was elegant and solid, as her seven decades testify.
Stewart campaigned Santana vigorously, but line honors eluded him. In 1936, Dorade, three feet shorter but yawl rigged, hit the grand slam in the Transpac, winning her class and beating the fleet on both corrected and elapsed time, which was a triple blow to Stewart. In 1938, he brought Santana with great fanfare to Newport, Rhode Island, to take on the East Coast racers. “He put Santana on the deck of one of his father’s tankers to transport her East to the start of the Bermuda Race,” Stephens recalled. “I don’t think anyone could get away with such an act today.” Santana won the schooner division, soundly beating P.S. du Pont’s Barlovento, but only corrected out to ninth overall. Subsequently, Stewart commissioned the 67-foot yawl Chubasco from S&S, and in 1947 she won for him the coveted Barn Door trophy for first to finish in the Transpac.
Santana Goes to Hollywood
Over the next six years, Santana changed hands five times as she became a Tinseltown commodity. In 1939, Stewart sold her to Charles Isaacs, the fourth husband of Hungarian actress Eva Gabor, who was best known for her role in the TV series Green Acres and the observation that “marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once.” Two years later, actor George Brent bought her and had her converted to a yawl at Wilbo, recycling the old mainmast, which was deemed a bit short in its new configuration. In 1944, Brent sold her to fellow actor Ray Milland, who was often cast opposite some of Hollywood’s most beautiful ladies. Three months later, Milland sold the boat to Powell. But his sinus problems required him to spend time in a warm and dry climate, so reluctantly, he sold her after little more than a year. On the weekend that Bogart fell in love with her, Santana at last had found an owner who knew both how to sail and how to maintain a boat. Bogart’s agent, Phil Gersh, estimated that the actor spent as many as 35 weekends a year aboard her. For his jaunts to Catalina, Bogie often recruited crew from the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, an informal club of friends known for their prodigious talents as actors, writers, and singers and for their shared ability to consume large quantities of liquor. He mostly sailed with guys; as he put it, “The trouble with dames on board is you can’t pee over the side.”
On one such occasion, Santana, with Bogie and fellow actor David Niven on board, was anchored off Catalina when a powerboat carrying Frank Sinatra and composer Jimmy Van Heusen dropped the hook close by. The evening was mild, the booze was flowing, and Frankie gave an impromptu concert for the people on the surrounding yachts, who rowed over in their dinghies. But there was trouble brewing, because Sinatra and Bogart were at odds. Bogie, who could be cruel to his friends, wanted Frankie to stop, but he’d kept on singing. Richard Burton, who downed boilermakers and set illegal lobster traps with Bogart that night, vaguely remembered that Niven got caught up in the drunken rage and inexplicably tried to set fire to Santana.
Yachting in Style
Back in the present, by about 1900 our wind had completely shut off. Kaplan mounted Santana’s signal gun on the starboard primary and fired off a round to salute the fiery sunset. With the spheres of San Onofre’s nuclear-power plant visible ashore and boats lying still all around us, the scene resembled a giant, glassy parking lot. While progress was nil or negative, dinner was stellar. The owner treated the watch to soup and salad, followed by hot lasagne and accompanied by a very drinkable 2001 cabernet sauvignon. “That’s why we kept Bogie’s elaborate cup holder,” Kaplan said as he brought up the bottle and the long-stemmed glasses.
At first glance, Santana’s galley looked surprisingly spartan for concocting such elaborate entertainment, but only because the appliances were masterfully disguised. The gimbaled stove/oven hid behind a panel of faux drawers and under a Corian lid, the microwave was stashed away in an overhead cabinet, and 1930s retro doors camouflaged the reefer. Two crystal decanters dominated the well-stocked liquor locker, maintaining an important tradition on this boat. Once, after an impressive light-wind performance, a fellow racer asked Bogart what made Santana go fast. Bogie’s reply: “Scotch.”
Coming off watch, it was a pleasure to snuggle into the most comfortable and stylish bunks one could hope for in a sailboat race, and rocked by the gentle motion of a long-keeled boat, we found shut-eye easy to come by. The night brought a light offshore breeze that put us on the rhumb line, and the opposite watch came up with some very creative sail combinations to sustain the pace. “We have 11 sails on board and lots of halyards,” Kaplan chuckled.
A Transpac Episode
Bogie was faithful to Santana even as he succumbed to throat cancer. Too weak to work or sail, he still made trips to Newport Beach just to sit on deck with his son and his boat captain, Carl Petersen, aka Square Head, Dumb Bum, or Bullshit Pete, who was one of the chosen few allowed to visit Bogie at his house when he was in the final stages of his illness.
Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957. In his will, he insisted on a service without a casket. Instead, a glass-encased model of Santana was displayed next to the lectern from which John Huston gave the eulogy. The estate sold the boat to Willis Short, an interior designer who sailed her in local races. In 1960, Wally Nickell, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and president of the Western Hyway Oil Company, bought her and campaigned her extensively, including in the Transpac, a race that Bogart had never entered. In 1961, Nickell took aboard Sports Illustrated reporter Gilbert Rogin, who later became that magazine’s managing editor. Rogin neither liked sailing nor did he get the hang of racing, which was reflected in his story “Twelve Days Before the Mast”: “Next time they want to send me to sea, I’ll lock myself in the bathroom for 12 days with canned goods, Sterno, an electric fan, and an alarm clock. I’ll sit in the tub for four hours, fully dressed, with the fan blowing across me, taking a cold shower.” Naturally, the story touched a raw nerve with Nickell. “No wonder. That Rogin gets seasick just looking at a Cutty Sark ad,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.
Santana’s next owner, San Francisco attorney William Solari, brought her East again to compete in the 1968 Bermuda Race, 30 years after her first attempt. The race wasn’t very successful, but a visit to Bert Darrell’s boatyard in Hamilton produced a souvenir of sorts, a broken spreader that had been replaced when she stopped there in 1938. Solari sold her to Charlie Peet, a Sausalito bar owner who sailed her around the world with his wife, Marty, sailmaker Jim Leech, and assorted pickup crew. “Bogart’s boat was recognized by sailors and movie buffs alike,” Leech remembered. “In Ascension, a Bogie freak ran a PX that was decked out like Hollywood. We watched movies and got provisioned by U.S. tax dollars.” The 40,000-mile trip was a blast, but it also included tense moments. The boat took on water after a plank in the bow section opened near Pitcairn Island, and a good blow off New Zealand carried away the mizzen. Returning to California in the winter of 1973, Santana battled heavy winds and seas near Cabo San Lucas. Twice she was beaten back before she eventually escaped.
Renaissance and Disaster
After the circumnavigation (and the tenure of M. Lloyd Carter, a short-time owner), Santana was tired and needed serious work. She was picked up by Ted and Tom Eden, who would have her for 25 years, longer than any other owner. The Eden brothers were San Francisco architects who studied Frank Lloyd Wright and restored Victorian houses. They gave her a good makeover and didn’t forget charity. “We donated the head to a public radio station that auctioned it for a fundraiser,” Ted remembered. “It’s amazing what people buy.”
In 1982, the Edens challenged Dorade, the boat that beat Santana in the 1936 Transpac, to a race on San Francisco Bay. Skippered by Tom Blackaller, Santana owed her rival seven seconds per mile but fell behind in light air. Dorade, under the command of R.C. Keefe, looked to repeat her victory from 1936. But as the breeze filled to a healthy 25 knots, Santana took the lead. “I bet the boat was never this fast when Bogart sailed it!” Blackaller shouted. At the finish of the 12.5-mile course, she was ahead by more than six minutes, saving her time and-finally–getting even with Dorade.
In November 1997, Ted Eden was looking for a buyer–his brother had died four years before, and the boat wasn’t getting much use–when fate intervened. While Santana was tied up at her dock outside the clubhouse of the St. Francis Yacht Club, the automatic bilge pump came on. The discharge port was below the waterline, and the check valve that prevented water from siphoning back in failed, admitting the ocean into the boat. Daylight revealed her sunk in her slip, the decks awash. Powerful pumps weren’t enough to save her. All her interior, the upholstery, and the electronics were shot.
Road to Recovery
A 62-year-old wooden boat that’s sustained catastrophic damage has a pretty good chance for a date with a chainsaw. Unless, of course, she can find someone enthusiastic–or foolish–enough to embark on a complete restoration. Paul Kaplan and his wife, Crissy, became Santana’s Good Samaritans. It helped that Kaplan co-owns Keefe Kaplan Maritime Inc., one of the largest full-service boatyards on San Francisco Bay. “We never questioned the reasons,” he said. “We surveyed the vessel, and we knew what we were in for.” They tore the ceilings out and installed new frames, and while they were at it, they resolved to turn Santana back into a schooner. “We wanted to be as authentic as possible, so we procured copies of the original S&S drawings from Mystic Seaport.” From the rig to the deck layout and the beveled glass doors, Santana was restored to her original condition. Even navigation electronics were passed over. Still, some changes were inevitable. The cockpit–now moved aft–has a fiberglass well. The galley was modernized, and the forward cabin, formerly the crew quarters entered by a separate scuttle, was turned into a V-berth. The old, rusty engine was replaced with a 75-horsepower Yanmar turbodiesel with a propeller offset to starboard. Just about the only breaks the Kaplans got were with the teak deck and the mainmast. “They used the original schooner mainmast for the yawl conversion in 1942,” Kaplan said. “It was a bit too short for a yawl rig, but for us it worked perfectly. It’s right back where it was–including the boom–so we only had to build a foremast from Sitka spruce.” A creative solution was found for the bowsprit. It’s carbon fiber, anchored on a stainless-steel tenon on the boat’s stem, and has a faux wood finish. “The boat’s very nice and a showcase for good craftsmanship,” said Billy Brandt. “It’s just a bit more of a project than I’d like to take on.” And fellow crewmember Ken Bertino thought that “it probably takes someone with a boatyard to do this kind of work right.” It was a monster job that took nearly a full year, but Kaplan believes it was worth the effort. After her relaunch in May 1999, Santana again is the perfect entertainment platform and the toast wherever she goes. And usually, in classic races, she’s the schooner to beat.
Fun, Not Fame
After we’d made good time during the night and lost Curlew in our wake, the tables turned. At 1100, 23 hours into the race, Santana was wallowing about 30 miles from Espiritu Santo. A faint and backing wind forced us to steer 35 degrees above the rhumb line. “Forget jibing in these conditions,” said navigator Robert Flowerman, a seasoned salt and professional raceboat manager who’d worked on Santana many years before. The weather report forecast light airs and a 70-percent chance of “measurable precipitation.” Emerging from the off watch, Santana’s master held an impromptu conference in the cockpit, mindful that some of the crew had obligations the next day. If conditions didn’t improve drastically, we had at least another five or six hours to the finish and a long slog back up to San Diego. “Let’s bail” was the consensus. With staysails and main strapped in and the engine chugging, we set course for Point Loma, about 30 miles north. Everyone settled in comfortably as Santana shouldered aside the swells and zigzagged through a school of dolphins. Lunch was served, the jokes kept coming, and laughter rang throughout the ship.
“He became lighthearted–singing, laughing,” Bacall wrote of her husband in her memoir. “He did not want to part with her. . . . If I ever had a woman to be jealous of, she was the Santana. Her sleek lines, the way she moved through the water. . . . When Bogie bought that boat he was enslaved–happily so–and truly had everything he’d ever dreamed of.”
Sixty years and seven owners later, that hasn’t changed.
LOA 62′ 0″ (18.90 m.)
LOD 55′ 2″ (16.81 m.)
LWL 40′ 0″ (12.28 m.)
Beam 12′ 6″ (3.81 m.)
Draft 7′ 11″ (2.40 m.)
Working Sail Area (1934 plans) 1,569 sq. ft. (145.8 sq. m.)
Displacement (without wine) 50,000 lb.(22,727 kg.)
Water 66 gal. (250 l.)
Fuel 75 gal. (284 l.)
Designer Sparkman & Stephens
Boat Website www.thesantana.com