Tom Corkett with his trophy – War Canoe – for winning the Transpac overall in 1963
By LEN BOSE
The year was 1988, and I had just started my career in yacht sales. One day while gazing out the window, a large off-green BMW pulled up in front of the office with the initials TC on the license plate. My broker noticed where I was looking and said with an envious tone in his voice “That’s Tom Corkett.” Ever since that time, I thought that’s the person I want to emulate.
Tom Corkett – T.C. – hope you don’t mind, but I am going to use his initials because that’s how I have always greeted him from the time we used to work together at Ardell Yachts in the ‘90s until the present day as we cross tacks in the Harbor 20 fleet.
TC was born in Pasadena. His family purchased a home on the harbor in 1947, and then they made it their full-time residence in 1954. At that time, the active racing fleet in the harbor were the 11-foot Snowbirds. TC crewed for his sister, Nancy, in Snowbirds, until he wanted his own boat. He recalled the 1954 “Flight of the Snowbirds,” where 200 boats would show up at the starting line. He finished mid-fleet, yet went on to describe how Nancy won the pin end of the starting line with Tom O’Keefe, and the two of them punched out in front of the fleet. Nancy finished a close second to O’Keefe. TC also recalled that they would close down the harbor for the Flight, and other boaters would line up around the outside of the race course to spectate, as well as watch the powerboat races down the Lido Channel: those were the two big events of the summer. “We used to have power boats going 50 mph down the harbor. It was great,” TC recalled.
At the age of 21, TC started the sailing club at Ardell Yachts, where he would give sailing lessons on new fiberglass sailboats, and then after the lessons, sell students those boats. Cal, Pearson and Hinckley sailboats were the product lines that Ardell Yachts represented in the early ‘60s. During the ‘70s, interest rates jumped up and Ardell Yachts turned to brokerage boats. By the time TC was 32, he had hooked into a deal, representing both buyer and seller of a 180-foot steel motor yacht, “Pegasus II.” “That really got me going...that was the start of it all,” TC said. He described the interior with ornate furniture and chandeliers – more like a hillside mansion on the water. The vessel had 16 crew members.” TC said.
For as long as I have known TC, he is not one to tell you about his recent deals. I was always left in awe of the amount of traffic in and out of his office. From the Ardell copy room, I would constantly hear: “Hi Tom, I need another boat.” One time, I noticed a very well-known movie studio CEO come into the office unannounced, and after about 30 minutes, TC was headed out to show an 80-foot Alloy sailboat via executive jet to some far-off land. I remember him walking past the copy room and noticing me, then coming back and telling me he was not going to make twilights that night, and it was okay if I wanted to take the boat out.
TC has spent his time at sea. At the age of 21, he put a crew together for the 1963 Transpac aboard the family boat “Islander.” This boat was designed by Kirk Uhlman, and built-in 1958 by Joh de Good & Sohn in Germany. “The boat did not sail to weather very well, but it could sail to its rating downwind,” TC said. TC knew how to put together a winning team with Dr. Jack Paschall as navigator, Gary L. Myers, William Cook, a rigor from Lido Shipyard by the name of Mark Von Mills and Burke Mooney. The crew was very young, and TC was the youngest skipper to enter and win a Transpac. He had a young crew. Three were in their 20s and two in their early 40s. What they lacked in age, they made up with experience. Four of the six of them had sailed in Transpacs before, and all had done plenty of offshore sailing.
They only had one serious problem during the 14-day run. On the fourth day, their steering unit began to cause trouble. “Islander’s” wheel, mounted on a pedestal in the cockpit, was connected to the rudder mechanism by a bicycle chain working the sprockets. When two of the sprockets popped the chain, it developed so much slack, that there was far too much play in the wheel to steer efficiently. After seven hours of handiwork, the crew completed a gadget called an Idler consisting of a metal wheel at the end of a plywood handle which could be wedged from the chain to keep it taut, which held up for the remainder of the race. “We sailed rhumb line and the great circle; we sailed the shortest course and ended up winning the race,” TC said. He went on to describe that they had blown out all their spinnakers and finished the race with wung out jibe. “We should have had new sails. We purchased used sails before the race and they were tired before they even got on the boat. I found out really quickly, you cannot sail that race with used sails,” TC said.
Another offshore event that TC participated in was the 1992 Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Kaneohe. He and his longtime friend Scott Abrams double-handed the 68-foot Nelson Marek “Peregrine.” In that race, they faced the hottest navigator of our time, Stan Honey, aboard a Santa Cruz 70 named “Mongoose.” He was also sailing double-handed with the owner. TC and Abrams won on corrected time.
Over the years, TC has taken home some of the most prestigious awards that can be given out on our harbor by winning the Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Burgee of Merit and Don Vaughn Memorial Trophy, but my favorite and maybe even TC’s is the War Canoe he won for winning the Transpac overall in 1963.
Today, you can find TC at the start of this year’s Pacific Cup aboard “Runaway” or racing a Harbor 20 with one of his 10 grandchildren.
When I ended my interview, I thanked TC and he said: I’ll sea ya on the water.
Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for StuNewsNewport.
It has been a long time since I took a tour of the bay looking for a story, so I did just that this week. My first stop was at the 15th Street public pier next to the American Legion where I met a friendly couple who were starting their daily errands.
I am going to refer to this couple as Jane and Mike who have been living aboard their vessel in the mooring fields just in front of the public dock, a little over five years. I first asked Mike how was the rotation of the dinghies on the public dock? In other words, has he seen more than one dinghy tied up to the dock for weeks or months without moving? “No, it has been really good lately. In fact, the 72-hour zone has kept empty for the most part; harbor services have been doing a good job enforcing the time limits on the dock,” Mike said.
He wasn’t in a rush, so the conversation moved toward how is living aboard on a mooring. He replied that things have gotten much better, then commented that it used to be rather “rough” in the J & H mooring fields with drugs, people stealing dingy fuel and other late-night antics. “It’s really cleaned up out there over the last year since harbor services have taken over the mooring management,” Mike said. Jane and Mike have their own mooring permit and are permitted liveaboards. I asked if they have been inspected, as each year liveaboards are inspected by the city making sure their vessels are in good order and meeting the permit requirements. Jane replied, “Yes, we have been inspected twice this year.” She went on to explain how Harbor Services has been fair to them as well as others; they don’t pounce when things seem to be a little out of place. Both Jane and Mike are very pleased with the change in city codes to allow them to transfer their mooring permit should that day ever come. They also felt that a few things can be made better, such as a dinghy rack on the beach, or even a floating dock on a nearby mooring were people could tie up their dinghies for longer periods of time and just kayak out to them. I thought Mike had a great idea for the liveaboards, and that was to be given a card so they could slide the card to show when they’re using the pump out systems around the harbor. Either that or show their invoices from the mobile pump-out services.
There has been more discussion with council members regarding charter operations in Newport Harbor. I took a simple count around the harbor and found 21 large charter boats. Most of the docks where these charter companies work from are in good to very good condition with proper lighting, electric outlets, and firefighting equipment. Although, if city code enforcement took a closer look, then they’d notice what I saw: improper lighting, electric cords running over the water and very suspicious docks in three locations. I would have to assume that the Charter Boats have to log when and how they empty their holding tanks.
My observations around the harbor: I still notice more than one dinghy tied up to moorings, there are many derelict boats tied up to shore moorings, the fishing charter boats are very aggressive to other boaters that are whale watching, and I keep noticing one of the electric boat rental companies coming very close to overcapacity on their rentals. If that’s all I can complain about for now...we’re doing pretty good to start the summer!
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The Balboa Angling Club (BAC) is sponsoring their 16th Annual YSH (Yellowtail, Seabass, Halibut) Tournament on Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, June 16. Anyone can enter, and no membership is required. Tournament hours are from 8 p.m. on Thursday through 5 p.m. on Saturday. Fish may be weighed in at any certified scale location, but weigh slips must be emailed, faxed or delivered to BAC before 5 p.m. Monday, June 18. Call to confirm that the club has received your weigh slip. One fish per angler, per species limit for the trophy awards.
Summer sailing has started with the American Legion’s Monday nights, BCYC Taco Tuesdays, SSYC Hibachi Wednesdays and the NHYC Twilight Series on Thursday...you can sail almost every night of the week!
Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for StuNewsNewport
While attending last month’s Harbor Commission meeting, John Kappler, Newport Beach’s Water Quality Manager, started his presentation of the quality of the water in our harbor. This is when I normally shut down when engineers start talking about parts per million and water flow. As Kappler continued, I sat up in my seat when he started talking about the tons of trash and organic materials that his team keeps out of the harbor annually. I quickly made a note that I needed to learn more from this guy.
When I called for the interview, Kappler returned my call quickly. I don’t speak engineer at all, and he made it easy for me to understand what we can do to make our harbor cleaner.
Kappler moved from Ohio, with an engineering degree, about 15 years ago to escape from the winters, and had family in Orange County. Soon after arriving, he got a job with the City of Newport Beach. He spends his leisure time surfing and stand up paddling, and engages in competitive ocean swimming, where he regularly competes in the local Ocean Swimming series and the Balboa to Newport Pier race.
Kappler’s job as Water Quality Manager is within Public Works, where he is tasked with environmental water quality, water testing, monitoring and placing systems to keep trash out of the bay, managing the different grants, public education, and inspecting shipyards and construction sites. The list went on and on, and I started to think...when does this guy sleep?
As you would guess, fall and winter are his busy seasons, making sure the underground CDS units are cleaned. The CDS is a hydrodynamic separator using swirl concentration and continuous deflective separation to screen, separate and trap trash, debris, sediment and hydrocarbons from stormwater runoff. I had never known that the city had this type of equipment. There are also Marina Trash Skimmers, catch basin screens and the different types of booms that gather trash.
“The city has done a good job of chasing money and implementing projects,” said Kappler, while describing all the different grants the city has obtained to manage the equipment costs each year.
The City is also working toward marine recycling centers, where boaters can dispose of used engine oil and absorbent bilge pads. There has been a center in place at Marina Basin that will be remodeled and expanded in the next couple of weeks to include transmission fluid and batteries. If it all works out, there might be two additional centers in the future at the Harbor Marina under the 55 bridge/and PCH and another near Marina Park.
So now the real question. How do we keep our harbor clean? We are going to have to want it...which is evident in the annual harbor clean up days. Starting with the Newport Harbor Underwater Clean-Up on Saturday, June 2 at the Balboa Bay Club. You can check this out at www.nhunderwatercleanup.com. Help Our Harbor is looking for certified SCUBA divers and land-based volunteers to help clean up and preserve Newport’s most precious resource – our harbor. Go to the Register page and provide your email address, and you will be contacted about the event. This is all good stuff. We also have Help your Harbor at www.helpyourharbor.com with clean up updates the first Saturday of every month from April through August.
Okay, so if you are like me and go sailing or boating every weekend and you just don’t make time for organized events, what can you do to make a difference? It’s the simple things that make your connection to the harbor important. If you drop trash or see trash in the streets, it’s going to end up in our harbor. It’s a lot easier to pick it up from the streets than when you see it flowing in the harbor, according to Kappler. When you are at a restaurant, keep in mind you might not need all those napkins, condiments or straws you grabbed. It would overwhelm you how many of these items end up in our bay.
This all seems rather simple to me. Before every race, I always look around for man-made flotsam. Balloons, plastics...whatever should not be in our harbor or the ocean. Then catch and dispose of the flotsam. Makes for good juju on BCYC Taco Tuesdays, if you take a photo of the item you picked out of the harbor. Rhonda Tolar, and her team will give you an extra opportunity drawing ticket...and you will be surprised how good it makes you feel.
I am headed back out to sea again this weekend aboard Horizon participating in this year’s California Ocean Racing Week starting in San Francisco with stops in Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. As always, wish us luck, and I could use a favor. Newport Shipyard is remodeling their marina and has evicted us from our slip for Horizon. We ended up having to leave the harbor and would prefer to stay in town. So, if you know of anyone that would like to rent us a slip, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for StuNewsNewport.