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Because because because…

As early as I can remember I wanted to be either in, on, or by the water. Undoubtedly I inherited this from my father. We never had a boat, but Dad had quite a few friends with boats and he took every opportunity to get out on the ocean.

One of Dad’s friends was Ralph Larrabee, owner of the 161-foot schooner Goodwill, and I recall Dad taking many trips aboard her. For me and my brothers, the idea of going out on the ocean on a big sailboat captured our imaginations, and fueled by Gardner McKay and Adventures in Paradise, we begged to go sailing on the Goodwill. Finally an opportunity came up, and I was beyond excited when our whole family was going to sail to Catalina Island aboard her. I fantasized about our grand sailing adventure for weeks. Then someone chartered the Goodwill for the same time period and our trip was cancelled. I think I was six or seven, and it was the first huge disappointment of my life.

As time went on, more trips aboard the Goodwill came up, but not for me. They were all “guy trips.” I was “too young,” and I was “a girl.” My brothers, four and five years older than me, got to go with Dad. I got to stay home with overly protective Mom and Grandma, and when they got back I had to listen to all the fun and adventures they had. I wanted to go so bad.
I remember when my Dad and brothers left on one particular trip to Catalina on the Goodwill, Mom and Grandma felt bad for me so they took me to Disneyland as consolation. I had fun, but it just wasn’t the same. My big adventure was getting stuck on Dumbo in a downpour. My brothers caught flying fish, rented bicycles to ride all over the hills of Avalon, and experienced a real adventure.

They did bring me back a souvenir – a small tiki head carved out of wood with sparkley green glass eyes that hung from a leather cord I could wear around my neck. It probably cost all of 25 cents back then, but I loved that thing and wore it everywhere, even to Sunday School with the frilly dresses I hated. It represented the exotic island I was dying to see and the sailing adventures I wasn’t allowed to go on because I was “too young” and I was “a girl.”

Grandma took pity on me and one fog-soaked Saturday morning we boarded the Big White Steamer for Catalina. I remember how excited I was watching the mainland disappear behind us. I loved being out on the ocean even though we couldn’t see where we were going for most of the trip. As we closed in on the island the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I finally got to see what I’d heard so much about and I wasn’t disappointed. We walked around town, took a couple of tours, and way too soon boarded the Big White Steamer back to the mainland. It fueled my desire to go back, but I wanted to sail there on the Goodwill.
My fantasy of the grand sailing adventure was shipwrecked when I was around 13. Ralph Larrabee called Dad and asked him to fly down to Cabo San Lucas and help him bring the Goodwill back up the coast. Apparently there had been a falling out; his professional captain had quit and he needed experienced crew. Dad couldn’t get the time away from work and had to decline. From what we understood later, Ralph rounded up some inexperienced crew in Cabo and headed out. The Goodwill ran aground on the Sacramento Reef and was destroyed. There were no survivors. Weather was not an issue and since Ralph was known to “tip a few,” speculation was that the cause was too much partying and not enough attention to course and proper watch keeping. Whatever the case, my dad felt guilty about it. Always the responsible type, he believed that if he’d been aboard it wouldn’t have happened. Of course, we had the scary thought that if he had been aboard, we might have lost him to the Sacramento Reef too. In hindsight, that would have been preferable to the horrors of Alzheimer’s that set in a few years later. I know Dad would have preferred it.

Fast forward about 10 years: I was no longer “too young,” being a girl was definitely not a liability and I lived a block from the ocean. I found myself getting jealous hearing about a friend’s frequent sailing adventures. She worked for a huge aerospace company which sponsored numerous clubs for their employees, one being the sailing club she belonged to. When I commented on how much fun it sounded, she said words that changed the course of my life: “You don’t have to work for TRW, anyone can join.” Okay, so that doesn’t sound very profound, but it opened a door at just the right moment. Thank you Rosanne. I was at the next meeting and signed up for their basic sailing class. A week or so later I met a guy in a bar and we hit it off. He thought sailing lessons sounded fun. We learned together, and several years later we got married (yes Virginia, you can meet your future husband in a bar) and moved aboard our own sailboat with the intention of eventually going cruising.

That was 31 years ago. I’ve been making up for being “too young” and “a girl” ever since. It’s been 31 years of sailing adventures, some grand, some not so much, but almost all of them a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t begin to count the number of sails to Catalina Island which I’ll never grow tired of. We crossed a big chunk of the Pacific with friends and I got to see real Polynesian tikis. We did the Baja bash and I listened for waves crashing on the Sacramento Reef as we passed during a night watch, my mind wandering back to Dad and the Goodwill.

We are now doing the final (?) refit on our boat, a 1965 Cheoy Lee yawl named Because, in preparation for THE grand sailing adventure. When we cut the docklines it will be for good, with no schedule and no return date. It’s taking a lot longer than we anticipated and we still have another year+ to go. In the future I will be updating you on our projects: what we’ve done and what we’re working on, what we wish we’d done different, and the misadventures along the way (there’s always a few ;^) .

Category: Just Because

Comments (19)

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  1. Ruth McComas says:

    Your post brings back some special memories for me. My uncle worked for Ralph Larrabee and eventually became one of the vice-presidents. He and my aunt had several opportunities to sail on the Goodwill with the Larrabees. Although I never sailed on her, I did have an opportunity to go out on their yacht before they had the Goodwill. For a young girl who had never been on a yacht before, this was a very special experience. I do have 3 shelves from the Goodwill. They belonged to my uncle and eventually came to me. They are mahogony and carry the Goodwill logo. Thank you for this glimpse back to a special time in my life.

    • Howard Graybehl says:

      I ran across your post while researching articles about the Goodwill. My son has often asked me about a painting and pictures of the Goodwill that hang in my office so I wanted to find information on the web about the ship which is limited. I have great memories of visiting the ship while sitting at anchor in Avalon Harbor as I had family aboard often, including during the ill-fated Mexico trip. As a teen, the ship was a wonderland of rope, sail gear, equipment and mystery. Ralph Larrabee was a master seaman / sailer who enjoyed visits by young interested future sailors and was quite willing to show and teach after his morning stupor wore off. Or, maybe take a group on a water skiing excursion around Avalon behind one of the small powerboat dingys. I was too young to experience the ship under full sail or in grand racing form but I did make short trips aboard including one down the California and Mexican coasts a few years before it's last voyage. A grand ship indeed.

  2. Arthur says:

    I invite those of you that have remembered the Goodwill to contact me in efforts to identify crew member of the 1953 Shakedown prior to the Traspac Race. The Pictures are of crew members on the Goodwill taken by my Uncle Al Larrabee older brother of Ralph Larrabee.

    • Jerry Clements says:

      I have a copy of the 1953 and 1957 Transpac documentaries including the crew rosters in the credits if it would help.

      • Dick Medve says:

        After many years, I am ready to give you the rest of the story about "Goodwill" and the bad will owner. I was crew on the 1959 Transpac challenge and returned the ship to Newport Beach. What a ride it was with a flaming drunk jerk in charge. I am preparing my memories presently and also to hope finding my old shipmates. She was a fine ship with a drunken fool on the helm.

      • Dick Medve says:

        aloha Jerry,
        I was one of the fifty crew on board "Goodwill" in the 1959 Transpac Races. I would like to locate a video of the 53&59 races. I am also interested to write and document those years including the ultimate grounding on Sacramento Reef.

    • Dick Medve says:

      Aloha, yes I was crew on the 1959 Transpac and can spin you quite a yarn. The son of a bich locked me up in the gorilla cage that contained seat ores (brig) . For a week because I sent a false ETA to my girlfriend. He demanded that the returning crew from Transpac 59 replace all racing sails an d gear to his rusty stained and soiled cruising gear while being held hostage seaward of Bird Rock, Catalina Island for a few days. I have a bunch of photos and tales to tell about this jerk, Larrabee.
      I would like to join a re-union of those left of us from that 1959 return sail from Honolulu to eventually Newport Beach, California. Sail into the flaming sunset of Hell, Ralph.

  3. Kathy says:

    I was reminiscing, thinking about my dad, and decided to google schooner goodwill and see if there's anything new out there about the ship my dad went down on. Walt Zaiss, my dad, was the engineer on board. He had crewed for Ralph on several trips; the best being the Kit Peak Tahiti voyage. My mom got to go on that one but alas, I was in school. I don't know who Ms. Morgan's father is but I remember that Ralph's friends loved crewing for him and the navigator, who I think was also on the Tahiti trip and whose name I can't remember, couldn't get to the boat when Ralph wanted to leave so Ralph did the navigating on the last voyage. What we were told was that he was licensed and was a good navigator but that it had been some time since he charted a course and he failed to account for the large swell, which pushed Goodwiil onto the reef.

  4. Kelly Vaughan says:

    The poster above me…(Kathy) my mom, lol. Strange to bump into her here searching for information on the schooner my grandfather died on. I wish there was more readily available info out there with pictures and details about the men who served and died with him. If anyone has any more information, please post a reply here.

    • jerry clements says:

      I have a copy of the 1953 and 1957 Transpac documentaries including the crew rosters in the credits if it would help. I am in Newport Beach, CA.

      • Dick Medve says:

        Aloha Jerry,
        I was a crew on Goodwill's 1957 TRANSPAC race attempting to break Morning Star record crossing of 8 days plus a few hours. We didn't accomplish a record , however we were the first boat across the line in 10 days plus. I was 21 years old at that time and it will always be a bittersweet memory for me. In my 78 years, most of it sailing, the adventure will never happen again, at least for me.
        Yes, I would love to receive any and all information that you will send me. I am almost ready to make available "The rest of the story"including little known events and other interesting tales from the deep.

  5. Doug Riddell says:

    The legend of the grand old lady Goodwill is still alive. She was my home for the trip to Tahiti. Also enjoyed Dave Archers article about his from Kauai to S.F. At the time I was working for Milt Reynolds in Marina del Rey at the time and heard all of the stories.

  6. Gary Hatfield says:

    Where can I see photos of Goodwill? For some reason I awoke today from sketchy dreams of my time spent working on her while she was in drydock being prepared for the Tahiti trip–back around 1965, I think. I had taken a summer job at L&M Machine, owned by Larrabee, as a machinist helper. One thing led to another and I was helping rebuild pumps, generators and the engine aboard the Goodwill. The job lasted several weeks. I was just out of high school, and I should have jumped at the opportunity to help crew her on the Tahiti trip, but I had a girlfriend that I was afraid to lose (Of course I lost her anyway), so I didn't go. One of my greatest regrets. During her time in drydock in either Long Beach or San Pedro, the ship's captain lived aboard. He was a stern-faced older gentleman of Norwegian heritage. He had little patience for the endless questions from a young man like me. I'll never forget him correcting me on multiple occasions when I referrred to Goodwill as a boat, that "This ship is not a boat! You can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat."

  7. Greg Stark says:

    My uncle, Bernard ( Bernie ) Stark was one of the crewpersons aboard when she went down. He was a builder/developer, as well an as experienced sailor. He started & owned Dana Point Boat & Sports ( original off the highway in San Juan Capistrano ) & was one of the first Thunderbird & Boston Whaler dealers.

    As I remember, his remains were finally identified by dental records. Anyone know if the wreck is still there?

    Greg Stark

  8. Barbara J. Riddell says:

    My husband, Gerald V. Comstock, Laguna Beach, CA, was part of the crew when the ship went down, May 24 ,1969. He and another young boy were found in the ocean by the wreckage about ten days after the accident. Bernie Stark, another crew person, was found about six weeks later in the sand off Sandmond Lagoon. No one else was found. Supposedly, thirteen were board. My husband did not die from drowning,no water was found in the lungs. He died from a blow to the neck,severing the carotid artery. I have read different theories about the accident, one, caused by the severe storm, the other, pirates and.some of the crew, took over the ship, killing everyone, taking everything, and escaping by the life boats. I would like to know if anyone knows more information about the demise of the Goodwill and the people on it.

    • Idar Stout says:

      Hello, I have been searching for years trying to find information about the Goodwill. Ed Henderson, real name Edgar Horton Henderson, was married to my Grandmother at one time & left her many years ago. He was one of the crew members who is missing. After reading what you said about some crew members could have taken over the ship. Edgar Henderson was a career criminal . in & out of prisons, escaping from prisons he was famous for that. He had done a lot of robberies & when I read Dave Archer's story about the Goodwill & said there was gold on the ship & never was found the hair stood up on my arms. Of course he might have changed through the years but I kinda doubt it. If anyone knows anything about him please let me know. I am so sorry for all those who died on the Goodwill.

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