Early one Saturday afternoon my wife and I were going south on California state route 55, also known as Newport Beach Blvd. We had crossed the California state line earlier that day on our trip from FLA to CA. We were excited to finally be here in SoCal and to see first hand a BCC.
As the road dipped down toward Newport Bay and Pacific Coast Highway we were stopped by a traffic light. I glanced up to the right and saw the road went uphill again so decided to turn there and see where it went. That was 13th or 14th Street and went up to the entrance to Hoag Hospital.
Once at the top of the hill we saw the street sign for Placentia Ave, WOW! That was the street where Sam was. I turned right again and we watched for the street numbers knowing that Sam was at 16 hundred something, right on Placentia Ave.
After a couple of blocks we saw it. It was a BCC hull sitting in a cradle out next to the street in Crystaliner’s parking lot. I pulled in and parked. We were here but where was Sam? Me and my wife got out of the van and headed into Crystaliner’s store. Is Sam Morse here? Yes. Where? Right up those stairs. Thanks.
We climbed up the staircase. At the top was a closed door. I opened the door and announced “We’re here”. Sam looked up from his desk and said “Who are you?” I looked at Sam with a long face, only acting of course and said “Hi I’m Fred, from FLorida. You remeber you told me I should move out here to build my boat”. Sam looked concerned and a bit shocked then said “I was just kidding. I didn’t think you’d take me seriously”.
From that moment on I had Sam in my hip pocket, so to speak. Sam was genuinely concerned that I had uprooted my whole life and moved to SoCAl on his say so. Just to build one of his boats. I assured Sam that I had made up my mind on my own and my wife agreed with me to make the 3,000 mile move.
Earlier in the year Sam and I had talked numerous times by phone. I had asked him about having a hull and deck kit shipped out to FLA. $3,500 for shipping that far. That’s a lot when the parts at that time were only about $7,000. During our last conversation Sam light heartedly suggested that I
move to SoCal to save the cost of shipping.
At the time I had a good situation and I didn’t want to give it up, at first. But the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. And being the adventureous type I made the plans and made the move two months later. Little did I realise that the decision would last for the next 29 years.
After leaving Sam, my wife and I made a quick trip down to Newport Beach, to dangle our toes in the Pacific. A first for my midwest born wife. I had been out this way earlier in my life during military service.
After getting settled in to an apartment later the next week we went back to Sam’s. There I met Ted and another man(don’t remember much about him). These were Sam’s first workers as far as I know. I talked to Ted about finding work in a boat shop somewhere as Sam didn’t need another person at the time. Ted recommended I try Pacifica. I did and had my a job as a boat electrician pretty quick.
I stayed with Pacifica for just over a year but really wanted to get on at a “Sailboat Yard” somewhere. Soon after arriving we purchased hull number 18 with a cradle. I rented a space just down the street at a boat storage yard. The rent? $56 per month, that’s $2 per foot. I had that space for the next 4~5 years at the same rate, even though I didn’t have my BCC that long.
Since I am a bit impatient I was frustrated at not be able to make fast progress on my boat. I had saved enough to buy a hull and deck but moving expenses and getting set up cost money. I had enough for the hull and cradle so started there. I got a small loan to be able to buy the ballast and then was busted.
After 6 months I decided to move into the boat yard and thereby be able to put apartment rent money toward boat building instead. What an adventure. We refurbished an 8’ X 12’ shack in the yard and moved in…for the next three years. But hey we were living with a Newport Beach address for $56 per month. Try that these days.
I heard of an oppotunity to get into a new boat company less than half a block from Sam. I jumped from Pacifica to my new job. Maybe a bad move. The company went bust soon thereafter and my last three pay checks bounced. Not good.
Prior to this I had started to build my own deck. Sam came by one day to see it. He was upset because I had altered the profile of the deck to a curved side one piece cabin top. I explained that I thought it more practical and besides I couldn’t afford the whole cost of a new molded deck.
Sam, bless his heart told me he would sell me a deck immediately and let me pay it off over 3~4 months. So I did. That’s when I got laid off with the three bad checks. I went to see Sam and explain that it would take and another month or so to pay for the deck due to my financial reversal. I told him I was looking for another job, possibly with WestSail.
That’s when things got better because Sam offered me a job. He said he didn’t need a full time electrician and that I would have to learn to do more. Be still my heart. That’s exactly what I wanted. So in the spring of 1978 I became an employee. The doc’s boat was underway and nearly finished. I remember Sam going to the launch of the just finished boat. I of course wanted to go too. He thought I would simply stay and work at the yard. I told him I would take the time off with no pay just to see the boat in the water. He relented and let me come along.
Some time after I started Ted went on to other things and Rudy became our new helper. I quickly learned to level the hull and install ballast. And then I learned the myriad things that go into making the whole boat. Scarfing and laminating the walestrakes the same for the bulwarks. I milled a ton of lumber and made 1,000’s of plugs in both teak and mahagony.
At first there were a backlog of hull and deck kits. Pretty simple to put together those few parts usually with the ballast installed. By this time I had sold my BCC. I realized that it was more than I could handle skill and financial wise. Plus of course my impatience. I sold the boat to a father and son who completed the boat in thier backyard.
A number of years later the boat was then resold to another couple. I only found out about this sometime later when they needed me to sign off on the boat so it could be documented.
My learning progressed rapidly and along came Roger Olsen. He wanted a sail away kit. Complete on the outside and with the interior roughed in not finished. To me fell this task. Sam was entertaining more offers for finished boats and the details were being worked out. We had only to finalize the details of the interior and Rodger’s boat became the first “official interior layout”.
But the doc’s boat was the first complete boat and nearly identical.
Sam ordered a load of luan plywood. I would use this to make patterns for the interior. Herb and I and Sam would often do lunch in Sam’s office as we worked out the interior layout. Lots of brain time on this. I also did much of the exterior woodwork on Roger’s boat.
Herb did the real tough stuff. Like cutting and fitting all the wood stantions and building the taffrail. Then there was the bowsprit and at that time the solid wood rudder, cheeks and tiller.
Upon reflection Rager’s interior was not the smoothest piece of work which he later informed me.
But it worked and he finished the boat off in his slip down in Dana Point Marina. And then he sailed away. Cool.
More to come.