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The Passing of a Legend

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Carl Eichenlaub passed away early this morning. In a sport full of iconic figures, he stands with the best and most unique. Few people in the sport have the breadth and depth of his talent.



Any one of his accomplishments would have made him worthy of inclusion in a list of greats. Champion sailor in the Snipe, Lightning, while also sailing in the Star, Soling, FD’s and IOR classes. As a builder of those boats, a few of which helped to change the face of the sport, perhaps most notably Doug Peterson’s “Ganbare”. Friend and mentor to literally thousands of people around the world.



Carl’s boat building skills were legendary. "In many ways Carl is a genius," says Lowell North, a sailmaker who has three times sailed himself to a world championship in Eichenlaub Stars. "Although some sailors on the East Coast may not agree, we on the West Coast know that he is the best.” This quote was from an extensive Sports Illustrated article in 1965, the entirety of which is well worth reading, because it captures the essence of the man, which almost literally never changed. Anyone remember the slogan “Any slob can win in an Eichenlaub”?



Away from the sport he played classical music on a bassoon and contrabassoon with several different local orchestras. He loved the San Diego Chargers and NASCAR and in recent years had taken to traveling to what he called “Dog Regattas”, otherwise known to the rest of us as dog shows, with his wife Jean and their herd of dogs. A graduate of San Diego State in ’53, Carl is a member of the Intercollegiate Sailing Hall of Fame and is an SDSU Distinguished Alumni. He was 83 years old. He passed away quietly with Jean and his children Betty Sue Sherman and Brian close by.



While winning races and building great boats for customers is interesting, of far greater importance is the esteem with which he was held in the sport. Carl was the shipwright for the US Sailing team for decades. He always took care of the US team first every day, but after that work was done he would help sailors from other countries fix their boats. For the sort of service he gave to the sport in 2000 he was awarded US Sailing’s highest honor, the Herreshoff Award.



Many people will have words of tribute for Carl, and we thought it appropriate to start off with what Dennis Conner had to say about him this morning:



"Carl Eichenlaub was truly a genius. He could sail a bath tub down the San Diego river with a sheet as a sail. He built championship boat after champion boat for the Snipe, Lightning and Star class He could play in the orchestra, build a railroad, invent a cedar core spruce star mast, go to the Olympics and not only repair the damaged US boats but help the entire fleet, He could build, paint and launch an ocean racing boat capable of winning the SORC "STINGER", in 30 days from start to finish! All this as well a being a great sailor, winning Championships from Sabot to Snipes to Lightnings. He inspired some of our very best sailors, Lowell North, Pete Bennett, Malin Burnham, Earl Elms in San Diego.. He will be remembered as being one of our greatest sailing talents, along with Lowell, Buddy and Bill Buchan.There will never be another Carl, he was simply the BEST!"


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Wow that is really sad. Carl was both a total character and an amazingly genuine helpful person. He was generous with his time and his knowledge. He will be missed as he added a much needed dose of originality to sport to full of cookie cutter personalities. He will be greatly missed around the waterfront.

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agree. that i even got the chance to be in his world was something i'll always treasure and never forget...

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He was a great guy. I played in an orchestra with him and he showed up to a performance with overspray on his clothes. He was always willing to share his knowledge and answer my pesky questions (I was in my late teens at that time). Condolences to his family.

 

RIP, Carl

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fair winds, Carl...

My heartfelt condolences to the Family -

 

I only had brief encounters with Carl - but he and Jean made you feel very welcome in their company. I remember sailing on Cadenza in SD and at Big Boat Series with the famed welding mitts. Fond memories of a truly one of a kind individual.

 

Cheers,

 

opusone

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Sad times indeed. Dick Velthoen passed away This Wednesday also.

 

really, dick veltheon? jesus, i had no idea. he was a larger than life personality, a helluva sailor and it was good times back in the day with Dick...

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Getting old sucks. :( Fair winds Carl. You will be missed.

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This is a picture that pretty much sums up Carl. One of his long time crew members and very close friends is Bill ("Commodore for Life" of the Lake Erie Lightning District) Neal. Back in '97 Bill took his then young daughter Emily on an Ensenada Race with Carl. They got this shot. Classic.

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May you always have the wind at your back. Another great is gone.. RIP sir.

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My favorite and fastest Lightning was an Eichenlaub. #11373.

 

Condolences to his family.

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Dick Velthoan...wow, total bummer.

 

RIP to this mans family too. I only met Dick once or twice, but it was while we were drinking a beer and he was very nice.

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Carl came across country for the 1996 SPORT pre-Olympic regatta at Saint Petersburg Yacht Club in Florida. He was there, of course, as Boatright.

His ride was a huge Class A RV. As the manager of the Sailing Center I cleared a space for him along the fence. He commenced to put up a big awning and make himself at home. Well, there is NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING on the island where the sailing center is located. The City owns all of it and patrols every night. About dusk along came the patrol guy with a scowl. Carl met him at the front door, wearing his overalls and suspenders, of course. The two of them moseyed around the back of the RV and soon the guard came out again with a big smile on his face holding an envelope. Carl stayed there all week.

Dave Ellis

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06 N2E

 

Some of my Old Sailing Pix

 

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07 N2E

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08 N2E

 

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Sail On - Sail - On - Sailor

 

Great LIFE !!!!!!

 

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Sometime about this time of year in 1991 I was spending a week at the Southern Yacht Club fairing a row of J-22 keels. The Sugar Bowl Regatta was going on and it was early the first day of the event.

I saw two old farts and a pretty woman coming back into the harbor and stopped working to see if they needed help. I asked, "Sailors or equipment??"

They pulled up beside the bulkhead. The woman left in a hurry and one of the guys, sporting a long face, held up the port chain plate.

It was one of those six inch long 3/4 inch wide stainless tangs and all it showed on the bottom part was a couple holes with some epoxy sorta stuck on them.

"Gees guys! It looks like there never was even a bolt through either of those holes. That doesn't make sense. Is the other side the same way? How old is this boat? "

Somebody said, "Brand new today. First time out."

I asked, "Can we call the guys who built it and ask what they suggest? I know I can fix it, maybe even so you can make the next race . I have bolts, caulk, fender washers, and all the right tools in my van but I would feel more comfortable after a quick phone call to make sure I am not screwing anything up with my holes."

One of the old guys started talking. "Nobody is there. I like your solution though. It is pretty much what I had on mind. My wife just rode her bike to the store up the street for materials and I might be coming to get some of those fender washers, bolts, and things you have."

He walked off while the other old fellow and I lifted the boat onto the trailer.

The husband guy came back with a crappy looking box of tools, yanked out a crappy old Dewalt grinder with a metal grinding cup and waved the cord on the air.

I flipped him my extension cord end and he proceeded to mess with a drill bit on that hammered old disc.

He then picked up an equally ugly old drill and climbed in the boat. The bit came flying out about where the chain plate was but the drilling was so effortless I knew he missed the metal.

He drilled again and popped his head out from under the gunwale holding a six inch long metal string. "You don't see a nice piece like that too often do ya?"

I knew that old fart could sharpen a bit !!!

"Don't go too far. I may need those parts!!" He said and dived back to drill the chain plate on the other side.

He came and chatted for a few minutes while waiting for his wife to return and started asking questions about what I was doing.

"The locals like to drag me down here from Austin to fair J-24 keels and now they have a fleet of. J-22s so I am here for a few days. "

"Austin?? That's s long way. Why do they do that?"

"Placebo mostly. My keels win all the Texas Circuit regattas and New Orleans has two regattas on the Texas Circuit and I'm building a new shop in Austin right now so I figured I'd come stay a while, eat good food, and make a few bucks. I was also planning to sail this regatta on my laser but it rained all week and I am out of time."

There was a whole lot of why are you doing this and that and then some VERY good suggestions, some of which I could use and others I only wished I could .... Telling him... "But there is this required one design shape "

.. "Too bad... Then what about???... " more good ideas kept spewing out.

This old fart knew stuff!!

So, she came back and he repaired the boat about as fast as hands can move and I helped them get on the water and shoved the boat off.

 

When the fleet came in I asked the first guy to hit shore if the two old guys and the woman made it back. "Yeah. They ended my one race winning streak."

"Who is the guy steering?"

"Carl Eichenlob. You know. As in, any slob can sail an Eichenlob."

Well no wonder!!

(I tried to fix Eichenlob's boat for him. That had to have been fun for the old guy!! )

I didn't know whether to be embarassed or proud of myself.

As Hap Arnold ( Dr Homer Arnold to non sailors) was the USSailing team doctor who traveled all the same places as Eichenlob and Hap kept his Laser next to mine at Austin YC I had heard plenty of times , "Fred, You would really enjoy this Carl Eichenlob guy. He's a human encyclopedia of boat repair. I like to follow him around at the regattas and get in his way by trying to help."

 

(MY turn!! When I was five years old I spent the week sailing around off to the side of the course watching the National Championship Snipe races at Chautauqua Lake and writing down everybody's sail numbers as they rounded the weather mark, reach mark and as the crossed the finish line. Other kids were Yankee fans. I knew Snioe sailors)

So, I wandered over to where the old guy was in line to pull his Lightning and asked, " How come you let Hutchins and Tillman beat you in the 1958 Snipe Nationals?"... And walked off.

 

 

Sometime after that Carl confessed he built the boat and I had the weekend and Monday after long thrill of listening to somebody who knew way more than I still do as he repeatedly stopped by to check up on my progress.

 

At one point he climbed under each of the trailers and eyeballed each of the five keels and said something about their consistency and, "I can see why they bring you down here from Austin."

 

That still ranks number one through about fifteen on my all time list of best compliments I ever received.

 

Hap stops by my shop a lot and it has been a long time since he first told us, "Carl isn't doing so well. I am afraid we are going to lose him soon."

 

In my little world, number one just died.

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Back in the early 70's the Lightning N.A.'s were held in Chicago and I watched Carl and his crew break their rig on the last beat of the regatta just a couple of hundred yards short of the finish line. They managed to get it back on board and prop up enough mainsail to sail the boat upwind the last couple hundred yards to finish. As I recall, that got them third or fourth in the regatta. The class they showed impressed the hell out of this 15 year old.

 

A few years later, I remember hearing Dick Stearns, head of the US Olympic team telling stories about the '76 Olympic regatta in Kingston. Post Munich security was very tight and teams had to pass through metal detectors at the entrance to the boat park. Carl was the shipwright for the U.S. and Dick was telling about Carl setting off the alarms repeatedly until they unrolled the cuffs of his jeans and emptied out assortment of aluminum shavings, screws, nuts and washers that had accumulated in them. The other story was his solution to the Finn masts failing the flotation test. They needed to float for a specified time and no one was passing. Carl went to a local auto parts store and bought a few gallons of radiator stop leak solution. He filled the spars, rotated them around and pours out the excess. Problem solved.

 

I've since had the privilege of sailing aboard several of Carl's creations, from Lightnings to a Ganbare clone, a cold molded 50 footer and an aluminum 46 footer. All were great boats in their day and each came with it's own Carl story.

 

Godspeed Carl.

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Back in 1982 I had the privilege fo working for Carl in his little shipyard next to the Red Sails on Shelter Island. We built his two storey house boat, lofted and built an aluminum work boat, R & R a few keels on some IOR boats after some modifications Carl style, did some bottoms, polished a few boats and other boatyard stuff, but, the thing that lingers with me, aside from Carl being the most fantastic man I had met with regards to anything marine, was the day we launched a Cat 27 one late afternoon, brand new and just commissioned. We had all of the new boat owners, family and friends in the yard, high heels, fancy clothes, champagne and all. Carl fires up "Lorraine' for the launch, swings the boat to the water and comes back to step the mast. The top whip for mastsetting was jammed up, so out of the cab and up the crane boom goes Carl. Only problem was, he did not have his suspenders on on his well resin infused blue jeans. Well..... about 3/4 way up we found out that Carl was "commando", with jeans at his knees. Onward he climbed with a quick hitchup of his jeans to get the stuck cable. The looks on the ground were priceless. Wish we had cellphones then. Back down comes Carl, like nothing happened, mast up and a happy new boat owner on their way. Later on in the year we sailed the red 'Cadenza' to Hawaii for the Clipper Cup. A really interesting and fun trip, Carl practicing every day with the bassoon, and the picture in my mind of him at the helm on watch with the big old cigar that he would ask me to lightup for him if his hands were full with Cadenza.

 

Carl, the yachting world has lost a legend. Fair winds and following seas.

 

Lyn Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fair winds. Thanks for all you did for us. Ones like yourself come through only once.

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Fair Winds Carl,

The sailing world in general and especially in San Diego will be diminished with your passing.

Sail On!

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Here's a picture from the Lightning 70th Anniversary Regatta in Skaneateles Lake of Carl aboard the fine yacht "Samson", which he built in aluminum. It is electric powered. Bill Neal is also pictured. Bill bought Samson from Carl a few years ago and dragged it across country. Samson can be seen in various Finger and Great Lakes, and will no doubt be at the Canoe Club for the Lightning Worlds in '15.

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Carl enjoyed the 70th as Captain of Samson with his First Mate Peter Huston. Hoss Bone and his wife crewed for me on See Adler, 6983. We finished top five, See Adler was built by Skip Etchell and faired for me by Carl. Carl and Skip built very competitive wood boats in the 60's 70's. "The Pope", Dennis, and several other west coast sailors won Star Championships in Carl's boats But, Carl maintained that Skip never built a dog. One of Carl's Snipes was a dog for sure in Houston.

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I remember with great home watching the hostess at Hoff's Hut, nervous about how to handle the homeless old guy on a Sunday morning. Soon his Cadenza crew came in swept him to their large reserved table.

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My wife also participates in Dog Regattas. I would attend any that didn't conflict with sailing so I could spend the day with Carl in the bleachers or the Bluebird.

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I was just a young 'gremmie' in the Flying Dutchman fleet in San Diego just prior to the 1972 Olympics. As a Navy brat, I was fortunate enough to have 'adopted' an old Navy Sailing Club (Coronado) Flying Dutchman and done a refit and refurbish job on it and was entitled to its exclusive use as the FD racing scene ramped up with the approach of the Olympics. This era was probably the highpoint of the FD and more big name sailors were joining the ranks. Lowell North approached our Navy Club with a deal on a 'gradated set' of five sails that were designed by computer by some upstart named Tom Schnackenberg. I think that set of five was one of Tom's first experiments at North with the computer design and cutting.

 

I was just getting enough experience to be somewhat competitive until the 'Big Guns' like Lowell and Carl decided the FD was where the action was. Carl showed up at the Mission Bay YC Olympic Mid-Winters with a brand new wooden FD that was just stunning in its looks and craftmanship. All us youngsters from the NSC were in awe of the boat and its builder who joked that he had just thrown the new FD together in his spare time to see if he really liked racing in the fleet. His modest boast was probably far closer to the truth than we ever new. Compared to our rag tag Navy fleet of hand me down old war horses (mostly Plastrends) that gleaming varnished woody seemed to fine to ever even put in the water.

 

I was checking out the much advanced rigging details when Lowell wandered by and casually asked Carl where his flotation tanks were. Carl just muttered something about not needing them (and the associated weight) after 20 years or more of sailing far squirrelier dinghies and that he would not be capsizing. Lowell good naturedly warned that the extra waterline length of the FD made it more stable that a 505 or I-14 but to not underestimate the potential for mayhem on a FD. Carl got a bit irritated and said that if he could get an I-14 with no decks around the course that a FD would be like driving a logging truck compared to a sports car. Lowell walked off as he said, 'Yeah Carl, a logging truck going down the mountain with a full load and no brakes...'

 

We got better than usual SD breeze that day with a big NW ground swell, and soon understood what Lowell meant after my first attempted jibe on the crest of a big swell. I was thankful for my flotation tanks after the resulting crash/capsize and I snuffed the spi down the bow chute before jibes the rest of the day and avoided any further time swimming.

 

Back at the docks as we were hauling boats Lowell (who had been in for ages) came out and asked if we had seen Carl as we were among the last finishers. I hadn't and one of the mark boat whaler drivers said that they had seen him capsize late in the last race and had offered Carl a tow in as his deck was awash. We soon saw Carl sailing in with a swamped boat very slowly and stubbornly determined to get back without assistance. Lowell chuckled and went back to the bar.

 

Carl was very non-plussed when he got in and acted like nothing was amiss, but the next morning someone had left a pack of 6 multi-colored cheap T-Shirt shop beachballs in Carl's new boat. No one ever took credit for that generosity but I thought I saw a smile on Lowell's face as Carl stuffed them under the foredeck and aft deck and blew them up before venturing forth for his second day in his new boat.

 

Carl, you were an inspiration to our young gang on Navy wannabe brats. Your legend will live long!

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Had the honor of crewing for Carl in 2001 and 02 Great experience and honor to sail with him as the skipper What a thrill to crank his winches. An honor to have known and been on the same boat with this legend thank you

Sail with the Angels Captain Eichenlob

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Carl was a super guy. He and Jean took myself and a bunch of my roommates on as crew for Cadenza in the mid-80's. We were all east coast transplants looking for a ride after Annapolis. He showed us the pleasures of racing in SoCal almost 30 years ago. Carl was nice to everyone he met.

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Not the news anyone of us wanted to hear.

 

 

PERFECT.

 

 

 

So I sailed with Carl for a long time. And certainly have more stories than I'll ever remember...

 

 

He will be missed.

 

 

I'll try to post some photos.

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What a fantastic person! Carl let me keep my little Luders 16 on the dock behind his shop back in 2001 when I first arrived in San Diego. There was already one there and he made room for mine "just because they look good together." (His words)

RIP Mr E.

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I didn't know Carl but your stories make me wish I had, Thanks to all for your contributions.

 

I expect some of you to place a washer or two in your cuffs or pockets as testaments.

 

Fair winds, Carl, kind sir.

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Any Class that has reached the matronly age of 75 years as the Lightning Class has this year has had many outstanding figures. Carl Eichenlaub is among the highest of these. An International Lightning Champion and Master builder of our boat and our 'square boat' sisters, Star and Snipe he set the standard for wooden boat construction. Before the Great Depression one design boats were large expensive round hulled boats built on molds like the meter boats. Sailing was for the wealthy. The Olympics were sailed in 6, 8 and 12 Meters with only one monotype and it was round too. The Star was the exception, a hard chine boat built around its own frames making it inexpensive to built with limited investment in tooling. A boat that opened the door to the small shop builder like Carl became. With hard times the hard chines made one design racing accessible to everyman. Soon came the Snipe ,Comet and Lightning all cheap boats with the only entry required a boat royalty for a hull number and measurement ticket. For the first US Olympics in 1932 the hard chine Star was selected and the little hard chine Snowbird as monotype. This was a sailing world in which Carl would thrive. After WWII small shops began to compete with the large manufactures of the these boats like Thompson and Dunphy. Builders like Lippincott, Emmons, Nickle& Holman and Olsen could build faster boats by careful building techniques like hard gluing. Being built on there own frames allowed for pushing the tolerances with the easily changed lines in the next build. Carl proved his skill with his 'Billie' then 'Bull', the Lightnings that proved the fastest in the early sixties. A testament to his abilities is his bettering the one of the best, Skip Etchells. Etchells was a trained naval architect(U Mich.) with time with S&S who found the best in the hard chine hull shapes yet Carl's eye proved better with his winning of the 1960 Lightning Internationals.

 

Fiberglass? the Sports illustrated piece sketches a caricature of Carl as a bit of a Luddite content to keep working wood as the world moved to plastic. In truth he is seen in the Lightning Class as a pioneer in the development and acceptance of the fiberglass boat. If you look closely at the photo in the SI piece the Star looks to have a suspiciously shinny tape around the sheer. In fact Carl won the first major Lightning race in a glass boat, the Lightning Winter Championship in St Pete in '64. Carl understood the limitations of glass especially in torsional strength. It wasn't stiff enough to compete with wood. Martin Weir in San Diego had developed a glass roving wrapped foam block that Carl could see as an answer for a rigid core. Weir laid a glass Lightning cored with Rovon Planks in a mold undoubtedly developed by Carl. Carl finished off the boat making for the first Eichenlaub glass Lightning.( Visit us @ Classic Lightning Yahoo Group and check the photo section for pics and info on this and other Lightning history: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Wooden_Lightning/photos/albums/1111206153) Carl went on later to partner with John Mueller in Ohio to develop a truly effective self rescuing fiberglass Lightning. For many years after many of us slobs tried to win with our Eichenlaubs.

 

Carl had the insight that others missed with glass. Wooden boat building could accommodate many builders supplying the boats as it took years to develop the wood working skills needed and the supply was limited. That model would not work with glass. Sailing now could return to round hulls that now had the advantage of inherent rigidity compared to flat hard chine panels in fiberglass. What was once the cheap way to build now became the more expensive with the required internal structure and/or coring. As Dolly opined " ... takes a lot of money to look this cheap.". Now with glass the barrier to entry was down to a bucket & and a brush. Anyone cook up a 'design' and with little skill hop in, anyone with a weeks training could now be a boat builder. By 1968 there were a dozen shops offering glass Lightnings but in little more that a decade it would be down to two. Carl had the prescience to see the future was in yard service and one offs.

 

Carl will be missed but will always be with us sailing our square boats.

 

Corky Gray

 

Historian ILCA

Clayton Gray

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Carl, skipper on my Lightning See Adler 6983, at the at Master North Americans at his beloved Buffalo Canoe Club in Canada.

He loved it, because of the warm water of Lake Erie. San Diego water temp 59 degrees.... Lake Erie was 78 degrees!

We stayed at Tom Allen crew's home on the bay.... Larry & Paula Bone 's.

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One Newport to Ensenada race we had a rather difficult delivery due to some engine cooling issues. We ended up fabricating a gravity feed system in Newport before the start to keep things going.

 

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Carl took his dog agility regatta duties very seriously. He was the "dog butler", bringing the dog to me at the ring about 15 minutes before we ran. As dog and I warmed up he would watch the other competitors. Then as we were headed into the ring he provided last minute strategy tips. Anyone listening was instantly confused as I was told to be sure and take the purple jump to port. Our dogs all know what "hit the head" means, most other dogs are taught to potty.

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I'm digging all the stories and pics. More please. And while I know Ex might not want any more chicken, I beg him to post at least the same number of his pics of Carl + Ex, as were posted by DA. For clarification, not the total # of pics posted by DA, only the ones with Ex in them. I especially like stories that involve sailing and bassons, and sailing and crazy broken boat stuff.

 

RIP Carl. Cadenza Coffee anyone?

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So the last boat Carl built was a Duckboat for a very well known east coast sailor. The shop had moved up to the house on Pt. Loma by then but I really enjoyed stopping by when I could and seeing how things were going.

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