Recollections of Brooks Barnhill, a Previous Owner

Dear Mr. Rohrer,

Steve Osterman, asked me to write you about my experiences with Pirate. I hope you will forgive my typing etc. In all my 25 plus years of racing sailboats, Pirate, stands out as the most enjoyable memory I have. I first saw Pirate, in 1964, at a marina in San Pedro. I had just gone work as a yacht salesman for a well-known yachtswoman and broker named Peggy Slater. Among her many listings was a 40 ft. sailboat called Pirate, with a price tag of $12,000. I remember hiking out to where she was moored to see what she looked like. She had a full canvas cover and it was a big job to get enough off her to see what we had. I was impressed. Her teak work was beautiful, her teak decks were bleached & her cabin and combing shone with many coats of varnish. She had been well cared for.

The disappointment set in when I went below. It was like a dark cave and it took me awhile to get my vision back. There were only 2 bunks, an exposed head, no galley and no engine or headroom. I realized that Pirate was strictly a racing boat, an old one at that. The $12,000 price tag would be almost impossible to attain. In those days you could get a good used sailboat with all of the amenities for that kind of money Pirate had been on the market for over a year when Merritt Adamson, called me at the office. He wanted to know if we had any action on Pirate. I had to tell him no and the reason why. He was a very nice man and understood the problem and decided to drop the price to $8,000.

Shortly after my talk with Merritt, I showed the boat to man with a large family and a small pocket book. He offered $4,000, which I thought, was an insult for such beautiful yacht but I submitted anyway and to my surprise, Merritt took the offer. When I called the buyer and told him his offer had been accepted, he backed out of the deal. When I called Merritt and told him what happened he was disappointed and I told him that he was selling too cheap anyway. He had just bought a new Cal 40 and just wanted want to get rid of Pirate. Out of the blue I told Merritt, that I would buy her for that price so that?s how got to own such a great boat. My purchase was subjected to a marine survey which I had done by one of the best surveyors around and also good friend. This 38-year-old boat was surveyed in the water toward the end of 1964, and the only thing the surveyor could find wrong was little dry rot in the top of the cabin about the size of dime. There were no broken ribs or any thing else wrong with her. The surveyor told me that Pirate was one of the finest built yachts he had ever surveyed.

At the time I bought Pirate, I had never heard of an R boat or knew anything about the great R boat racing that went on back in roaring 2Os. I got a lot of history from a friend of mine whose father had been a paid racing skipper against the great and famous, Matt Walsh. He told his son that if it were not for having Pirate to race Matt Walsh, would be an unknown today. I met Matt Walsh, back in the early 6Os, when I was racing My Thunderbird sloop and I won the Matt Walsh trophy race. He was a very nice man to talk to but we did not talk about R boats or any of his exploits.

The first race I had with Pirate was L.A. Mid Winters in 1965. I was racing with a pick up crew, consisting of a good non-sailing friend and dockworker who happened by at the time. The sail inventory was an almost new Watts Dacron main, 2 blown out cotton jibs and an almost new nylon spinnaker. I did not have much hope of doing anything in the race but I just wanted to be there in the biggest race of the year. The class they put Pirate in was a handicap based on waterline, sail area and overall length. This class was called Pacific H handicap racing fleet and consisted of older boats or any boat that did not compete in the R class. We sailed down through the L.A. Harbor to the starting area where there about a 100 boats milling around all different classes. We had about an hour before our start so I put my crew through some tacks and we ate our lunch and watched the other classes take off. While we were messing around I figured our course to the first mark and discovered that the mark could be layed on port tack. When it was our turn to start all of our fleet were lining up for a starboard start. We lay back with our sails luffing and watched the whole fleet sail by. We were the last boat across the line on port tack and laying the mark very well. The only fly in the ointment was ahead of us was a 6 meter also on port tack and sailed by one of best skippers in the LA Harbor. He waved to me and pointed down the harbor at all the other boats that were over sailing the mark just as fast as their boats could go. The 6 rounded the mark about 100 yards ahead of us and fell off on a close reach toward the harbor entrance. It was about mile to the entrance so when we got around the mark we took off after him. We were on starboard tack and sailed through our fleet that were coming up to mark on port. We had great fun causing chaos among them. It was obvious that Pirate was the faster boat, at least on a reach. We caught the 6 at the entrance to harden up for long beat to the next mark. The 6 was pointing higher and going faster to weather than we could go. I decide that with our blown out jib and green crew that we would make long sweeping tacks instead of short-taking with 6 and it worked We kept crossing his transom all the way to the mark. The 6 rounded the busy just ahead of us and put up his spinnaker. The wind had picked up by now to about 18 knots and I was not about trust my crew to put ours up. I don?t think it made that much difference, Pirate was at hull speed and was staying right with the 6. We could never get around the around the 6 and he crossed the finish line about 5 seconds ahead of us. It was a two boat race all the way the rest of the fleet were fighting out for third. It turned out that that 6 had to give us time so we won first place in the first race. The next day the race course was the same but the other boats were little smarter this time and Pirate had to sail through the whole fleet to finish 2nd corrected to 4th. We won the class A in fleet by ¼ of a point over the 6-meter.

After the race we put Pirate to bed and went back the clubhouse to wait for the results. That is when I first met Sharon Adamson. She came running up to me all excited about Pirate being in the race. I thought it was a little strange that she cared so much about Pirate when her husband was racing his Ca1 40 that day also. That is when I learned that she was Ted Geary?s daughter. She was able to fill me in on Pirates past history which I am sure she has already told you. When they announced that we had won first place, Sharon, jumped up and put her arms around me gave a big hug, she really loved that boat.

I owned Pirate for over two years and during that time I picked up a couple of partners. They also love pirate and did a good job of keeping her up. Her paint had started peeling (paint sick) so we had her hauled and spent the weekend stripping her down to bare wood. Her mahogany hull was perfect. We thought about leaving her natural but we did not want to take the time to completely strip her so just had painted white. The only things I had done to Pirate, was put lifelines and pulpits on her, which were required for offshore racing. I had the forward hatch enlarged. When I got her she had a small round hatch that only a small child could get in. I also added a speedometer, which read to 9 knots. We pegged that many times. The company that I worked for at this time was dealers for 3 lines of fiberglass boats and they wanted me to race their boats instead of Pirate. So with heavy heart I sold her to some clown from Marina Del Rey, and I never saw her again. I heard that she had lost her mast and now had an aluminum spars. I also heard that she had an inboard engine Steve race with me several times around Catalina Island, and a lot of harbor racing. I think that is where he got his love of sea.

My wife and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on the Queen Mary. Steve showed up with a framed full size copy of the framing plans for Pirate and all the magazines about what you are going to do with her. I was very touched, at his gesture. I wish you a lot of good luck with your project and if you need any more information about Pirate call me or drop me a line.


Brooks Barnhill