This week’s boat memory comes from Naples resident and trademark/patent attorney Vern Schooley and his Columbia 34 Adversary that he co-owned with maritime attorney Tom Vyse.
In 1973, Vyse convinced Schooley to go in with him on a sight unseen auction bid for a brand new 34-foot masthead sloop that had sustained some “minor” transport damage.
Their low-ball bid won, and the winners and their entourage headed to the Newport yard.
Upon arrival, Schooley was stunned by the severity of the destruction: “The huge batteries had gotten loose on the interior when the boat fell off the cradle on the 405 Freeway and seemed to have plummeted from one side to the other, exploding holes in the hull on both sides and spraying acid about all the upholstery on the interior.”
After some shrewd negotiations and clever legal maneuvering by Schooley, Dick Valdes, president of Columbia yachts, offered the legal duo a new hull and deck so they could transfer all the equipment over including the engine. For the next six months, a shipyard sole proprietor worked moving and installing the rigging and gear to the new hull, making the 34-foot sailboat shipshape.
Schooley never had a sailing lesson. But as a graduate engineer, he knew the theory for aerodynamics and fluid dynamics. He enlisted his law partner, Pete Utecht, to skipper the boat up from Newport Beach to a slip at the Portofino.
Jeff Severson, an experienced sailor home from the Washington Redskins football team for the summer, offered to help Vern on the first cruise. Schooley explained, “It was of some concern that two hours later we still had not cleared the jetty. I then looked up and noticed that the boom was still tethered to the backstay.”
It turned out that Severson’s experience was limited to a Sabot sailing in Alamitos Bay.
Schooley noted inviting Severson along always was an adventure because you never knew he would bring along — movie stars, television actresses, or famous athletes. Vern claimed that Jeff was an enthusiastic sailor, good foredeck hand, and always ready for a sail and particularly a party.
One weekend he invited along all the coaches from Long Beach State football, including Wayne Howard, Sam Moore, and George Deukmejian’s partner Don Dyer. Schooley arrived at 5:30 a.m. and found the guys already there, having arrived from some overnight bar and ready for a Catalina sail.
It was a weekend no one will forget — especially the harbor patrol and shore boat that witnessed the four attempts to pick up a mooring and heard about the six 360° circles the vessel did mid-channel. One Tuesday night, Schooley persuaded the attractive waitresses and bartender from Lombardo’s restaurant at Ocean and Linden to join his friends on a sail. They left the dock at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, provisioned with Lombardo’s booze, and ran out of gas coming back from the oil islands. Schooley put up the sails and about halfway down the jetty they ran out of wind. He managed to coax the boat into the slip about 5:30 a.m.
“Tom Vyse and I had an ideal partnership," Schooley said. "I liked to party with my buddies and take the boat out, sometimes not leaving it in pristine shape when we returned. Tom and his then girlfriend Dolores loved to just visit the boat in the slip, Long Beach YC, relax on board with some munchies and wine, and maybe clean up some of my residuals.”
Adversary today is in Alamitos Bay Marina across from San Pedro Fish Company, and spends her time doing charity work. Thanks Vern, for sharing the story, due to space, I wasn’t able to include many of the juicy details — so I’m sure many readers will ask to hear them directly from you.
I encourage readers to share their boat stories for future column- email me at Jo@JoVenture.com.
Special thanks to Mike Elias, Rick Ruppert, and Mac Chappelear for alerting me to the passing of Gary Scott Miltimore. He was a gifted artist, sailor, and Gangway 5 friend of mine.