Larry, Linda Curtis

Linda and Larry on board Band Wagon with the Avalon Casino in the background.

Last June, Long Beach lost our own Mr. Music Man, Larry Curtis. He led the Long Beach Municipal Band for summer concerts for 27 years and was Cal State Long Beach State's conductor of bands for 25 years. The world loved him for his musical gift, but few knew he was an experienced yachtsman.

The Curtises' elegant 49-foot DeFever-designed yacht built in 1985 is on the market, and according to his widow Linda (a music teacher herself), the sale is bittersweet. But it is a reminder of Larry’s love of the sea and the more than 20,000 miles that the Curtises’ sailed together. There were countless trips to Catalina and many voyages deep into Mexican waters.

Larry made two treks sailing to Hawaii, one on a 33-foot sailboat, and later in 1983 on a 50-foot wooden sloop. Linda and Larry took 15 days to get there, they spent 6 weeks enjoying the islands and the journey home took 20 days.

They navigated old school using the stars — celestial navigation, taking noontime sun stops using a sextant and they plotted their course in pencil so they could adjust with the conditions.

They fished. One trip they were trolling and hooked a couple of tuna on their lines when a huge killer whale came alongside, looked at them with his big eye and proceeded to steal the tuna the Curtises had caught. Afterwards, almost as a symbolic act of gratitude — the whale dramatically breeched and was on his way.

Linda shared that the couple survived some major storms at sea and Larry never lost his composure.

“He was so talented at troubleshooting issues, reaching solutions and fixing things," she said. "We were totally self-reliant at sea. It is character building. I had total trust we would be safe.”

When the couple first purchased the 49-foot boat, it was named Beluga. The duo cruised from Sausalito to Long Beach in three days, straight through, learning the on-board systems along the way. Friends suggested names for the boat like Maestro — and one of their earlier boats was named Rhapsody — but Band Wagon just seems right for this boat that has such a commanding presence.

Often traveling with their two miniature schnauzers, the couple spent many holidays on board, with Thanksgiving dinners prepared in the galley and they would decorate for Christmas with a tree on board.

The one thing Linda won't sell with Band Wagon is the ship’s clock. The clock was a tradition for Larry and Linda — it was on board every boat they had. When Larry first acquired the stroking clock as a new boater, it seemed to work just fine. It chimed 8 times at 8. But then it started to do strange things like chime twice at 5.

Larry took it to a repair shop and was almost embarrassed to learn that’s how a ship’s clock works. Mariners have used a unique bell code to tell time at sea for hundreds of years that tracks the 4-hour watch system.

Listing agent Kurt McClintock tells me there is a serious buyer from Seattle who plans, if it all works out, to take the boat north and live aboard her. No worries, McClintock has another client with a DeFever on her way from French Polynesia for anyone who missed “jumping on the Bandwagon.”

McClintock explained the yacht designer’s popularity: “Arthur DeFever spent his early years designing commercial tuna clippers for the San Diego fleet. In the early 1960s, Arthur joined the Offshore Cruising Society, who retained him to design a series of seaworthy cruising powerboats in the 38- to 54-foot length that would have sufficient range to make the long runs up and down the Pacific coast into Mexico or to Alaska. Many were constructed in Santa Barbara of wood, while others were built with steel in Mexico.”

Special thanks to yacht surveyor Frank Lawson for sharing the idea of this story. “My grandson Taylor, my assistant and myself were truly honored to have surveyed his beloved boat," Lawson said. "Larry was the most gracious, positive man I have ever met. A true gentleman.”

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