Curlew Receives Historic Designation

drogher_2009_11_04On Monday, October 19, the Dana Point Planning Commission approved historic designation for Curlew, a 1926 Schooner moored in the Dana Point harbor. The commissioners started the meeting with a site visit aboard Curlew, adjourned, and then reconvened at the Council Chambers for the remainder of the meeting.

The Historical Society, along with Curlew’s owner, Bob Harrison, advocated for the designation based upon the fundamental historic port character of Dana Point. When Richard Henry Dana sailed from Boston, anchored, and subsequently wrote of Dana Point, he established a clear link between the area and sailing. S.H. Woodruff carried the sailing and nautical theme during the creation of our city in the 1920s. In fact, a 1920s brochure from Woodruff’s personal files includes a tall ship as it illustrates life in Dana Point.

Curlew has been docked in the Dana Point Harbor since 2003 and regularly participates in the Ocean Institute’s Tall Ship Festival. The historic designation is in keeping with two major cities in California, the first being San Francisco with Alma (1891 scow schooner), Balclutha (1886 square rigger), C.A. Thayer (1895 schooner), and San Diego with the Star of India (1863 bark).

Curlew has a rich history. Designed by John G. Alden, Curlew is design #273 B, built at Fred F. Pendleton’s shipyard in Wiscasset, Maine, for Charles Lee Andrews of the New York Yacht Club . Her home port was listed as Pt. Washington, Long Island, in the 1927 Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts. Andrews was also a member of the North American Yacht Racing Union.

In the 1930s, Curlew raced in the New York Yacht Club’s ocean cruising class, competing often in the Newport to Bermuda race, right alongside several other notable schooners including Teragram, Nina, and Mistral. 1937 saw Curlew sold to William Jay Schieffelin, Jr., great grandson of the late William H. Vanderbilt, CEO of W. H. Schieffelin & Co, a Pharmaceutical company founded by his great grandfather in 1794 and member of the New York Yacht club. Bill Schieffelin contracted Alden to redesign Curlew’s sailing rig to a staysail schooner, then in vogue by competitive racers.

On January 31, 1940, Curlew was donated to the Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, New York, where she served as a sail-training vessel and saw coastal submarine patrol duty for the Coast Guard during WWII. In 1944, she was transferred to USCG Group New Haven, Connecticut, where she served as a training vessel. In 1948 she was once again transferred to the USCG Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey.

Curlew returned to private ownership in the 1960s. On Sunday, November 11, 1962, she left Mystic, Connecticut, bound for the Caribbean where she was to go into charter service. Curlew set off in a fresh nor-wester. The storm was the largest low pressure in the area for 40 years. The 56-foot schooner Windfall, which left Mystic at the same time and on the same course to Bermuda, sank. Nine other ships were in distress at the same time as Curlew, and altogether, the sea on this occasion claimed over 144 lives. The crew was rescued by USS Compass Island without injury. Three days later it was reported that Curlew had been sighted. She was located and rescued by Bob Jervisoni, who oversaw her re-fitting at St. George’s harbor in the Virgin Islands.

Shortly after her salvage as best we can ascertain, Curlew was purchased by Carlos Romer, who took her to California. In the early 70s, Carlos and friends sailed Curlew to New Zealand for a complete rebuild and significant change from her original design. Sometime in the early 80s, Curlew was sold once again to Steven King, not the author. We have been told that he sailed her to Hawaii to do inter-Island charters. In the mid-1980s, after a voyage to San Francisco, the well traveled Curlew was found to be in need of extensive repairs. By then, she had been repossessed by a bank and had been placed in dry storage in a Quonset hut. In 1985, Curlew was discovered by Pat and Marlene Russell and shipped to Bainbridge Island, Washington, for repairs. In October 1990, Curlew, after an extensive restoration, began her journey from Bainbridge Island to her new home in Long Beach.

In July 2002, Curlew changed owners once again to her current owner, Captain Robert A. Harrison Jr., who charters her for corporate retreats, sunset cruises, and burials at sea. If you find yourself in the Dana Point harbor behind Wind and Sea, stop by and see this beautifully maintained, historic vessel. Next up for Curlew, with the assistance of the historical society, is to apply for California and the National Historic Register.

2 thoughts on “Curlew Receives Historic Designation”

  1. In the spring of 1972 I was a medical student at MUSC in Charleston, SC starting spring break. The Curlew was then docked there where the new owner, who I did not meet, left the Curlew to fly home to California. I signed on as crew with two other med students to sail to California. I had small boat harbor racing experience as skipper and larger boat ocean racing experience as crew. Two other sailors already on board – skipper and engineer (mechanic). Skipper was a Silicon Valley computer engineer who had decided he would rather sail the world delivering large sailboats to rich owners rather than withering away in a laboratory. Navigation by dead reckoning and daily sextant reading – but everything spot on. Room and board only. I was responsible to get back home on my own when I needed to get back to school. From Charleston to Nassau to Port Royal in Jamaica, off schooner for R & R, as there was no big hurry. Flew home and the Curlew proceeded to the Panama Canal with some new crew. Lots of on board repairs, ripped gullywobbler sail, many things breaking, jury rigging, loss of power, out of gas, little sleep, but one of the greatest experiences of my life. Still have cherished photos.

    1. Mr. Putney:
      Thank you for your reminiscences of your time aboard the Curlew. The Curlew received its historic designation in 2009 and still operates as a charter service in Dana Point harbor should you ever wish to board her again! Curlew Charters 949-922-2759. Max Brown, web editor.

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