It was expected to be one of the largest gatherings of Whalers on the West Coast: the 2017 Boston Whaler Rendezvous in Santa Barbara, California. More than 40 people on 19 boats had signed up to attend. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.
On Saturday, May 6, the group woke up to a weather forecast that included 15 to 25-knot winds with local gusts to 35 knots, combined seas of 7 to 10 feet, and a chance of showers. Despite the conditions, a hardy group of 9 Boston Whalers — ranging in size from 170 Montauks to a 27′ Revenge — headed out of Santa Barbara Harbor that morning in search of adventure and camaraderie.
That afternoon, a little damp but no worse for the wear, the group gathered at Moby Dick, a popular restaurant on Sterns Wharf, for a lively meal of seafood and seafaring tales that stretched long into the evening.
By the time Sunday rolled around, the marine forecast had worsened considerably, with gale-force winds, rain, thunderstorms and even the possibility of waterspouts predicted along the coast. As organizer Bill Hopper recalls, “Apparently the only natural threat we didn’t face was that of a tsunami!”
The organizers decided to play it safe and cancel Sunday’s fishing tournament. Still, the group headed home from the Rendezvous with Whaler hats, T-shirts, catalogs and raffle prizes, along with renewed enthusiasm for next summer’s gathering.
As for Bill, he also went home a local hero. He recounts the tale of his unexpected rescue mission that weekend:
I was motoring my 1998 Boston Whaler 19′ Sentry outside the Santa Barbara harbor on Saturday morning, when I happened to notice an outrigger canoe with a crew of six in heavy seas between me and the breakwater. The canoe appeared to be very low in the water and so I turned in their direction to get a better look.
I discovered that their outrigger canoe had capsized and all six people were in the water, holding onto the sides of the canoe. They had been attempting to bail out the canoe, but each time they scooped out a bucket of water, a wave would break over them, filling it again.
I pulled up alongside their canoe and asked them to climb aboard my boat and get out of the cold water before they started suffering from the effects of hypothermia. Coincidentally, my 19’ Sentry has a maximum capacity of seven people — and that is exactly the number we had onboard.
We decided to side-tie the 45’ outrigger canoe to my boat and then tow it back to the harbor. The crew of six were all sitting on the starboard side of the Whaler, securing lines to their canoe. We were keeling over sharply and taking water over the transom that was filling the stern of the boat. A very concerned crew member turned to me and said, “Your boat’s sinking!”
I reassured her that this was a Boston Whaler, with a swamped capacity of 3,000 pounds, and it cannot sink.
Then I asked if three of the crew members would kindly move over to the port side just to balance the boat a little better. Admittedly, we were sitting low in the water, but we motored back to Santa Barbara Harbor without further incident.
As we approached the beach that same concerned crew member turned to me and said, “Well, I guess we got the right boat to rescue us!”
Once again, my thanks to Boston Whaler for making the best boat afloat!!