Monday, February 11, 2013

Vintage vessel, Interlude, has uncertain future

  The Interlude on a happy outing in Mission Bay in this Bruce Keller photo.  

Hark, now hear the sailors cry          
smell the sea and feel the sky
let your soul and spirit fly
                 --Van Morrison

     A floating piece of San Diego history is in danger of sinking.
     Interlude, a beautiful classic wooden boat, long cared for and housed near Mission Bay Aquatic Center, needs money and man hours to restore and maintain her.
    Without those, her sailing days are over.  So a group of sailing buddies who have known and loved the boat for more than 40 years, is rallying to draw attention to her plight.
It's been a while since the classic vessel, Interlude, took to the sea.
 The historic boat is in desperate need of money and restoration.
--Bruce  Keller photo
The 1939 gaff-rigged cat-ketch has delighted hundreds of faculty, students and the public through its long tenure with the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (MBAC).   The center, backed by the Associated Students of San Diego State University and Campus Recreation of University of California San Diego, has kept the classic boat afloat since its donation in 1972.  But it looks as if the Center's two sponsoring organizations are unwilling to continue subsidizing Interlude and her maintenance.
     Enter friends of Interlude, a far-flung group of sailing buddies whose connection to the classic boat goes back decades.  Sailors Bruce Keller and Brad Smith, longtime friends and former colleagues at MBAC, believe that without imminent help, Interlude could be junked. If she were retired from the water, she could be cut up and discarded, losing her historic place in San Diego's heart and history.
     The two old friends developed the Aquatic Center's water-ski program in the early 1970s. Along with several dozen others, they have maintained their friendship and loyalty to Interlude.
     You may have seen this beautiful boat and not known her history and significance. I didn't either, until Keller, my partner and one of Interlude's many devoted "captains," invited me for a sail a couple years ago.  I had the privilege of spending a glorious day on her during a weekend reunion of Aquatic Center faculty.  The sentimental weekend represented, sadly, one of  Interlude's last outings on Mission Bay.
     What a thrill to sail in her! As a cat-ketch, she is rigged as both a catboat and a ketch with a larger mast stepped at the very bow and a smaller mast further aft.  This makes her a striking sight as the wind catches her sails and she moves gracefully through the water.  Her gleaming oak and spruce caught the sun as we lucky sailors relaxed in the spring sun, an occasional spray of salt water gently caressing our heads and faces.  As one mature Interlude fan recalled, "You can sail Interlude dressed casually or gussied up in your nicest clothes.  On Interlude, you always feel you are part of something special."
     At sea, the Interlude's beauty attracts attention.  There are probably less than 10 such sleek, unique boats on the entire West Coast. Through the decades, most recently the winter of 2009-2010, volunteers and former MBAC staff have put hundred hours of work into shoring up the beloved boat.  But her vintage 23-foot wooden hull requires continuing maintenance for, like any grand dame, she is aging. As Interlude's needs increase, do does the need for funds and labor.  The question is how to generate those twin needs.
Bruce Keller and many others have sailed in, helped maintain,
and loved the 1939 Interlude and hope to save her.

 -- Christene  Meyers photo
     Interlude has been kept afloat since she was  donated in 1972 but Smith and Keller estimate that her needs now include at least $30,000 in repairs and $3,000 in maintenance.
     She also needs insurance coverage and someone to commit to overseeing her care.
     At the moment, Interlude is a sad sight, resting under a blue covering smeared with seagull droppings.  She needs lots of TLC to get her up and running and on her way to reclaiming her regal past.
     Lovers of Interlude would like to see her hauled out soon and taken to repair (possibly in the yard of one of the sailing group who loves her and is "repair savvy"). They hope restoration will begin before deferred maintenance takes a larger toll.
    Says Keller, "It would be a shame to lose her.  With her beauty and unique heritage, she's a treasure to the city and the world of sailing."  Keller and others with long ties to the Aquatic Center are phoning and e-mailing in hopes of establishing a non-profit foundation and fund-raising endeavor for Interlude.
    The two old friends and others hope that someone with a love of sailing and vintage vessels might come forth, someone with deep pockets.  Meanwhile, they are exploring options.
     MBAC is the world's largest instructional waterfront facility. Last year over 15,000 participants enjoyed  wakeboarding, sailing, surfing, stand up paddling, waterskiing, rowing, kayaking, and windsurfing.
     Surely, there is someone out there to see that Interlude maintains its place in San Diego sailing lore.
If you can help, contact Bruce Keller at 858 437-4777.

COMING SOON, a pair of Valentines: "The Kiss" sculpture returns to San Diego and an unique mother and sister are remembered with love.

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