Because because because…

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As early as I can remember I wanted to be either in, on, or by the water. Undoubtedly I inherited this from my father. We never had a boat, but Dad had quite a few friends with boats and he took every opportunity to get out on the ocean.

One of Dad’s friends was Ralph Larrabee, owner of the 161-foot schooner Goodwill, and I recall Dad taking many trips aboard her. For me and my brothers, the idea of going out on the ocean on a big sailboat captured our imaginations, and fueled by Gardner McKay and Adventures in Paradise, we begged to go sailing on the Goodwill. Finally an opportunity came up, and I was beyond excited when our whole family was going to sail to Catalina Island aboard her. I fantasized about our grand sailing adventure for weeks. Then someone chartered the Goodwill for the same time period and our trip was cancelled. I think I was six or seven, and it was the first huge disappointment of my life.

As time went on, more trips aboard the Goodwill came up, but not for me. They were all “guy trips.” I was “too young,” and I was “a girl.” My brothers, four and five years older than me, got to go with Dad. I got to stay home with overly protective Mom and Grandma, and when they got back I had to listen to all the fun and adventures they had. I wanted to go so bad.
I remember when my Dad and brothers left on one particular trip to Catalina on the Goodwill, Mom and Grandma felt bad for me so they took me to Disneyland as consolation. I had fun, but it just wasn’t the same. My big adventure was getting stuck on Dumbo in a downpour. My brothers caught flying fish, rented bicycles to ride all over the hills of Avalon, and experienced a real adventure.

They did bring me back a souvenir – a small tiki head carved out of wood with sparkley green glass eyes that hung from a leather cord I could wear around my neck. It probably cost all of 25 cents back then, but I loved that thing and wore it everywhere, even to Sunday School with the frilly dresses I hated. It represented the exotic island I was dying to see and the sailing adventures I wasn’t allowed to go on because I was “too young” and I was “a girl.”

Grandma took pity on me and one fog-soaked Saturday morning we boarded the Big White Steamer for Catalina. I remember how excited I was watching the mainland disappear behind us. I loved being out on the ocean even though we couldn’t see where we were going for most of the trip. As we closed in on the island the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I finally got to see what I’d heard so much about and I wasn’t disappointed. We walked around town, took a couple of tours, and way too soon boarded the Big White Steamer back to the mainland. It fueled my desire to go back, but I wanted to sail there on the Goodwill.
My fantasy of the grand sailing adventure was shipwrecked when I was around 13. Ralph Larrabee called Dad and asked him to fly down to Cabo San Lucas and help him bring the Goodwill back up the coast. Apparently there had been a falling out; his professional captain had quit and he needed experienced crew. Dad couldn’t get the time away from work and had to decline. From what we understood later, Ralph rounded up some inexperienced crew in Cabo and headed out. The Goodwill ran aground on the Sacramento Reef and was destroyed. There were no survivors. Weather was not an issue and since Ralph was known to “tip a few,” speculation was that the cause was too much partying and not enough attention to course and proper watch keeping. Whatever the case, my dad felt guilty about it. Always the responsible type, he believed that if he’d been aboard it wouldn’t have happened. Of course, we had the scary thought that if he had been aboard, we might have lost him to the Sacramento Reef too. In hindsight, that would have been preferable to the horrors of Alzheimer’s that set in a few years later. I know Dad would have preferred it.

Fast forward about 10 years: I was no longer “too young,” being a girl was definitely not a liability and I lived a block from the ocean. I found myself getting jealous hearing about a friend’s frequent sailing adventures. She worked for a huge aerospace company which sponsored numerous clubs for their employees, one being the sailing club she belonged to. When I commented on how much fun it sounded, she said words that changed the course of my life: “You don’t have to work for TRW, anyone can join.” Okay, so that doesn’t sound very profound, but it opened a door at just the right moment. Thank you Rosanne. I was at the next meeting and signed up for their basic sailing class. A week or so later I met a guy in a bar and we hit it off. He thought sailing lessons sounded fun. We learned together, and several years later we got married (yes Virginia, you can meet your future husband in a bar) and moved aboard our own sailboat with the intention of eventually going cruising.

That was 31 years ago. I’ve been making up for being “too young” and “a girl” ever since. It’s been 31 years of sailing adventures, some grand, some not so much, but almost all of them a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t begin to count the number of sails to Catalina Island which I’ll never grow tired of. We crossed a big chunk of the Pacific with friends and I got to see real Polynesian tikis. We did the Baja bash and I listened for waves crashing on the Sacramento Reef as we passed during a night watch, my mind wandering back to Dad and the Goodwill.

We are now doing the final (?) refit on our boat, a 1965 Cheoy Lee yawl named Because, in preparation for THE grand sailing adventure. When we cut the docklines it will be for good, with no schedule and no return date. It’s taking a lot longer than we anticipated and we still have another year+ to go. In the future I will be updating you on our projects: what we’ve done and what we’re working on, what we wish we’d done different, and the misadventures along the way (there’s always a few ;^) .

43 COMMENTS

  1. Your post brings back some special memories for me. My uncle worked for Ralph Larrabee and eventually became one of the vice-presidents. He and my aunt had several opportunities to sail on the Goodwill with the Larrabees. Although I never sailed on her, I did have an opportunity to go out on their yacht before they had the Goodwill. For a young girl who had never been on a yacht before, this was a very special experience. I do have 3 shelves from the Goodwill. They belonged to my uncle and eventually came to me. They are mahogony and carry the Goodwill logo. Thank you for this glimpse back to a special time in my life.

    • I ran across your post while researching articles about the Goodwill. My son has often asked me about a painting and pictures of the Goodwill that hang in my office so I wanted to find information on the web about the ship which is limited. I have great memories of visiting the ship while sitting at anchor in Avalon Harbor as I had family aboard often, including during the ill-fated Mexico trip. As a teen, the ship was a wonderland of rope, sail gear, equipment and mystery. Ralph Larrabee was a master seaman / sailer who enjoyed visits by young interested future sailors and was quite willing to show and teach after his morning stupor wore off. Or, maybe take a group on a water skiing excursion around Avalon behind one of the small powerboat dingys. I was too young to experience the ship under full sail or in grand racing form but I did make short trips aboard including one down the California and Mexican coasts a few years before it's last voyage. A grand ship indeed.

      • I most likely have information and even five beautiful original paintings , prints available, contact me for a
        Look and prices. Need more information and memories from all Goodwill friends and family for a
        Production in progress.

    • My dad, Joe Chastek, sailed on the Goodwill in the Transpacific Yacht Races in 1953. I was on the ship one time, as a kid, and marveled at the size and beauty of it. The teak decks and the huge kitchens! Unbelievable. Dad was supposed to go with Ralph when they took the trip to Baja, but he chose to go to a college graduation instead….thankfully!

  2. I invite those of you that have remembered the Goodwill to contact me in efforts to identify crew member of the 1953 Shakedown prior to the Traspac Race. The Pictures are of crew members on the Goodwill taken by my Uncle Al Larrabee older brother of Ralph Larrabee.

      • After many years, I am ready to give you the rest of the story about "Goodwill" and the bad will owner. I was crew on the 1959 Transpac challenge and returned the ship to Newport Beach. What a ride it was with a flaming drunk jerk in charge. I am preparing my memories presently and also to hope finding my old shipmates. She was a fine ship with a drunken fool on the helm.

      • aloha Jerry,
        I was one of the fifty crew on board "Goodwill" in the 1959 Transpac Races. I would like to locate a video of the 53&59 races. I am also interested to write and document those years including the ultimate grounding on Sacramento Reef.

      • Aloha Jerry,
        I am in desperate need of those two crew rosters If you would kindly fax copies to me at (808)) 889-1637
        Or mail to pobox 126 Kapaau, Hawaii 96755. I am working on a reunion specifically for crew, families and friends, hopefully in May.

    • Aloha, yes I was crew on the 1959 Transpac and can spin you quite a yarn. The son of a bich locked me up in the gorilla cage that contained seat ores (brig) . For a week because I sent a false ETA to my girlfriend. He demanded that the returning crew from Transpac 59 replace all racing sails an d gear to his rusty stained and soiled cruising gear while being held hostage seaward of Bird Rock, Catalina Island for a few days. I have a bunch of photos and tales to tell about this jerk, Larrabee.
      I would like to join a re-union of those left of us from that 1959 return sail from Honolulu to eventually Newport Beach, California. Sail into the flaming sunset of Hell, Ralph.

  3. I was reminiscing, thinking about my dad, and decided to google schooner goodwill and see if there's anything new out there about the ship my dad went down on. Walt Zaiss, my dad, was the engineer on board. He had crewed for Ralph on several trips; the best being the Kit Peak Tahiti voyage. My mom got to go on that one but alas, I was in school. I don't know who Ms. Morgan's father is but I remember that Ralph's friends loved crewing for him and the navigator, who I think was also on the Tahiti trip and whose name I can't remember, couldn't get to the boat when Ralph wanted to leave so Ralph did the navigating on the last voyage. What we were told was that he was licensed and was a good navigator but that it had been some time since he charted a course and he failed to account for the large swell, which pushed Goodwiil onto the reef.

  4. The poster above me…(Kathy)..is my mom, lol. Strange to bump into her here searching for information on the schooner my grandfather died on. I wish there was more readily available info out there with pictures and details about the men who served and died with him. If anyone has any more information, please post a reply here.

      • Aloha Jerry,
        I was a crew on Goodwill's 1957 TRANSPAC race attempting to break Morning Star record crossing of 8 days plus a few hours. We didn't accomplish a record , however we were the first boat across the line in 10 days plus. I was 21 years old at that time and it will always be a bittersweet memory for me. In my 78 years, most of it sailing, the adventure will never happen again, at least for me.
        Yes, I would love to receive any and all information that you will send me. I am almost ready to make available "The rest of the story"including little known events and other interesting tales from the deep.

  5. The legend of the grand old lady Goodwill is still alive. She was my home for the trip to Tahiti. Also enjoyed Dave Archers article about his from Kauai to S.F. At the time I was working for Milt Reynolds in Marina del Rey at the time and heard all of the stories.

    • Wow, you were on the Tahiti trip? You'll remember my dad, Walt Zaiss. He went down on the ship & was the engineer on the Tahiti trip. You'll remember my mom, Dot, on the trip also. Special ship. But I've found a lot of errors in Dave Archer's remembrances. The time frames just don't add up. I know where the Goodwill was before & after the Tahiti trip. I remember a Doug crewing, the son of friend of Ralph's, but I thought he died.

  6. Where can I see photos of Goodwill? For some reason I awoke today from sketchy dreams of my time spent working on her while she was in drydock being prepared for the Tahiti trip–back around 1965, I think. I had taken a summer job at L&M Machine, owned by Larrabee, as a machinist helper. One thing led to another and I was helping rebuild pumps, generators and the engine aboard the Goodwill. The job lasted several weeks. I was just out of high school, and I should have jumped at the opportunity to help crew her on the Tahiti trip, but I had a girlfriend that I was afraid to lose (Of course I lost her anyway), so I didn't go. One of my greatest regrets. During her time in drydock in either Long Beach or San Pedro, the ship's captain lived aboard. He was a stern-faced older gentleman of Norwegian heritage. He had little patience for the endless questions from a young man like me. I'll never forget him correcting me on multiple occasions when I referrred to Goodwill as a boat, that "This ship is not a boat! You can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat."

    • I sure would like to meet you somehow. We need you for our present search for information.
      FAX 1-808-889-1637
      PS his name was FINK AND HE COULD SPLICE CABLE AND ROPE TOGETHER WITH PERFECT RESULTS.

    • Hey, my dad was the engineer on the Tahiti trip. You missed a good one. My mom was on that trip, too, and they told us stories about that cranky captain. You should've seen her when she docked in San Diego. Months at sea really took a toll. You would've cried. My dad went down on her in Baja.

  7. My uncle, Bernard ( Bernie ) Stark was one of the crewpersons aboard when she went down. He was a builder/developer, as well an as experienced sailor. He started & owned Dana Point Boat & Sports ( original off the highway in San Juan Capistrano ) & was one of the first Thunderbird & Boston Whaler dealers.

    As I remember, his remains were finally identified by dental records. Anyone know if the wreck is still there?

    Greg Stark

    • Greg, my late father knew Bernie very well as he almost joined them for that sailing adventure. My father finally declined to go because he didn't want to mess up his hunting season down in Baja. My father was Bernie's banker at the time as he was the Assistant Manager at UCB (United California Bank) in Laguna Niguel (Monarch Bay Plaza). Just before my father passed away (2014) we were telling stories about the old days. He had told me that Bernie was kind of upset for not going with him as he really liked my father. I do remember Bernie's wife (Eileen or Elaine sp???) having long talks with my father every night shortly after this event happened. I think that the address for his business was 34091 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point. I also remember that there was discussion of a Boston Whaler boat that was aboard the ship and those were almost indestructible. I don't believe that the Boston Whaler was ever found. I also knew Bernie's son Barry as he was a few years older than me and lived in San Clemente for a while. There was a newspaper article a few weeks later in which one or two bodies were located by divers at Scammon's Lagoon. This was further south and the natural ocean currents could of carried them there. The divers took photographs however they left the bodies on the shore. The bodies were gone shortly after that due to the tide. I am not sure if this was your uncle's body. I never followed the story very closely after that. Jay

      • Hey Jay, all the life boats were accounted for. The early reports thought one was missing but it was just obscured. It gave us all hope for awhile because my dad was on the boat. He was an excavating & grading contractor in San Clemente, a friend of the Goodwill's owner, Ralph Larrabee and crewed as the engineer on the Tahiti trip. My mom got to go on that one. My dad invited Bernie and Gerry to go down to Baja & bring the boat back to Catalina. Of course they jumped at the chance. And I believe a 3rd man went. That might have been your dad's spot. The man who crewed as the navigator, I think his name was Harry, knew the ship as good as anyone. He flew down to the reef and checked it out. The seas were high. The ship's keel came down on the reef and she broke in half, right about where my dad's stateroom was. It was very violent. Two were on deck, most likely the pilot and a lookout (some good that did) & they were likely the 2 found in the water. There were a lot of strange stories coming out. We heard about the bodies at Scammon's but were told probably not connected. The water is horribly rough right there & it took quite a while before divers could go on her. They found that the currents had ripped the huge cast iron stove & the huge oak table on iron struts out of the ship. It wasn't likely that bodies survived enough to end up on the beach. I graduated from San Clement H.S. & worked for awhile for a dentist in Monarch Bay Plaza. Although it was heartbreaking, at least my dad died doing something he loved

    • Thanx Jay. According to the last and many conversations with cousin Barry, they did find the Whaler dashed up on the rocks some distance away. The conclusion was that Bernie & ?? others went for it, motor or not as it was the safest bet at the time. As the story goes, a prospector/tourist later found a piece of material sticking out of the sand. It ended up being remnants of a jacket cousin Barry had given to Bernie for the trip. Further dental record inspection showed the remains to uncle Bernie.

      • Hello Barbara, I'm Kathy Zaiss Vaughan. It was my dad, Walt, who invited Bernie & your husband to join him in bringing the boat back from Baja. That was a very difficult time for all of us. The horrible waiting just to find out where the Goodwill was, the reports of life boats missing, etc. There was no storm but the seas were running high. Ralph was a licensed navigator but failed to allow for the high seas. So the ship was pushed onto the reef, it wasn't pirated and all the boats were accounted for. My info was that water would have been 1 person at the wheel & 1 lookout. I didn't realize that there was an autopsy performed.

    • Sure, what's left of her remains for many years to come. I am soon sending a detective friend of mine to
      Help re open the file on this disaster. Personally, I believe that it was Piracy, and bloody murder. Remember,
      " DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES " please join me with my search for more evidence.

    • I just saw your post. My dad, Walt Zaiss, contractor in San Clemente, was Ralph Larrabee's friend and crewed as his engineer. He recruited Bernie & Gerry Comstock to go to Baja and crew the boat back. I'll never forget the weeks of waiting for news after the ship didn't make Ensenada. When the coast guard said a boston whaler was missing we just knew that our guys got off the boat and were on shore somewhere. Such a hard time for all of us. But there was no foul play. Ralph had a navigator's license but he didn't account for the high seas which pushed the ship into the reef.

    • Hi Greg, my dad, Walt Zaiss, a contractor in San Clemente, was the man who recruited your uncle & 2 others to go down & help sail Goodwill back to Catalina. My dad was a friend of Ralph's, the owner, and had crewed on a six month trip to Tahiti. All the life boats were accounted for. The first fly overs reported one missing but it was just obscured. I was 21 when this happened and we pretty much stayed on top of it. There was no foul play. It was a very violent shipwreck. The keel came down on the reef & the boat split in half.

      • Thank for your input Kathy. FWIW; cousin Barry lives in Torrance I believe, & aunt Elaine is somewhere in the Socal area as of about a year ago. Maybe some more input…maybe you all spoke after the accident?

        Regards,
        Greg Stark

  8. My husband, Gerald V. Comstock, Laguna Beach, CA, was part of the crew when the ship went down, May 24 ,1969. He and another young boy were found in the ocean by the wreckage about ten days after the accident. Bernie Stark, another crew person, was found about six weeks later in the sand off Sandmond Lagoon. No one else was found. Supposedly, thirteen were board. My husband did not die from drowning,no water was found in the lungs. He died from a blow to the neck,severing the carotid artery. I have read different theories about the accident, one, caused by the severe storm, the other, pirates and.some of the crew, took over the ship, killing everyone, taking everything, and escaping by the life boats. I would like to know if anyone knows more information about the demise of the Goodwill and the people on it.

    • Hello, I have been searching for years trying to find information about the Goodwill. Ed Henderson, real name Edgar Horton Henderson, was married to my Grandmother at one time & left her many years ago. He was one of the crew members who is missing. After reading what you said about some crew members could have taken over the ship. Edgar Henderson was a career criminal . in & out of prisons, escaping from prisons he was famous for that. He had done a lot of robberies & when I read Dave Archer's story about the Goodwill & said there was gold on the ship & never was found the hair stood up on my arms. Of course he might have changed through the years but I kinda doubt it. If anyone knows anything about him please let me know. I am so sorry for all those who died on the Goodwill.

      • Thanks Idar, I will gratefully accept this tidbit and check it out. I want to find out Ralph's good side starting
        With the Spaulding family through to the shipwreck . He must have been eventually destroyed by alcohol,
        and I would like to dispel the many late in life events that earned him such a horrible repudiation.

      • Hi Idar, my dad was the engineer on the Goodwill & went down with the ship. My parents sailed on that ship on its last long voyage to Tahiti in 1965. Dave Archer is spinning tales. His time frame does not match what I know about the Goodwill. My dad knew Mr Henderson in San Clement & asked him & 2 other friends if they wanted to sail the ship back from Baja. There was no foul play. The owner was a licensed navigator however hadn't charted a course for a long time. He didn't want to wait for the usual navigator to fly down to Baja. The course he charted didn't account for the huge swell, which pushed the Goodwill onto the reef, one of many ships to go down there.

        • Hi Kathy, thank you so much for this info. Any information you might know about my grandfather Edgar Henderson would be so nice. My Aunt his daughter and I have been trying to put his life together, my Grandmother would not speak about him. What little information my Mom has helped a lot. There are so many stories about him but he did lead a life of mystery. I am so sorry you lost your Father. Thank you so much

  9. I am presently collecting information regarding the "SCHOONER GODWILL " for a forthcoming mystery novel and
    Screen play. I crewed on her in the 59 TRANSPAC and the return trip from Honolulu to Newport Beach. I am
    The official technical advisor and consultant to the producer. Please contact me if you are holding pieces of this
    Mysterious puzzle. My mailing address is POBox 126 , Kappa'au, Hi, 96755.
    After re-reading my previous posts, I would like to apologize to the friends and family for some rather rude and
    crude with my description and my opinions of Ralph Larrabee. It was my rum speaking .

  10. Sue Morgan, will you contact me regarding your memories and mail to my Hawaii address. We believe that you
    Could help us in helping us repair some of the trash that I have been able to locate. I succumbed to this same
    Crude description of Ralph and have regretted that I posted it. My apologies to friends and family for my poorly
    Chosen words..
    Any other of you out there, I need more input to produce the mystery novel and Screen Play to its finest
    Portrail of this historic yacht and skipper

  11. Because my dad, Joe Chastek, sailed on the Goodwill in the Transpacific Yacht Races in 1953, I really would love to know how to get a picture of the ship. I have a very very old and faded picture, that I will have restored, unless I can find one that is in better shape. I also have pics of The Queen Mab and The Odyessy, both of which he sailed on as a crewman.