Chieftain’s Community Comes Full Circle
By Ryan “Otis” Downs
The Hawaiian Chieftain visited Newport Beach last week. While there we participated in the Christmas Lighted Boat Parade and made friends with the folks at the Boy Scout Sea Base, who hosted us. And wonderfully, unexpectedly, we met a man who was very important to our vessel.
A man and woman came down to the dock and asked us how long we were in town. I started talking to him and he handed me his card and asked us if he could do anything for us. I really should have looked at the card more closely.
I said, “Have you seen this boat before”?
He said, “Well… yes. I designed her.”
My eyes widened and I looked again at the card. Raymond Richards, Marine Architect.”
You’re Ray Richards?!” “
“Sure am. Nice to see the boat looking so good!”
I told him that we had so many questions for him it made my head spin. Ray offered to come down the next day with some information he still had on Hawaiian Chieftain.
He did so the next day with his wonderful wife, Nancy. He gifted the vessel a copy of his diaries and memoirs of the process of the design and building of the boat in Lahaina, Hawaii in the late 1980s. He had amazing stories about working with Baron Dorcy, the eccentric millionaire who commissioned the boat, and of the welder and builder, Drake Thomas.
We had planned on going on a crew training sail one evening, and decided that we would like to have Ray and his friends aboard for it. Ray was amenable, and we took Ray, Nancy, his children, grandchildren and friends for a sunset sail. It was lovely to have them aboard. The rain which had been hitting us all week, fortunately gave us a break that evening, and we watched the sun set on the shortest day of the year.
I offered Ray the opportunity to take the helm, but he said no; “She’s all built. She’s not my responsibility anymore. She’s yours!”
It was an honor to have Ray aboard, and we will be maintaining that friendship. These vessels can’t help but create a community where ever they go. We soon leave for Dana Point, and are looking forward to making friends there as well.