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Celebrate! Volume Ii : Orange County's First 100 Years : Lure Of The Coastline : Celebrity Skippers

October 16, 1988|Shearlean Duke \f7

Through the years, Orange County's waters have proved a draw for Hollywood celebrities who liked to sail. Among the most colorful was Humphrey Bogart, who docked his 57-foot yawl Santana in Newport Bay and, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

Although most agree that Bogart was a good sailor, there is some disagreement over how well he was liked by the yachting fraternity. Bob Allan, a former commodore of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, remembers Bogart as "a fine sailor, very intelligent and very much a gentleman. But when he would get ashore or in the presence of a group of people, he would put on his movie role and act very tough and nasty."

Allan recalls that Bogart volunteered to put up the money for some sailing dinghies that the club wanted to donate to area colleges. "He gave me the money to buy all the dinghies that were needed on the basis that I would never tell anybody until after he died."

Lyman Farwell, a longtime member of the yacht club, remembers Bogart differently.

"He never did us any damage, but he sure was obnoxious. I was anchored over at Catalina once, and around midnight, all of a sudden, the door swung open and in he came, uninvited. He said, 'Give me a drink.' He had three goons with him. We decided we couldn't beat him, so we gave him a drink."

Among other early-day boat-owning celebrities who sailed in Orange County were James Cagney (who, according to the Newport Times, once owned Collins Island at the end of Balboa Island),

Dick Powell, Edgar Bergen, Tom Mix and violinist Jascha Heifetz.

Sterling Hayden, who shied away from publicity and people, often brought his big schooner Stranger into Newport Harbor. Having removed the motor from the schooner, "he would sail in the bay with a full set of sails, single-handed, tacking," Allan recalls. "The ferries and everybody else had better get out of the way. He knew what he was doing, but everybody else was scared to death."

Errol Flynn is said to have sailed in and around Newport Harbor but mostly kept his boat in the Los Angeles area. Allan remembers seeing Flynn's boat Sirocco frequently at Catalina. "Back in the '30s, the boats used to go over and anchor, and their paid crews would write the name of the boat up on the cliff with white paint." Anybody else who would anchor in Flynn's spot would be asked to move, Allan says.

More recent boating celebrities include Buddy Ebsen, who owned a catamaran named Polynesian Concept, and John Wayne, whose 136-foot converted minesweeper, the Wild Goose, was one of the largest boats in the harbor. Wayne, who docked his boat in front of his home in Bay Shores, was a member of both the Newport Harbor Yacht Club and the Balboa Bay Club.

Jack Wrather, producer of such television classics as "Lassie" and "The Lone Ranger," and wife Bonita Granville owned a fishing boat called "The Lone Ranger." And producer Milton Bren, who was first across the finish line in the 1948 Ensenada race in his 87-foot sloop Pursuit, later owned a powerboat, Lady Claire, named for his wife, Claire Trevor.

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