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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE
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Nautical and Nice

Sunset Beach is for boaters, kayakers and those who have an affinity for the sea.

September 16, 2000|STEVE EAMES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nancy Adair is at the helm of her 33-foot Trojan motorboat, Compromise, cruising slowly along the main channel in Huntington Harbour. Multimillion-dollar homes line the man-made waterway, but she is more interested in the boats tied to the private docks of those mansions.

Adair points out the boats she has sold or is selling through her Sunset Beach brokerage, Adair Yachts. Over here is a 54-foot Californian cockpit motor yacht with an asking price of $389,000. Over there is a 42-foot Chris-Craft sport fishing boat she sold for about $200,000. And up ahead is a 43-foot Wellcraft Portofino with a price tag of $118,000.

"Boating is all I care about. It's my life. It's my passion," she says.

Hers is one of many passions visitors can find among the locals in Sunset Beach, a narrow, mile-long community of 1,300 sandwiched between the ocean and Huntington Harbour. Eric Bakker's is nautical antiques, Kenny Stout's is kayaking and Jay Buettner's is food.

Sunset Beach has many charms. Its residents receive no mail delivery. Residents and merchants must pick up their mail at a small post office with a postage stamp-sized parking lot at Pacific Coast Highway and 11th Street. The community is served primarily by volunteer firefighters--although the Huntington Beach Fire Department will help with big blazes.

Best of all, Sunset Beach is one of the few places in Orange County where you can park for free mere steps from the beach--along the greenbelt that runs the length of the community between Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. The Pacific Electric red cars used to ply that strip of land before cars rendered the trolleys obsolete. The scarcity of parking keeps the beach crowd relatively thin even on peak days.

"What makes Sunset so nice is that it's protected on all sides," Adair says as she steers her boat toward Peter's Landing near the north end of the harbor. "You have the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station there [pointing northward], the harbor with eight miles of channels right here and the Bolsa Chica wetlands over there."

Sea Stuff

To say Eric Bakker, 65, is addicted to nautical antiques would be an understatement, judging from all the boat-related flotsam and jetsam in his store, Antiques of the Sea (16811 Pacific Coast Highway, [562] 592-1752). The walls, shelves and display cases are filled with compasses, sextants, spyglasses, lanterns, bells, portholes, maps, brass deep-sea diving helmets, harpoons, flare guns, charts, binoculars, oars, figureheads, barometers, ships wheels, engine room telegraphs, among other objects. There are even more items in the cluttered back rooms.

"My wife has been saying I have an addiction for years, but I won't admit to it," says Bakker, who, in keeping with the theme of his store, wears a homemade sailor's uniform complete with epaulets and stripes.

His fascination with nautical antiques evolved from his ownership of Harpoon Harry's. He and his wife, Elaine, opened the restaurant in Sunset Beach in 1971. He decorated it in a maritime theme, and that whetted his customers' appetites as much as his king crab legs.

"After a few drinks, they'd say, 'I've got to have that lamp,' so I'd sell it to them," Bakker says.

He eventually added a display case in his lobby, and the nautical antiques sold so fast he opened a small store at PCH and 24th Street in 1976. A year later he moved to his present site across Broadway from the restaurant. The Bakkers sold the restaurant in 1987 to focus on antiques full time.

Bakker, who lives in Sunset Beach, said he gets a lot of repeat customers. "They get hooked on this stuff."

It's an expensive habit. Bakker is asking $2,900 for a brass deep-sea diving helmet, $2,450 for a binnacle, $1,475 for a 19th-century 11-inch compass, $975 for a 6-foot-diameter wood steering wheel and $625 for a World War II-era British navy spyglass. He'll part with the pride of his collection, a 4 1/2-foot-long whaling harpoon gun made in the 1860s, for $16,000.

He also has inexpensive items such as captain's quarters signs ($12), a water faucet from the Queen Mary ($59) and rope and pulleys from lifeboats ($59).

Bakker amassed his vast collection mostly through frequent trips to ship salvage yards on the East Coast as well as in Europe and Taiwan.

One of his biggest customers lately has been Disney, which is snapping up items for its new amusement park in Tokyo. He sometimes rents items to movie producers for use as props. One of his models of the U.S. Constitution tall ship can be seen in "The Perfect Storm."

Antiques of the Sea is open Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

Casual Lifestyle

Kenny Stout probably wouldn't mind Bakker's hours. He hasn't had a day off since March. He owns Sunset Rentals (16862 Pacific Coast Highway, [562] 592-5537), where you can rent kayaks, canoes, electric boats, pedal boats and hydro bikes to explore the harbor. He works seven days a week from March through October, the peak kayaking season.

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