Senior Writer William Oscar Johnson has a line in his piece on the Sunfish, which begins on page 74, that the boat was designed "to do nothing but make people happy." The craft has succeeded beyond its creators' wildest dreams, but a lot of us here have failed to achieve true happiness in our relationships with the Sunfish.
Johnson, who acquired his back in 1964, recalls, "I was really pretty bad with it at first. I always had mud on the mast, which is the mark of a poor sailor. I remember racing it on the Hudson River, with my son Billy, then 10; we were last by so much that the committee boat kept trying to tow us in, but we turned them down.
"The Hudson has very quirky currents, tides and winds," he adds, defensively. "Also freighters, like skyscrapers going by." Still, Johnson seems to be the staffer who was made happiest by the Sunfish: He still has his boat, although its original bright red paint has faded to "a blushing pink."
Associate Editor Margaret Sieck, an editor at Boating magazine before she joined SI, went for her first sail on a Sunfish at 10 and also puts the experience into the mud-on-the-mast category. "Sunfish aren't designed for two adults and two children," she says. "We capsized, and the mast was stuck solidly in the mud for an hour and a half."
Our most accomplished sailor, Production Manager Gene Ulrich, has owned eight boats, including his current one, "the ultimate dream machine, a 32-foot, double-ender, cutter-rigged sloop," but his first was a Sunfish. His son, Chris, loved it, although our art director, Harvey Grut, did not. "Harv had a habit of slipping over the side," says Ulrich. "We kept having to retrieve him from the water."
Reporter Armen Keteyian had his woes, too. "My first, and only, experience with a Sunfish came just after college," he says. "On a whim, Dave Smith, an old friend of mine who's now a relief pitcher with the Houston Astros, and I decided to go for a sail on San Diego's Mission Bay, telling each other confidently that sure we knew how. Luck and a good wind got us out into the bay, but when it was time to turn back, we looked at each other and both said, 'You take it in.' It became evident that neither of us knew the first thing about how to reach the dock. Two hours later we made it, but it was Smith, not me, who pulled us through."
Finally, Associate Writer Sarah Pileggi, who does a lot of our boating coverage, says that she took her first sailing lessons on a Sunfish, off Truro in Cape Cod Bay. What Pileggi, learned from this undertaking was: "Never sail from Truro to Provincetown without any money for lunch."