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In her article about the yawl Santana, which begins on page 52, Sarah Pileggi observes that had architects Tom and Ted Eden not restored the old boat, Santana would today be only a glorious memory—in Pileggi's mind, for one; she fondly remembers having Santana, or a boat that her companions said was Santana, pointed out to her when she was a child of 13 living in Southern California.
Others of us, most particularly Managing Editor Gilbert Rogin, have until now recalled the yawl more as she figured in a piece Rogin himself wrote 20 years ago, an account of the 1961 Transpacific race from San Pedro, Calif. to Honolulu. But the story behind that story has never been told, at least in print.
Our boating editor at the time was Ezra Bowen, currently editor of Stonehenge Press, a Time Inc. subsidiary, who said last week that in no way is he sorry about the whole thing. On the contrary, he says, it was obviously a great idea.
The great idea consisted of arranging for young Rogin to crew on Santana in the aforementioned race without telling her captain and crew that Rogin was a total landlubber. "I bootlegged him aboard," Bowen recalls with satisfaction. "If I'd told them he couldn't sail, they'd never have taken him, and I knew the fact that he couldn't would give him a marvelous slant on the race. I also knew that if they threw him off the boat he could swim. He's a marvelous swimmer."
Rogin is a marvelous swimmer. "I love the water," he says, adding, with a resentment un-dimmed by 20 years, "but I don't like to be in a little chip of wood on it. I don't like to be under the water. I don't like to be on top of the water. I like to be in it. Ezra said, 'How would you like to go to Hawaii?' and I said, 'Terrific,' and he said, 'There's a catch.' I thought he meant I'd have to fly coach—in those days everyone flew first class—but he said, 'You're going by boat.' "
Bowen points out that, in fact, he enlightened Rogin even further. "I chartered this thing that was rigged like Santana for a day sail," he says, "because I wanted Gil to know the front from the back, and how to go to the bathroom." Bowen didn't, however, enlighten the crew of the Santana.
"I went to the pre-race banquet," Rogin says, "and it quickly became clear to the other crew members that I was an utter novice. Everybody had supposed I could sail, and when it became clear that I knew nothing, a substantial chill descended on the table. And anger. They were stuck with me. And I, of course, was stuck with them." There was a light in this darkness: "The guy who saved me and became a friend was Babe Lamerdin [Santana's professional skipper on that occasion]. He made the whole trip bearable, to the minute degree that it was."
Rogin, a highly personal writer—what Rogin sees is what you get—turned in his story, and one must conclude that Bowen, however despicable, was right—the piece did have a different slant. But Rogin had found that he detested sailing, and therefore didn't have much to say for Santana. That was left to Pileggi. It is she who has, in the largest sense, rescued that wonderful boat. Thanks to her, Santana will live in the minds of thousands of you who may never, until this week, have even heard of her.