Sun Tui

Sun Tui, my father’s boat and now mine, is back in the water. Two weeks ago today. Another boat ran into her and broke a chain plate and bent a stay last summer, just when I was thinking of sailing. I had not sailed her in about three years at that point, because of my sister having end stage cancer, my father’s emphysema getting worse, both dying.

Sun Tui means wind/water machine, I’m told. She is a 23 foot sloop, with a nearly full keel. She has plywood sides, not planks. She was built by American Marine in Hong Kong in 1959. She has a sister ship in the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the Mermaid. The Mermaid has a different keel. The Mermaid was sailed from Japan to San Francisco by Kinichi Horie, who made the first known solo nonstop crossing of the Pacific in the Mermaid in 1962. He was promptly arrested, because he was 23 and it had not occurred to him to bring a passport. He is known as Japan’s most famous sailor and has sailed many more boats all over.

My father bought Sun Tui in 2002, for $1900.00. Her sides were rotting out. He had the Port Townsend Shipwright’s Co-op replace the sides with 17 layer plywood. He said proudly, “The plywood is guaranteed by Lloyd’s of London.” He had a new jib made and a mainsail cover and a full boat cover. Then we sailed quite a lot, mostly in Port Townsend Bay. My daughter says she hated it when she was little. My father always brought oreos and orange soda. We would sail for a few hours because the kids would start banging against the walls and anyhow, I always had more work.

We raced, too. We were classed with the Thunderbirds, which are faster. They are lighter and have less keel. The trade off is that if one were to go out on the Pacific, Sun Tui is more stable. We beat the Thunderbirds once because my father knew the tides and that there was a backswirl along the shore. The tide carried us along more quickly, even though it seemed out of the way.

Once my father was out with the small fleet for one of the races and it was foggy. They were waiting for the fog to lift. The ferry goes back and forth from Whidby Island and the sailboats huddled to one side of the bay or the other, so the ferry wouldn’t squash them. Many boats quit, but my father stubbornly stayed out until the fog lifted enough to race. They gave him a pennant for tenacity on that one.

Sun Tui has had three major overhauls since my father bought her. The picture is from 2010, after the second, being carried back to the water, mast not back in place yet. I’ve sailed her three times since she went back in the water, now. I miss my father, but I think of him when I sail.