Steve Willison Malibu Outrigger

1959 1960 1962 1963 1964 1965

Date: Tue, 05 Mar 2002 21:05:28 -0500
From: "Steve Willison" sloswnw(spam@begone)
To: "Tim Anderson" robot(spam@begone)
Subject: Malibu Outrigger

Tim,    My first introduction to Malibu outriggers was in the late
1950's.  My family always had sail boats and we spent weekends working
on, sailing, or looking at other used boats for sale.  My father was a
naval architect by schooling but worked for Union Oil as an economist
were he knew Warren Seaman who was a member of the Malibu Yacht Club.  I
think that it might have originally been called the Malibu Beach Club.
During the 50's there was a real free feeling about the beaches in
Southern California and there were other bohemian "surf clubs" and a
general Polynesian effect that came home with the returning GI's from
the Pacific regions of WWII.  My father said that the Malibu outrigger
was created out of  impressions of the proas and other craft that these
young men had encountered.  And they loved to race them and they were
the fasted sail boats around at the time. Hang out on the beach, launch
thru the surf,  I'm sure these original boats had a lot of sex appeal
and were probably real "babe" attractors.  Growing up I spent every free
moment in boats, sailing from dawn to dusk day after day after day.  So
when Warren couldn't find his regular crew to race he would call me.
But I wasn't his first choice because he needed weight.  He knew how to
win and got real frustrated with me because I just couldn't keep the ama
down.  He would keep me high above the water and I would be hanging on
like a monkey and the a gust would hit and he would have to head up and
I would come crashing back for the dunking that I'm sure he thought that
I deserved.  These guys were a bit nuts.  There were always broken masts
and pitch pole capsizings.  The races were set up so that the final leg
was a broad reach out where there were sure to be ground swells.  The
trick was to catch these swells and head off like a surfer on a wave.  I
have no idea how fast we would go but it was kick ass fast and the high
speed humm from god knows where would get high pitched and there was a
great roaster tail.  I think that the race was all about this adrenaline
     In 1965 a scene in "The Sandpiper" with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard
Burton, Charles Bronson, and Eva Marie Saint had a Malibu outrigger in
it.  I live in San Luis Obispo and the movie was filmed on the Big Sur
coast.  Several years later I was married and had a summer job in Morro
Bay building masts for a sail maker.  In the "boat yard"--barn yard
there was a Piver design trimaran being built and a lofting floor of
sorts had been constructed in the barn.  So I thought, Big Sur coast,
lofting floor, barn,  Malibu outrigger!--write to Warren for a set of
plans.  So I built my Malibu escape/adventure machine, hulls spars
hardware, everything.  A sail? No problem--I worked for a sail maker
right?  Wrong.  This sail maker was a bit of a psychopath and soon had
the law on his trail and I was lucky to get my boat out of that barn in
the middle of the night before the sheriff put the bankruptcy pad locks
on it.
    So for 15 years I knew that I could make a sail but one thing and
another until one day on top of a mountain I ran into an old college
acquaintance and some how conversation touches Malibu outriggers and he
says Yeah, too bad, I had one once but someone stole it and all I have
left is the sail. I think that very strange things happen in
California.  To hit the water after all that work and wait was one of
those once in a lifetime wonderfuls like waking up one morning and being
able to fly.  Fast and wet.  I kept it on Avila Beach next to an old one
room yacht club and sailed in the bay and cautiously out into the
ocean.  I pitch poled it just up wind of a pier and luckily had as crew
the only person that had previously sailed Malibus and knew the drill to
right it with the mast sticking straight down. Often times the wind
blows so hard here that it takes four men to hold the ama down. Very
fast and a lot of forces concentrated on a small boat.  My worst
experience was on one of these four man days.  My three crew mates were
far out on the hiking bar when it snapped.  One was able to hang on and
climb back aboard,  but with only two of us, I couldn't sailor make any
headway toward  my two in the drink. They just floated there stunned and
waiting for me to come and pick them up.  I yelled to them to swim as if
their lives depended on it.  The truth was that their lives did depend
on it. There was no way the two of us could sail that boat without that
extra 350 lbs.  The key to Malibu's is dynamic ballast. this very
sobering experience took the wind out of my sails for a long time.
   For a while I used the Malibu as a dive platform.  Four of us with
all our dive gear could sail very nicely.  We may have weighed nearly a
thousand pounds with all our gear.  This lets me think that a Malibu
could make a nice expedition vessel.  But what I remember most is the
people that I have met through it and I think this is part of my current
resurgence of interest in it.  I just bought a MIG welded so that I can
rebuild the trailer and weld several stainless fittings that need
rehabbing.  And I am going to experiment with reef points to take some
of the lethal punch out of it.  I am going to warmer waters with it.  I
would love to land on that Malibu Beach where the old club was--infront
of those million dollar beach houses that are there now.  And the
channel Islands off Southern California were I grew up on weekends as a
kid.  My real goal is the Sea of Cortez in Baja California.  I have
spent some time in the area and have gone on several kayak trips out to
Islands and along it enchanting coast.  And of coarse there is that Big
Sur coast that started it for me 35 years ago.  I could tell you more.
I know there are a lot of great Malibu stories out there.  I have heard
some of them and they wet me.  The Malibu really represents a grand era
lost and was part of that California dreaming.  Somebody could put
together an interesting book.
   Was it you that put the race and cruise manual online? If so thanks.
It isw pretty hokie but it really stirred up memory lane.  Did you know
there are several Malibu articles circa 1994 in Messing Around In
Boats?  Anyway I hope that you find this retrospective amusing.  In 1965
I hitch hiked to Alaska and did the inland passage aboard the state
ferry by forging my ticket.I alway thought it would be great to come
back in a small salome fisher or something else local.  I never would
have thought of an outrigger.  In 1970 my wife and I spent four months
in Mexico and Central America living out of a Volkswagen bug.  I wanted
to go to Yucatan but one night we were laying in our pup tent in an oil
field outside of Villa Hermosa and the mosquitos were so loud that we
had to yell inside the tent to hear each other. And it was hot hot hot
and the oil fields were flaring off their unwanted natural gas and it
lit the forest up like hell.  In the middle of the night we pulled up
and drove all night until we ran out of gas to get away.  Thanks for
putting your outrigger life online.  Finding it has got me going with my
outrigger thing.
                               Thanks,  Steve Willison

In spring 2002 I visited Steve and we went sailing from Avila beach. 
The reborn boat's maiden voyage. Quite a beautiful thing in a 
beautiful place as the pictures show. Dolphins and otters followed us.
They seem to like the boat as much as we did. Out on the ocean we got into some
strong winds and large swells. Surfing those swells with the wind 
is quite an experience.


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