accepting just about any sort of charter that customers proposed: bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, divorce parties, weddings, birthdays, sunset sails, fishing charters, ash scatterings, actual burials at sea. . . you name it. By the mid-'80s he was on a roll, having built up a following of regulars — especially those who liked to party heartily, as Josh was known to be more tolerant of loose behavior back then than most of his peers. It didn't hurt his success that there were very few other big charter boats in operation at the time. In fact, through an exhaustive ordeal of red tape, Ruby became the first Bay Area charter boat to earn the status of 'inspected vessel' from the Coast Guard, allowing her to take up to 31 passengers for hire. During the mid-'80s, one of Josh's more novel marketing schemes was advertising special midnight charters. His newspaper ads read: "Rock out on the Ruby." Needless to say, those were some pretty crazy trips. "Only the first 30 folks to show up got to come along," explains Josh. Eventually, though, sailing into
the wee hours with a raucous crowd on board, then having to be bright-eyed and alert for the next day's lunch cruise, took a toll and the idea was canned. As you might imagine, one of the challenges of chartering as a longtime vocation is keeping yourself enthused. So after nearly a decade of sailing conservatively, so that Ruby would heel minimally and everyone would stay dry, Josh decided to shake things up a bit and started sailing harder — "the way I like to sail." With the spray flying and the lee rail buried, cruises aboard Ruby took on a new flavor. "Some of my regulars were scared to death," he recalls, "but others loved it." Ruby was, after all, built to take whatever punishment Father Neptune could throw at her. The best illustration of her inherent strength
When Josh says he's done it all, he means it — including taking these diehard swimmers out to Alcatraz to brave the Bay's chilly waters.
CATE BOSKOFF / RUBY SAILING
'Ruby' isn't the sexiest charter boat on the Bay, but she has brightened the lives of thousands of neophyte sailors during her 25-year run.
came in 1982 when Ruby took first in fleet in that spring's ill-fated Doublehanded Farallones Race. Abnormally rough seas and winds gusting to over 50 knots dismasted two boats, sank three others, drove five others up onto coastal beaches and claimed the lives of four local sailors. But Ruby plowed through the monster seas and punishing winds to take top honors, suffering only a slightly frayed jib. Although the story of Ruby's big win that day is one that will always bear retelling, most of the classic Ruby tales involve chartering. There was the famous wedding cruise — did we mention that Josh is a Universal Life Church minister? — when the groom and the bride's father got in a fist fight on board before they even left the dock. And the time Ruby was behind schedule, rushing to Angel Island with a full wedding party on board, when they chanced upon a floating corpse — "Ahh, don't worry, I think it was just a bag of garbage," said Josh, trying not to dampen the festive mood. More strippers have performed on board — both male and female — than the ol' salt cares to remember, especially back in the early days, when Josh, now 58, was less worried about his reputation. There are some scary memories too. One summer night when Ruby was roaring along at nine knots under full sail near Alcatraz, a girl was horsing around on the foredeck and somehow fell overboard. (Considering that Ruby has
August, 2006 •
• Page 183
The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.