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LETTERS For example, when there was a Wednesday night beer can race out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, it was not uncommon for there to be 35 to 40 people aboard Merlin. If Bill hadn't cast off promptly at 5:30 p.m., more people would have climbed aboard. Bill would sip brandy in the main cabin and watch the passing action through the large cabin windows. From the aft
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'Merlin' rode home to Santa Cruz from the Great Lakes on a ﬂatbed trailer.
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cabin, which had a bunk as wide as the boat, people drifted in and out, experiencing the contact high as purple smoke wafted out the transom ports. One of the favorite activities for guests during the sails was to climb into the narrow bow of Merlin and position their backs on one side of the hull and their knees on the other. The bow would flex and pant, gently compressing the person into a fetal hug known as the 'cosmic squeeze'. The Coast Guard didn't know what to make of Bill and Merlin's shenanigans, and would count the number of crew that left Merlin after every Wednesday night race. Bill Lee knew what was coming, which was to be asked for proof that he had enough PFDs. Just as certainly, Bill would pull out five or six large sailbags from the forepeak, and empty dozens of lifejackets from them onto the dock to be counted. Before the 1977 Transpac, in which Merlin would crush the course record and change the Transpac forever, race safety inspector Hayes McClellan wanted all the requirements meticulously adhered to by the rogue new boat from Santa Cruz. As Hayes went down his list, he stopped at the motoring requirement. "OK, I want to see this boat motor at eight knots," he boomed in his deep, authoritative voice. Dave Wahle, Merlin's bosun and a professional garbage man, cast off the docklines and, with Hayes aboard, roared down Santa Cruz Harbor at eight knots. Backward. The harbor's winter sandbar blocked the entrance, so when Merlin reached the end of the harbor, Wahle spun the wheel. Merlin turned on a dime, nearly throwing Hayes overboard. Then Wahle triumphantly motored, with the whole harbor watching, back to Merlin's slip, again at eight knots, and again in reverse. Hayes quickly checked off the rest of the safety items and bemusedly fled what he seemed to think was craziness. During the late 1970s and 1980s, it seemed that everyone in Santa Cruz had sailed on Merlin at one time or another. That might have been true, as in one local election. Bill, without campaigning, got more votes as Port Commissioner — a position he still serves — than the newly elected mayor. Skip Allan ex-Wildflower, Wylie 29 Capitola
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⇑⇓ MORE LIQUOR THAN ALLOWED A friend and I were having a beer in the cockpit of my boat Toloa in November 1978 at Turtle Bay and were talking about the then-new 67-ft sled Merlin and other fast boats — when,
The December 2015 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.