The Harbor Report: A Passage to a favorite yacht

November 07, 2013|By Len Bose | This post has been corrected, as noted below.
  • Windward Passage sailing downwind with skipper David "Halfdeck" Johnson at the helm.
Windward Passage sailing downwind with skipper David… (Courtesy John Fuller…)

While cruising the harbor this week, I was looking around for Newport Harbor's 10 most interesting boats of 2013. As most of you have noticed, I have quite an attraction to Windward Passage. That's when I picked up the phone and gave her skipper, David "Halfdeck" Johnson, a call and asked for a interview.

"Sure, Len, why don't you meet me at the boat at 2 tomorrow?" David said over the phone. Hearing this, I became rather excited that I would finally be able to go aboard one of my all-time favorite yachts.

I met David about 10 minutes early in the marina's parking lot where the boat is berthed, and we walked down to the boat. You can't help stopping in your tracks when you first see Windward Passage and take in all her beauty.

David is one of three sons of Cooper Johnson, who was a very prominent member of the Balboa Yacht Club for many years. David's brothers are Dougall and Gordo Johnson, who both work in the marine industry in Newport Harbor.


David started sailing sabots as a kid and then moved up to some of the more active classes in our harbor. Some of David's past sailing instructors were Andy Rose and Tom Purcell. "I was also fortunate to sail with Bill Taylor aboard his Rhodes 33 Mistress for many years," David said.

From there, David started sailing with Morrie Kirk aboard his two-toner Hurricane Deck in many of the Mexico races and always skippered the boat back. While sailing on Hurricane Deck, he met Dick Deaver and teamed up with him. "Dick would always invite me on the different racing programs if I would deliver the boat back," David said.

One day, David started to restore a Rhodes 33 and decided to strip the boat down and protect the wood with a West System epoxy resin. "Most of the local Rhodes owners told me I had ruined the boat," David explained. Today, most wooden boats have the West System epoxy on them.

About this time, David started painting boats and became U.S. Paint's West Coast tech rep for about 10 years. When that job ended he went to work at Basin Marine shipyard. While working there, he quoted a job to paint Windward Passage, which had just been purchased by a local resident who was planning on bringing the boat to Newport Harbor.

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