Timeless Sailing

REDONDO BEACH — Could the Pacific Ocean double as the Fountain of Youth? Not necessarily, but Dick Reinhardt still manages to sail Southern California waters once a week at age 89. The World War II veteran and first commodore of King Harbor Yacht Club can be seen aboard his Catalina 30 once a week or helping the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary with navigational aids.

Reinhardt was working away in a small office adjacent to the dining area of King Harbor YC on a recent Friday afternoon before giving The Log a brief tour of the boating venue, which sits on a manmade piece of land overlooking the navigational channel. He proudly donned a baseball cap with bold black letters above the bill reading “Semper Paratus” — Always Prepared.

Sailing and racing came into Reinhardt’s life in 1951. He was 25 and graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting just two years earlier. A friend introduced him to boating on a sail in Newport Beach. Soon he embarked on a sail in British Columbia, Ensenada, Lake Tahoe, Maine, Puerto Vallarta, or San Juan Island.

“I met up with a couple who had a boat. They said, ‘well, let’s go sailing on it.’ I liked it, they liked what I did, so for the next seven years I was a foredeck crew on a Rose 33,” Reinhardt said. “That was fun, but after you do that for a while you look back at the cockpit and say, ‘I think I’d like to be at the tiller,’ so we got our own boat and started from there.”

Being on or close to the water keeps Reinhardt active. The 89-year-old sailor is always prepared to do something, be it sailing the local waterways, serving as the District Navigations Officer for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, or contributing to the local racing scene. He reports and tracks more than 1,200 navigation aids in the Coast Guard’s Southern Region, which spans from Morro Bay to the U.S.-Mexico border and includes portions of Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

Through it all Reinhardt says life has always been, and continues to be, fun.

The spry Reinhardt flashed a smile when he identified himself as a second-generation Californian. Boating and the ocean, accordingly, would seem second nature. Indeed Reinhardt first discovered boating in Newport Beach, where he had his first vessel — a Penguin.

Soon he graduated to a Catalina 23 before settling on his current Catalina 30. Reinhardt still sails but does not race anymore. The demands of racing become more difficult with each passing year, he said. Nowadays Reinhardt keeps tabs on the racing world by keeping score of one-design events and handicapping other races.

“I’ve stopped racing but I am part of the race management team. I do a lot behind the scenes,” Reinhardt said. “I’d love to race but physical limitations start to show up. You’re not as strong as you used to be, you’re not as agile as you used to be, so I take a very realistic approach.”

One of his most enduring experiences was aboard a Catalina 20. A return trip from Catalina Island was met with high winds and rough waters. Waves measured up to 10 feet and produced blowing foam. The Catalina 20 was towing a sabot dinghy. Reinhardt and his crew managed to make it to the mainland safely but not without a rough navigation across the channel.

“Over the years we’ve done what’s called bare boat charter, where you travel to a spot and then rent a boat and you become the operator and the crew. We’ve done that in many different places, such as the British Virgin Islands. Our experiences down there were sort of on the cutting edge. They didn’t even have moorings down there,” Reinhardt said. “That’s a different kind of experience. You run into local conditions you would have here in Southern California.”

Other places Reinhardt sailed including the Pacific Northwest, Maine, Honduras and New Zealand. 

Racing and navigating challenging conditions certainly makes for some entertaining story telling but Reinhardt also played a significant role in fostering a boating community on land, overseeing the merger of Win’ard YC and Redondo Harbor YC in 1959. The new King Harbor YC has been a mainstay in Redondo Beach ever since, with Reinhardt serving as the club’s first commodore.

“As the harbor was being developed … it became apparent there was one site on the harbor for a yacht club, but we had two clubs. Win’ard had 150, maybe 175 members at the most. Redondo Harbor YC was the other one, they had about the same number [of members],” said Reinhardt, adding both clubs joined forces because they all believed it was in their best interests to work together instead of against each other.

“We enjoyed the same things, and frankly neither one of us in our … size [were] a good financial unit, but if we joined, that started the ball rolling. In 1960 we held our final approval meeting,” Reinhardt continued.

Looking forward Reinhardt hopes people continue to participate in boating, sailing and racing.

“I would like to see more boats getting out and racing,” Reinhardt said. “I don’t think people like to go through the extra work of working the sails. It’s more work but gosh it’s rewarding.”

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