The Family that Sails Together, Stays Together

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October 17, 2018 by Monica Grant

If the family that sails together stays together, the Burkhart family are clearly staying together. When Frank Burkhart bought the Islander 36, Island Girl, he had limited experience and no crew. Now 24 years later, the Burkharts and Island Girl are a regular sight among the sailboats on San Francisco Bay and the surrounding waters.

However she wasn’t always a family bay-cruiser. Although Frank had some basic sailing skills when he bought Island Girl, he decided the best way to improve quickly was to race and entered his boat in the OYRA: a series of ocean races across local waters such as California's Half Moon Bay, Drakes Bay and the Farallones.

“Putting a crew together took time but ultimately I had a crew that made me look good.” 

Island Girl 2006
Island Girl on San Francisco Bay, 2006.

By 1996 Frank and his crew were serious contenders in the OYRA and managed 2nd place in their division, as well as receiving the, no doubt coveted, South Tower Demon award for “having broached way too many times under the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The crew did improve and by the next year found themselves in first place. This was also the year that the future Mrs Burkhart, then known as Lynn Langford joined the boat and began to impress everyone with her sailing skills, and her boat-food skills producing what Franks describes as the “best food on the boat.” (Surely he means on the Bay, right?)

Soon after, Frank and one of his crew were invited to join a boat in the 1998 Pacific Cup and of course they jumped at the opportunity. Following the PacCup, Island Girl and her crew relaxed a little with “less serious ocean racing and lots of Beer Can racing, primarily out of Sausalito Yacht Club.  And, lots of casual sails.” It was around this time, Frank says, that Island Girl found a degree of fame in Latitude 38 Magazine as she was mentioned being at anchor enjoying jazz at the annual Sausalito Art Festival, all the while serving Lynn’s “pretty impressive appetizers”.

A few years later the Burkhart boys, Will and Luc, were born and sailing took a back seat to everyday family life. However the twins were not going to stay onshore forever and today the 16-year-olds are an integral crew on Island Girl, enjoying Beer Can racing out of Sausalito Yacht Club and regular weekend sails all over the Bay.

Luc & Will aboard Island Girl
Luc & Will at the helm aboard Island Girl.

“Having the toe rail in the water least once seems to be a requirement on each sail. We have had the fun of going from Sausalito to Pier 1 (San Francisco) with jib only, in 45 minutes. Coming back, at the top of Raccoon Straits we decided motoring was a better option as the winds were above 30 knots. To keep a balance, on Friday nights we moor off Sausalito Yacht Club to listen to Jazz By The Bay, followed by a short sail or motor.”

Island Girl pre-haul out
Luc & Will riding the rail before her haul-out.

This past summer Frank and the boys gave Island Girl a much needed make-over.

“As with any boat, maintenance and upkeep is constant. With the boat being used only occasionally while the boys were growing up, there were multiple tasks and upgrades needed.”

Together they sanded her wood bare and applied 6 coats of varnish, sanded the deck, painted and applied new non skid, and hauled the boat to have the hull topsides sanded and painted.  “Island Girl is now looking like a new Islander,” Frank says.

Island Girl hauled out
Island Girl looking pretty with her new topsides.

Island Girl’s summer adventures also included celebrating the 18th Summer Sailstice at Encinal Yacht Club’s annual Sailstice party. Frank, Will and Luc sailed across the bay from Sausalito to Alameda, and spent the day celebrating Summer Sailstice before enjoying an Islander 36 dinner event. And in keeping with the spirit of adventure, Island Girl sailed back across the bay in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

“One son caught a ride home from Alameda by car, so my other son and I decided in the middle of the night to sail home. Leaving Alameda at 2am, we had the typical beautiful views of San Francisco, past Alcatraz and finally into Sausalito.”

“Winds were definitely up, mostly above 20 knots apparent with 30+ knots gusts coming into Sausalito. To say the least, the boat worked hard and had water pouring over the decks most of the way home. 

“It was fun listening to the discussions between ship captains on the route they were taking and to watch out for a sailboat crossing the shipping channel. At least we knew, that we had been seen as we were the only sailboat on the Bay.” (For anyone who hasn’t experienced San Francisco Bay at night, it can be very black and contain numerous large ships!)

And as Frank and his family become saltier and even more experienced, what will their sailing future hold?

“More racing, maybe back to OYRA. And definitely many more days on the Bay with family and friends,” Frank says.

And for one of the boys at least it may include more great video productions. Take a look at this first attempt (it's pretty good if you ask me):

Island Girl off Sausalito


Beer Can Race
Island Girl enjoying her last Beer Can Race for the season.

Thanks Frank for sharing your sailing story, and thanks for the photos and video. We hope to see you entering a video in the 2019 Video Challenge!


Summer Sailstice 2019

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