A classic Seattle super-yacht, now buried at sea

Dorothea was one of the first, born in the age when private luxury boats were rare – and smaller. But she was a beauty, and the crew and those who worked on her are mourning her loss.
The <i>Dorothea</i>, then dubbed <i>Kakki M</i>, under construction on Lake Union in Seattle in 1966. (Vic Franck Boat Co.)

The Dorothea, then dubbed Kakki M, under construction on Lake Union in Seattle in 1966. (Vic Franck Boat Co.) None

Capt. John Crupi. (yachtdorothea.com)

Capt. John Crupi. (yachtdorothea.com) None

<i>Dorothea</i> on fire in the Pacific. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Dorothea on fire in the Pacific. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) None

We lost a boat of local renown late last month in a moment with two defining traits of a newsworthy story: sad, and spectacular.

First, the spectacular. We're talking flames, cries of "mayday," a five-person crew abandoning ship and fearing certain death, a satellite alarm that brings in tracker aircraft, a Panamanian tuna boat, and a guided missile frigate. Your usual rescue at sea. Like I said, spectacular.

No one was injured, but there remains a sad part that's pretty striking. In losing the Dorothea, we lose one of those artifacts that can define for the ages a chunk of what makes this a great place.

In the barest of terms, Dorothea was a 107-foot motor yacht. For some that is a boat for rich people, the type of vessel J.P. Morgan said you can't afford, now that you ask. Some dictionary editors hold that a yacht is a recreational vessel; I include in that the 10-foot rowboat I built at The Center for Wooden Boats for a few hundred dollars. Dorothea was all that, owned by a former CEO of Samsonite and used for fishing excursions. But that's not the half of it.

The boat was a local icon, up there with the rusting ferry Kalakala and the rotting schooner Wawona, but immaculately preserved. She was built, like Boeing's first airplane, on Lake Union, the largest boat to come out of the fabled yard of Vic Franck. Her designer was Montlake's own William Garden, one of maybe a handful of local boating geniuses adept at marrying the demands of seaworthiness with the desire to look at something nice. Garden, who now lives on an island near Victoria, B.C., was once a fixture of the Seattle waterways, designing work boats, tugs, trollers, sardine boats, pile drivers, and, yes, yachts. When Dorothea, née Kakki M, slid down the ways in 1967, she was what some consider the first mega-yacht.

Outsized yachts have since been taken to new lengths by the likes of Paul Allen, whose 416-foot Octopus travels with a submarine and two helicopters. They are a fixture of the boating world, with their own magazines and major manufacturers who include Seattle's Delta Marine and Westport. Last month, as Dorothea was burning in the Pacific, I was editing a Pacific Yachting PNW piece on the Shilshole Bay Marina renovation and how it will make it easier to accommodate the bigger boats.

I also edited a short piece on a recent rendezvous of Garden boats in Victoria, B.C. "Garden has an eye for traditional lines and just the right proportions," said Dick Wagner, founding director of The Center for Wooden Boats.

Dorothea returned to her Seattle roots in 2006 and 2007 for a major refit that included a new coat of paint on her Alaska yellow cedar hull and eye-popping teak joinery and varnish. It turned a Ballard dock into a one-boat business boom. For those who would view such things in economic terms, she brought more than $10 million to the state, using mostly Washington state products and talent, and paying local taxes.

But for the legion of local craftsmen, 80 of whom worked on her at one time, it was more than that. "Every craftsman that worked on this boat had a huge amount of love and loyalty to the Dorothea," said Malcolm Munsey, who managed the project.

Southwest of Costa Rica last month, the crew noticed the GPS system was out and saw smoke and flames coming from the mast. They quickly set out tenders and life rafts. Capt. John Crupi worried about a propane tank near the mast, 400 nearby gallons of gasoline, and more than 7,000 gallons of diesel below. And when the pilothouse filled with smoke, "the only option was to abandon ship," he said from Florida on Friday, Nov. 2.

The crew had time to get only their passports. It was grim.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Caribbean ?: I enjoyed the article, but was surprised to find that 220 miles SW of Costa Rica is in the Carribean.

wsmith

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 12:01 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Caribbean ? Ouch!: Ouch!
Crupi, the skipper, said Caribbean, while Customs and Border Protection said Pacific. Neither was reachable for followup, so I played it safe and chose both.
Actually, I forgot to take out the Caribbean reference. My bad. Nice catch.
Eric

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Interesting...but...: What actually happened? You glossed over the most compelling part -- what was the cause of the fire?

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 6:13 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Interesting...but...: It's the old story: cause unknown. With the boat gone, it probably never will be known.

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 2:41 p.m. Inappropriate

CBP Aircraft Rescues 5 from Burning Yacht in Eastern Pacific: The following link gives additional information on the rescue from the governments perspective.

CBP Aircraft Rescues 5 from Burning Yacht in Eastern Pacific


GoReads.com
markread

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 9:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Correction: Belated, I've fixed the article text to state the location of the accident as in the Pacific instead of Caribbean.

Posted Sat, Nov 10, 12:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Yacht sinks in Pacific: I REMEMBER THAT YACHT AS A KID IN FORT LAUDERDALE. SHE TIED UP AT BAHIA MAR YACHT CENTER AND SHE WAS THE BIGGEST AT THE DOCK. I WAS JUST 14 AND OUT CRUISING IN MY BOSTON WHALER AND SHE WAS
HUGE BACK THEN. THE LARGEST BROWARD WAS ABOUT 70'.
captjay

Posted Tue, Nov 13, 2:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Sad news: Having been one of the crew that built this yatch at Vic Francks in 1966 and 67, I am saddened to read of her loss. She was a unique vessel.
John
modrell

Posted Sun, Feb 20, 8:58 p.m. Inappropriate

I am writting this years after this article came out, Feb 20th, 2011. I just stumbled on it tonight. I was a deckhand on the Kakki M between Sept 1975 and Jan 1977. We made voyages to the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and around Nova Scotia up the St Lawrence Seaway to just above Detroit. What great cruising memories I have. I ended up working on containers ships to the Persian Gulf after I left the Kakki M. Made Captain in the oil fields of US and Mexico. Finished out my career running Container barges to Puerto Rico and the US East Coast. Almost 600,000 miles at sea in 17 years and it all began on the Kakki M as a $10 a day deckhand. Capt Jon was the McGreggor's Captain for the whole time they onwed the boat. No telling where he is or even if he's alive.
The McGreggor's lived in Algonac Michigan where we took the boat every summer.
Kakki M was named after his daughter Kathy who couldn't say Kathy but only Kakki when she was young. So Kakki M the boat was named.
I still have the picture of the boat from its sea trials at Vics. Lots of great memories.- Don Murphy

donmurphy

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