The Athene: Where is She Now
Owner Christopher Schroll Writes from the Med
The Athene first came to the St. Francis Yacht Club under the ownership of Commodore James Wilhite who won the 1964 inaugural Big Boat Series. Ownership transferred to me in 1977, the same year I became a member and the same year the Club burned.
In the purchase, I inherited Athene’s friends who would show me how to keep her in style: Gene Vigno, Babe Lamberdin, Mic Beatie and Wilhite’s son, Peter. He and I continued sailing and racing Athene on the Bay for about twenty years. Odyssey was our main rival and favorite post-race-bar buddies
By 1996, it came time for some major refits as we prepared to move her to the Med for a life of cruising. Babe transformed the galley and forepeak and Svensen’s outfitted her under the direction of my friend and captain, Christian Skouw. He engaged Lewmar to develop new hardware for a classic yacht: stainless tracks, cars, blocks, self-tailing winches and a chrome 4000 windlass. The Mizzen retained its Barients. The headsail got a roller furler and a shorter carbon fiber boom, painted to appear as wood. The spinnakers replaced with a gennaker that could set without a pole. We upgraded the electronics, shrouds and rigging.
Once our Svensens work was done, we motored to Point Richmond where we loaded Athene onto her cross-country transport, her lead keel almost touching the road. It was nerve-racking to watch her head toward the freeway, but the driver delivered her without issue.
We next saw Athene on the transport vessel, her bilge pumps splashing water onto the deck. A large wooden block on the ship’s deck and under Athene’s bow had been forgotten by the transport vessel crew. The bow support stanchions had pierced the hull and she had taken on loads of water. We dried her out and patched the two holes with plywood. Crisis averted.
Once in Palma, Athene was moved to a boatyard for six weeks of repairs. We removed and replaced most of Athene’s interior as the water level had risen just under the main engine. Despite everything, we managed to have a great time in Mallorca. The transport company’s insurance covered the yard bill.
Now, the cruising began. We spent six weeks cruising the Balearics with good winds, white sand beaches and seaside restaurants. The swimming was incredible in a deep purple bay surrounded by multi-shaded orange rock and crowned by a medieval El Cid styled fortress.
Athene spent her first off-season in Palma with Christian while I went back to work in California. That next summer, we sailed to Menorca then Mahon, the Mediterranean’s largest natural harbor. We were there for almost two weeks because of heavy Mistral winds, but we had stocked up on Argentinian steaks and had bountiful fishing to keep us satiated.
At last the wind gave way to a star-filled balmy night, and we made our way under power to Sardinia. Our chart plotter directed us in zig-zag through a marine rock garden at the north end of Costa Smeralda, ending at Porto Cervo. There, we found luxurious showers and superb restaurants: dozens of antipasti selections and the aroma of herbs scenting the soft night air.
Friends joined us for the sail to Bonifacio, Corsica where we stayed a few days before sailing on for to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat with stops at Elba, Viareggio, La Spezia, Genoa and San Remo. We encountered a wide variety of weather and sea conditions along the way including strong winds moving Athene along at eleven knots under reefed mainsail. One night at anchor the wind picked up and the surrounding boats began to drag anchor. Christian and I stayed watch all night sitting on either side of the main mast with flashlights and frayed nerves.
In Cap Ferrat, I was able to negotiate a twenty-year lease for a berth at a time when the dollar was stronger than the euro. That has been our home ever since.
Athene’s crew is two Frenchmen and me. My bad back usually places me at the helm. We’ve cruised to Corsica a couple of times and along the Riviera to a great flatwater spot west of Saint Tropez. If the Mistral increases, we drop anchor just off a wide sand beach, or Cap Negre provides a lee against an easterly.
We are blessed to have several local boatyards with wooden yacht expertise. One has a haul-out basin dating back to the 1600s, made of large stones with steps rising from the keel and angled away from the hull.
During our daysails off Cap Ferrat, we occasionally encounter another classic yacht and engage in a tacking duel. Other days, we get on a broad reach and sail across the bay to the cliff walls on the eastern shore. About a thousand feet up is Eze Village, a medieval town, and my wife’s apartment.
As you all prepare for the 2019 Rolex Big Boat Series, I’ll be thinking of you while I cruise aboard event’s inaugural winner. Fair winds.
Original Owner: R J Reynolds
Architect: Sparkman & Stephens
Builder: Nevins Yard, City Island, N.Y. in 1937
Size: 63ft 4inBuilt as a yawl named Elizabeth McCaw, later Doris, later Athene