Selene and Undine
As remembered and written by Norm Dawley
Checked by Rosemary Dawley
My first experience sailing on a PCC was on Selene with "Uncle Ed" Vail for a very windy Santa Barbara Yacht Club Opening Day Race sometime in the 50s. It was blowing 35 knots from the northwest. Only the hardiest and biggest boats went out, Selene, the big schooners Rejoice and Samarang and the yawl Cheerio II. "Uncle Ed" loved the breeze and did not mind heeling. We sailed the windward leg with the working jib and reefed main. The tops of the lifelines and winches were almost always under water and the leeward side of the cockpit awash. We tried to convince "Uncle Ed" that this was not fast, but he was in his element. We were first to the weather mark, so he must have been correct. After a downwind leg and a reach there was a short upwind leg and a run to the finish. As we rounded the last upwind mark and bore off there was a vast sloshing sound from below and as the boat stood up she settled so low in the water you could touch the ocean standing on the cockpit floor. A quick look below confirmed the worst. We were sinking. There was a foot of water over the floorboards below and the water in the cockpit was up to the threshold. The engine was completely under water. We abandoned the race and sailed into the lee of Stearns Wharf pumping and bailing with buckets. We were gaining on the water. No more was coming in. As it turned out, the covers for the winch handle pockets by the grandfather seats had not been put in and they open into the bilge. All of the hard driving sailing was keeping these large holes under water and happily filling up the boat from the ocean. We did not sink but "Uncle Ed" had a serious repair bill.
Selene off Santa Barbara in 1962
Photo by Dick Cleveland
Ray Dawley in Selene
Selene, PCC #3, was originally owned by Edward White who sailed
her in the 1947 Transpac. In the 50s Ed Vail, a principal of Vail Vickers,
which ran cattle on Santa Rosa Island owned her. Ed sold her to my father,
Ray Dawley, in 1960. Subsequently my father sold her to Ken Urton. Ed,
Ray and Ken, lived in Santa Barbara and were members of SBYC.
Undine, the last PCC, #25, was built for my father-in-law, Dr.
Charles Jobbins in 1959. Dr. Jobbins actively raced and cruised her until
his death in 1964. Undine was the first big boat to use North Sails.
He became a great friend and supporter of Lowell North. In fact, Lowell
was a pallbearer at Dr. Jobbins funeral. Dr. Jobbins was PCC Class Champion
in 1962, 1963 and 1964. My wife Rosemary and I bought Undine in
1967. We raced and cruised her extensively in Southern California. We
were Class Champions in 1968 and 1970. During these years you could generally
count on 8 to 12 boats for the class championships and the SCYA Midwinter
Regatta. One design big boat racing is truly a great experience. For several
years in Santa Barbara in the late 50s and early 60s there would often
be 5 PCCs out for local racing (Gossip, Malaguena, Rascal, Selene
|In 1972 IBM transferred us to Honolulu. We were determined
to take the boat with us as we had bought a lovely house on Kaneohe Bay
where we could keep her on a mooring right out in front. However, it is
very windy in Hawaii and stock PCCs are absolutely terrifying downwind in
a blow. The rudder is so close to the center of the boat that it makes a
great aileron that accentuates the wild rolling and frequent accidental
jibes. I vividly remember screaming back to Santa Barbara from the east
end of Anacapa in a strong southeaster with rain, at 2 am on the last leg
of a race around Santa Cruz and Anacapa. We were leading the race with a
spinnaker up and did not want to slow down. If you tired to steer you were
in trouble. So we just pointed her dead downwind and let her roll, jibing
frequently without our help, while we mostly sat on the cockpit floor in
amazement. We did win.
PCCs were also really heavy on the helm when you were power reaching. If it was blowing over 20 knots a strong, tall person would sit to leeward with both feet on the tiller while the actual driver sat to
weather steering and commanding the strong person to leeward to
push like hell with his feet when real force was needed.
Knowing that a spade rudder would make her a different boat downwind
and that the cockpit volume was too large for the offshore safety requirements,
we took her to Kettenburg's for modification before the trip to Hawaii.
We shortened up the cockpit taking out the beloved "grandfather"
seats and installed a spade with tiller steering. What a difference! You
could steer her in anything with two fingers and even let the helm go
for up to 30 seconds when surfing.
Mike, Lisa, Heidi, Rosemary and Norm Dawley aboard Undine, Kaneohe YC Opening Day 1974
|. The passage crew then brought her the 125 miles to weather from Hanalei Bay, Kauai to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. It was a terrible trip, upwind in heavy trades all the way. If it were much longer they might have lost her. She was making 200 pumps per hour, then the pumps got clogged with cardboard from dissolving cereal boxes, the engine would not start and they ran the batteries down. They ran aground (gently) on the reef just off the house. It was a lengthy clean up, water was in the drawers and everything was rotting and growing mold. We had to row out twice a day to pump her out until we could get her hauled and have 25 broken ribs sistered. The worst ones were under the fuel tank, which had to be removed for the project. Though the PCC was beautiful, great fun to sail and we remember her fondly, she was a maintenance nightmare in Hawaii. She was just not built strongly enough for the inter-island conditions. Every year I would put in 100 - 200 #12 or #14 screws replacing the #8s she was built with and replace the screws in a half a dozen butt blocks with bolts. We also had to back up the stem scarf with a bronze weldment. After all of this she was quite solid and we would usually only have about 50 pump strokes per hour upwind in the trades|
|We sailed the 1975 Transpac finishing in the middle of our
class. It was a wonderful trip. We were planning our 1977 Transpac as we
crossed the Diamond Head line for the perfect cocktail-hour finish.
In 1976 the PCC Mickey was lost on the reef off the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Don Anderson, who was fitting out a Columbia 50 bare hull, and I bought the wreck. I got the sails, running and standing rigging. He got the winches, lead and we sold the engine. A sad end for Mickey, but we really did use those sails, especially the 1.5 and 2.2 ounce running spinnakers, in the 1977 Transpac.
Between the 75 and 77 races, being tired of perpetual varnishing and repairing bent genoa track on the cap rail, I removed the cap rail and bulwarks and replaced them with an aluminum extrusion. That got rid of 90+ feet of varnish leaving "just" the mast, boom, spinnaker poles, cabin sides, cockpit seats you are all familiar with the drill. The mast had to be varnished every 3 months in Hawaii. I remember many beautiful days on the mooring Kaneohe Bay pulling myself up the mast on a 5 part falls, sanding up and varnishing down. Then you would pray that a passing squall did not turn the wet varnish into a moonscape before it dried
Poor Mickey after spending a night on a coral reef
|PCCs had a very difficult rating under the IOR rule, so we
were looking for anything to go faster. I removed the jumpers, second set
of spreaders, moved the main shrouds to the hounds and put on running backs.
It was a limber rig but took a beautiful curve for flattening the main and
had no problems staying up.
Transpac 1977 was an all-out windy year. Merlin set a new record 22 hours faster that the old record. Undine had 6 day's runs over 200 miles and finished 3rd in class, 12 minutes and 29 seconds out of 1st in class. Several of the crew and I had been sailing on a hot 2 tonner named Deception on races to Mexico (Mazatlan, Manzanillo etc.). Deception was also going to sail in the 77 Transpac. Since a 2 tonner would be literally, miles ahead of a PCC in an around-the-buoys race, they were very confident of beating us soundly to Honolulu. Some significant betting for who paid bar tabs in Honolulu went on between the crews. Undine beat Deception by nearly 12 hours!
Undine finishing the 1975 Transpac
Photo by Dick Cleveland
Undine finishing the 1977 Transpac
Photo by Dick Cleveland
|Undine also beat Roy Disney's Shamrock by 3 hours
on time. I was standing in the valet parking line behind Roy after the Aloha
dinner for the 2005 Transpac. I introduced myself as the one who had beaten
him out of a trophy in 1977. He remembered immediately and sprang for my
throat saying, "I have wanted to wring your neck for 30 years. How
could you possibly have beaten me in a PCC?" After that we had
a pleasant chat about the '77 race and sailing in those days. He recollected
many races in Southern California watching PCCs and K-38s sailing along
on their ears while the more modern designs were standing up straight and
We sold Undine when we left Hawaii for Connecticut after the 77
Transpac. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the buyer. She was
reported to be in Channel Islands Harbor during the 80s, but I do not
know where the she is now.