Local family launches yacht they built for 14 years – Merced County Times



Every family has its challenges; however, it’s hard to find a family like the Hansens of Atwater who took 14 years to build a 49-foot yacht.

Fleet Week was recently held in San Francisco and this special day was chosen as the perfect occasion to officially christen the boat called “Escape Fantasy”.

Thousands of man hours went into building the wooden hull yacht by Steve Hansen and his wife and soul mate Karen in Catheys Valley. Many local residents knew them as co-owners and operators of the El Portal Imaging Center in Merced

Just to get a feel for how long the actual launch would take, clearing the transport process lasted six months and involved multiple permits, as well as the services of a crane and two transport companies to move the boat from Cathy’s Valley to Stockton where he was put in the water.

A licensed captain named John Curry of Stem To Stern Boat Services in Alameda has been with the boat since launch for sea trials, and he trains the Hansens in mooring and general procedures.

The trip during Fleet Week has been the most exciting so far as the day has been spent negotiating the crowded boat traffic on San Francisco Bay.

On board were Steve and Karen, along with Steve’s son, John, and his new wife, Inessa. This writer and another sailor joined the cruise which lasted until nightfall and the yacht was brought back to the dock at Marina Village in Alameda.

The yacht completed its tests with flying colors. The champagne baptism took place on the quay in front of Sam’s Anchor Café in Tiburon, where the party stopped for dinner at the end of the day.

Where did you get the idea of ​​embarking on such a project?

Steve is not your usual man when it comes to his upbringing. His father was a mechanically trained Air Force pilot who involved his son in a homebuilt aircraft project in the 1980s. Later, Steve purchased and flew a Cessna aircraft. He loved the adventure of undertaking a project.

Karen, who is a diagnostic sonographer working for the family business in Merced, said, “He didn’t ask. He just started the project one day, and that’s it. But we both helped put in the first frame, and my dad helped level the job in the foothills with his tractor.

The whole family was there for the ride and what a ride it would be.

The cost? Well, there is an old adage, “A boat is like a hole you keep pouring more money into.”

Steve credits the help of woodworkers, Sven and Gus Larsen, the Merced building contractors who were able to spend a lot of time on the project.

The yacht project also attracted other talented dreamers, including an accomplished young metal maker, Travis Baumann of Catheys Valley, who built every metal part of the boat, from the tanks to the masts.

Catheys Valley – where else would a person build a boat in the mountains so far from any sea? The hull was started upside down. Layers of marine grade mahogany plywood were precisely laid over sawn Philippine mahogany frames in a process called cold casting. Thousands of bronze and marine grade epoxy screws held the diagonal strips of plywood to the frames to conform to the shape of the hull. Even in summer, the mountain air made it passable. For Steve, it was a way to get rid of the stress of work. Karen understood his passion and was by his side while raising a son in a safe environment.

Steve admits there were times of doubt, but says completing each phase brought satisfaction as well as new issues to solve, as well as an opportunity to speak to many knowledgeable and sympathetic people who have helped. along the way.

Life had its ups and downs when the two engines were purchased. The company that made the engines stopped production mid-project, but that didn’t matter. The main engine was actually originally a tractor engine and parts were available from John Deere. A smaller engine came from Japan and used in case the big engine failed, so they could bring the boat back to the dock.

Five years ago, this writer actually saw the project and could only shake his head. The yacht was far from finished and there was a good chance it never would be.

Thanks to the internet and hard work, the parts and skills to complete the project continued to fall into place. Steve looked for people who had special talents to do special jobs on the yacht. There is something about boat enthusiasts, they are looking for boat projects from near and far.

It was as if Steve was like Noah building his ark, but without animals. And there was no rain to flood the land and bring the boat to the sea.

It was a total surprise when Karen called this reporter – a sailor by heart – to tell him: “Our boat has been launched.”

An official champagne christening was organized for Alameda during Fleet Week, and all parties gathered on the boat with the owners, family members and the captain. It was a yacht to see with its shiny wood, navy blue hull and white tops. It was one of the larger boats in the marina with three decks and two bars – one on the upper deck and one inside for heavy weather.

The yacht was so large that it fitted snugly in the briefs. The captain carefully pulled the boat out of this hold and negotiated a sharp turn out of the Oakland Estuary for the trip to the Open Bay. At 8 knots, it would take him over an hour to reach the open waters of San Francisco Bay, then he was heading towards the City Front and around Alcatraz.

There were hundreds of small boats and very large warships in the bay to celebrate the traditional Fleet Week. For security reasons, all the police were on site with their own boats. Coast Guard, San Francisco Police and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and Navy. Everyone felt they had to be available.

It was a brilliant day as Escape Fantasy made its way to the Golden Gate Bridge which stood guard at the entrance to the bay. The water was choppy and choppy, and the big yacht bounced back – at one point, throwing waves on the stern and getting people wet.

Regardless, that was part of the test, and that’s how the boat would behave in really rough water. It worked well. Like all testing the yacht had a few issues, but it was little things like some dials that didn’t work, but nothing major. The yacht preformed as expected and handled the choppy water with ease.

There were overheads of military planes overhead as guests on the yacht craned their heads, but it wasn’t until late afternoon when the Blue Angels carried out their maneuvers of high speed jet, as things peaked. The sound was deafening.

One pass after another with high speed aerobatics. The pilots who flew these planes were the “Top Guns”, the best the Navy could find.

Once the show was over, the captain headed to Tiburon, where a dinner awaited on the deck of the local landmark, Sam’s Anchor Cafe.

As the sun set, the crowd gathered at the bow of the yacht to officially christen the ship. The champagne was not broken on the arc as tradition dictates because it was feared that an environmentalist would complain that the alcohol intoxicates the fish!

However, those present tasted a bottle of Mums that was waiting on ice.

It was the grand finale of a great day and the completion of 14 years of work.



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