Beach Drive boat woes: The trimaran’s builder tells his story

(Saturday photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
By Katie Meyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

As we’ve covered the Beach Drive boat-woes saga, the now-wrecked trimaran’s background has started to emerge, particularly once commenters discussed having seen it advertised online for free.

Finally finding that expired ad led us to the man who built the trimaran that is now in pieces south of the Harbor West Condos. He had not heard about the fate of the Nunga Nunga Nue until we contacted him today.

Bob Sinclair is 85, a mainframe programmer who retired from Boeing in 1992, and who originally built the trimaran himself decades ago: “Originally, I had dreams of building something large enough that I could go anywhere in the world if I wanted to, and small enough that I could sail it myself.”

He was working at Boeing, single and traveling a lot, and thought he’d live on the boat after it was finished.

Once a commodore of the Northwest Multihull Association, Sinclair recalled that he and several other members, including friends at Boeing, would built boats as projects. One co-worker had started building a trimaran, getting the cross arm built, but had to stop work on it so Sinclair took it, along with some Alaskan cedar, and hauled it to another friend’s pasture where they built a shed and he continued construction.

“We built the boat, you know you build it upside down. When I did mine, I decided to do custom colors, and a ‘cellophane’ finish, where you put gloss down over the wood, let that dry, then you tape cellophane over that and the sun warms it and the plastic shrinks right to the boat, then you cut a small hole in the cellophane and pump resin inside under the cellophane. It dries in a short time, you peel the cellophane off and it looks like a motorcycle. That boat had a custom color finish, some mahogany plywood…”

As the years went on, his lifestyle changed – marriage, kids; Sinclair managed to sail the trimaran “for about an hour and a half” at Shilshole Marina. It never had fuel in it, although he did build a engine well and put in an outboard motor. He noted that “I should have gotten rid of it a long time ago.” Over the years the engine well would get water in it, and he siad it did sink once: “They built a special covering for it with a rubberized edge and nailed that down on it.”

In hindsight Sinclair said he would have built the well several inches higher, and the cross arm differently.

Shilshole Marina wanted Sinclair to remove the aging and problematic trimaran, he said. When he first ran the online ad to give away the trimaran, he had more than 100 people respond. Of the three people seriously interested, a man who planned to take it up to Alaska took ownership – the paperwork was processed so the new owner had the title, but he then “disappeared off the face of the earth” and finding that the paperwork had never changed hands in Olympia, Sinclair got an affidavit of ownership, and ran the ad again.

This time approximately 50 people responded to the ad, and as two people were looking at the boat, its current owner, who Sinclair knows as “Rick,” came up to him on the dock, “didn’t even really look at the boat, just said I want it. Got the paperwork? We went to Department of Licensing, got it turned over to him, went to the marina, where I said this guy now owns it and he’ll take it…”

His guess is that Rick didn’t plug the motor well, or forgot to put the cover over it; “…it had taken on a little water when it was at Shilshole before Rick started to tow it.” As Sinclair was giving the new owner the additional materials that went with the boat, he handed over the winches used to pull the sails up and/or in, to which Rick asked, “What are those for?”

As for what happens now – as we reported earlier today, the state Department of Natural Resources is evaluating possible next steps. We’ll be checking with them agan tomorrow.

14 Replies to "Beach Drive boat woes: The trimaran's builder tells his story"

  • BeachDriveBoy February 19, 2013 (10:27 pm)

    Nice. The new owner had no idea what the winches were for. Sounds like he was looking for a cheap liveaboard, and had no clue what he was getting into. I guess he can thank his lucky stars he was able to run the whole mess aground before it sank and took him with it!

  • Eaglelover February 19, 2013 (10:42 pm)

    Sad end to the story, as a son of that great era of Boeing folks pushing the envelope for things self sufficient it ends up in the hands that can’t carry the torch. RIP something that deserved more respect. Thanks for the back story. Great reporting as always.

  • Fabiolive February 19, 2013 (11:03 pm)

    Am I the only one who is not sympathetic? It’s called responsibility. Nice guy, but the public should be reimbursed to the penny for all costs this careless guy’s irresponsibility has caused.

  • sophista-tiki February 20, 2013 (3:10 am)

    Give me a break. There are much bigger things in Seattle that the public should be reimbursed for. Pick one!

  • Tony S February 20, 2013 (7:54 am)

    Since this boat is the subject of this story, I’ll pick cleaning up this mess.

  • mike February 20, 2013 (8:53 am)

    Well said Eaglelover, I find that generation very inspirational. Yesterday I had a conversation with a gentleman at a local hardware store, I walked away thinking to myself that this man like my grandfathers and father not only dreamed big, but where men of action ( our grandmothers too). The greatest generation for sure!
    If nothing I’ll take from this story that there are those that dream and those that dream and do.

  • Dom February 20, 2013 (10:23 am)

    Hearing that the salvage company will be responsible for the debris removal makes me wonder how thorough their efforts will be. Will they clean up just the large pieces and limit their efforts to the immediate area? There is debris strewn from Constellation Park all the way down to Me Kwa Mooks…

    Hopefully they get the large pieces and the rest will fit in a couple garbage bags.

  • scout 1 February 20, 2013 (11:55 am)

    Are we done yet?

  • Jim P. February 20, 2013 (12:14 pm)

    One hopes the owner of the boat (whoever it is currently) is held responsible for the costs of clean-up.

    I seem to recall whoever was on the boat when it went aground responded to the problem by going off somewhere to have a nap. Not an auspicious omen for a sense of responsibility.

    • WSB February 20, 2013 (12:17 pm)

      He fell asleep on a neighbor’s couch after she helped him out of the water, where he had fallen. It wasn’t “going off somewhere.” The state says there will be an attempt at cost recovery as there always is (noted in our story earlier Tuesday).

  • M February 20, 2013 (1:44 pm)

    Just pick up the large pieces and throw them in a dumpster or truck and forget about it. There are wood debries all over the beaches around here. Some of you could even do it yourselves if it bothers you so much.

  • Guy February 20, 2013 (1:49 pm)

    I love the leaking sewer pipes under the condos!

  • Scupper February 21, 2013 (10:12 am)

    I confirmed with one of the salvage crews that the clean up cost is being handled via the “Derelict Boat Fund” which is $3.00 fee tacked onto boater tabs. The skipper’s tabs were current on his powerboat so he’s contributing too.
    King County has posted another warning sign at Cormorant Park about polluted waters. I believe that the skipper originally made the call to the city about the broken sewage pipes under the condos.

    • WSB February 21, 2013 (10:22 am)

      The program to which Scupper refers is indeed involved here- we talked with DNR about that the other day. Here’s a link for anybody interested in more info (I’ll include in story updates too, we’re just back with a few pix from the scene):
      What the state officials we spoke with stressed is that while this is costly, it is costlier if the debris are allowed to just drift away – sunken, they will smother habitat, for example.

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