On the Harbor: An interview with a storyteller

By LEN BOSE

I keep my Harbor 20 right next to where Jim Warmington Sr.’s home is, which is very close to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Over the last couple of years, I’ve said hello coming and going from my boat, with Warmington always giving me a very warm greeting and asking, “How was your sail today?” I always felt he really was interested in how the day’s racing went.

All of Warmington’s yachts are second to none; I’m always admiring them each time I travel by. While I was walking by one time it hit me – I needed to pick up the phone and ask Warmington for an interview. I wanted to learn about all his different boats, cruises, races and who he has sailed with over the years.

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Courtesy of Jim Warmington

Jim Warmington

Warmington has named one of his yachts Shanakee III, which is defined as an Irish storyteller. And what an adventure he has to share!

Warmington was born in Los Angeles, and at the age of 13 his family moved to Newport Beach. The family would spend the summers at his grandfather’s beach house here. At the age of 8, Warmington crewed for Nancy Corkett on her Snowbird. When he was 10 years old, Santa left a Snowbird under the tree with Warmington sailing it for the next five years. He did quite well competitively, finishing a Flight of the Snowbirds in the top four one year, while always staying in the top 10. He won the “Gold S,” which means he won the class championships, which led him to win a couple of High Point trophies.

I asked him who were some of his top competitors, and he was quick to reply Burke Sawyer, Tom Frost and Craig Cadwalader. While participating on the USC sailing team, the team won the Pacific Coast Championships sailing Metcalf dinghies. The team also participated in the Kennedy Cup back in Annapolis at the Naval Academy, where the team made the podium. Warmington started sailing keelboats at the age of 17 aboard his father’s schooner, Nellie Bly.

“My father had entered the Ensenada Race and purchased a secondhand spinnaker,” said Warmington. “We won our class that year, and oh my gosh that was the happiest I had ever seen my dad.” That same year, he and his father Ed were invited aboard the 83-ft. schooner Sea Drifter, owned by Lyman Farwell with Tom Corkett aboard and 15 other crew members. “That was a big highlight for me at the time,” Warmington said.

“In 1960, my father had an L36 built in Costa Mesa that was our first new boat; we raced this boat a lot. Our family preferred going to Catalina most weekends; we always spent 10 days cruising around Catalina with two other families. We would stop in Avalon and the Isthmus to get ice. No showers. It was not the same as today with all the nice stuff we have on boats. But it was pretty great.”

He and his wife Vicki sailed snipes together for many years. “My first racing keelboat was a one-ton that was 35 ft. requiring a complete refit; from then on I did a lot of building, refurbishing and trading boats. I loved the racing and the cruising, but the projects were really important to me,” Warmington said.

Warmington started building custom boats, and one of his favorites was a motorsailer from Palmer Johnson that the family did some extensive cruising on. “I’ve always loved meeting with different naval architects designing boats, doing the tank testing, sitting down with the builders and going to the different boat yards. I’ve been to so many yards. I have only built a few of them (boats), but I have loved the process,” Warmington said.

Today, Warmington has a boat he had built by Nordlund Yachts –Shanakee III – which he refers to as a great big old playpen for family in Catalina and cruising in different areas. I call it a work of art; it has been my favorite power boat in the harbor for years.

Warmington also happens to own my favorite sailboat in the harbor named Teal, a 42-ft. daysailer built by Hinckley Yachts. “This is my favorite boat; everything is electric which allows me to run the boat from the cockpit, which makes it pretty easy to sail the boat short-handed,” Warmington said.

About 15 years ago, Warmington purchased an expedition boat with the idea that if he and the family were to go cruising he better get started. From day one, the boat has been enroute to the world’s best cruising grounds with stops in Alaska, Panama, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, Halifax, Maine, the East Coast, Galapagos and the South Pacific.

I asked where his favorite places in the world were to cruise. “The Adriatic Sea. The trip from Dubrovnik to Venice has hundreds of islands. This area is super awesome for cruising. The people are great, they speak English, the food is great, it’s wonderful for cruising – it’s the best.” For the sunny areas, cruising to the San Blas Islands are to die for. There are a couple hundred islands. It’s just a wonderful place,” Warmington said.

My next question was what was his most memorable race. The two TransPac races aboard a Swan 57 named Tigers and the 76-ft. Pedrick Shanakee II, with the crew John Cotton, Gary Hill, LJ Edgecomb, Carson Jefferson, Brad Avery, Robbie Vaughn, Grant Edgewater, Tad Springer and Ron Merickel. It was so fun – it’s the guys that made the trip. Those two boats were super seaworthy and great to be on. The guys were the best,” he said.

I then asked him to describe the perfect day in Catalina. “Having a couple of the grandkids and their parents over there with us, swimming, snorkeling, a BBQ on the beach on Moonstone, and hanging out together with my wife and me. That is perfect,” Warmington said. “My dad said on his last trip to Catalina there is no reason to go up there (heaven), because this is heaven right here. I kind of feel the same way. I have been to a lot of wonderful places and feel Catalina is tops; it’s the best,” he said.

With all this sea time, I asked if he could recall a time at sea when he was most challenged by the conditions or a situation? “My first TransPac race was very rough, but I was on a big boat; it got my attention. I had one race on my one-ton on the back side of Catalina; it was very stormy on my new boat. We did fine, but we had to be very careful. I also made sure we always had good crew aboard,” Warmington said.

My last question was to share his words of advice on being a proper yachtsman. “Being knowledgeable about boats and respectful to the sea is super important; always be safety conscious – update your inflatable life rafts, have the proper life jackets and be super cognitive of how to properly run a yacht,” he said.

Now that’s a story I can listen to again and again. Jim – I’m just minutes away if you need any crew for a daysail aboard Teal.

Sea ya.

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Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for Stu News Newport.


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