Sausalito on the Waterfront Foundation Story
A message from SOWF's president, Merv Regan
In 1989 Robert Squires and Barbara Ross invited me to the Sausalito Yacht Club for lunch. I had been very active in the community serving on the Board of Directors, as President of the Chamber of Commerce and the Art Festival Committee. During the course of the conversation I asked why Sausalito didn't have a lighted yacht parade because I really enjoy the holidays. They said no one had ever organized one. I asked if they wanted to come and play. They did and we have. The first parade was the largest yet with nearly 70 boats. Over the years we average 25 – 40 boats. And it is still FREE!
In the planning I thought we should have the largest yacht in town as the Grand Marshall. I went along the boardwalk and saw Defiance. I went to the Sausalito Yacht Harbor Office and spoke with Herb Madden. He told me Jim Gabbert was the owner. At the time Jim was the owner of TV-20. We played phone tag for days. I was on the waterfront one Sunday and they were on the boat. I introduced myself. He asked what I wanted. When I’m told him, he looked at me like I was a bit crazy and then agreed he could do that. I am happy to say Jim and the 85’ Defiance has been the Grand Marshall 16 of the 19 years. He was out of the country 3 years. Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf fishing boat Skipper Mark Magner came over from San Francisco to lead the parade. They have participated a number of years, when not out fishing. Coquette twice led the parade. Then in 2005 Invader was in town so Jim led the parade with his 165’ yacht. It was over the top! Jim says it is back to Defiance this year.
In all the years weather has threatened several times but we were only rained out twice. However we did have one brave soul, Bill Evans and his buddy who saw a break in the weather and motored Lono past the yacht club to the delight of the crowd the first time. We gave him the special Ensensperger Award. The second time we had five brave souls come out; Amici, Grizzly, Lono, Mystic and Tambadil. Scoma’s chided me for calling it on such mild weather.
After the first parade was over a CHP officer came to the club and inquired who was responsible for the event. He was directed to me. He asked if I had considered informing the CHP of the parade. I was puzzled and responded no why would I? Apparently the parade was such a spectacle that not only was the Yacht Club and waterfront jam packed, drivers stopped on the Waldo Grade to watch the parade. The CHP is now on our list of agencies to notify.
A number of participants have entered nearly every year. There have been several multiple winners. After winning three times, Annie Sutter decided to retire and give others a chance.
Awards: There are burgees for first second and third places in power, sail, and open class boats, the Ensensperger’s Flag for the “People’s” choice, a plaque for every entry and the Robert G. Squires Trophy for the overall winner. Robert may have gone on the great yacht in the sky but his memory will always be with us.
People don’t realize the effort it takes to decorate a boat. One year the Business Women’s Committee of the Chamber of Commerce got together, +/-30, and decorated the 125’ recovery vessel moored at the Schoonmaker Marina. They did such a wonderful job you couldn’t recognize the boat at night. Another year patrons of one of the local restaurants donated the use of their boat and the staff of the restaurant decorated and crewed the boat for the parade.
There are dozens of great stories. Rodger March, Dieter Rapp, Walt Wester entered their boat Lola twice, winning in 1991. They sold the boat but enjoyed the parade so much they rented the boat the next year and entered one more time. A couple new to Sausalito was just sitting down to their first dinner in their hillside home as the parade passed by. She remarked “ how wonderful to have a parade welcoming them to town.” A regular participant called to ask if we had a category for model boats. He and his son had built a replica of the family sailboat. He said they could tow it behind in the parade. They did and we presented his son with a special award. Another family was having a party in the hillside home. When one of the guests asked if the music could be turned down, the host realized the music was coming from Defiance. Of course he had no control over the music.
Judges: Hosted by the SYC Commodore-include the County Supervisor McGlashan, Mayor, City Manager Adam Politzer, Chamber of Commerce President, Chief of Police Scott Paulin, Fire Chief Denis Walsh – Keeper of the Light.
Parade Route: Sausalito Waterfront, off the pier at the Bay Model, passing the judges at the Sausalito Yacht Club and aboard Bob Wilson’s Grand Banks, Mystic, at the south end of the route passing Gaylord’s Restaurant, off the Cote d’Azure and returning north along the waterfront.
Viewing: All along the waterfront, Spinnaker Restaurant, Gabrielson Park, Ferry Landing, Yee Tok Chee Park, Angelino Restaurant, Horizon’s Restaurant, Gaylord’s Restaurant, Paradise Bay Restaurant, Scoma’s Restaurant, and the hillside.
After Party: Sausalito Yacht Club, members and guests and participants and crew. (Sorry, not open to the public)
Awards Luncheon on Sunday, 1:00pm at Sausalito Yacht Club.
The parade has become the outstanding event of the Holiday Season.
Sponsored by the Sausalito Yacht Club, Sausalito on the Waterfront Foundation, a 501c3, Sausalito Chamber of Commerce, City of Sausalito, Local Merchants and Residents
Co-Founders: Merv Regan, Chair, Barbara Ross-Conroy, Co-Chair, and Jim Gabbert, Grand Marshall
James Gabbert – Vice President
Jim has lived in Sausalito since the early 1960′s, lived on a boat until the early 1990′s. He has been the Grand Marshall of the Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade for 20 of the 22 years first with his 85 ft Stephens Marine “Defiance” and also the 164 foot yacht Invader. Jim is known for his 50′s Dance Party on KOFY-TV20, which he owned up until 1998. He has been on San Francisco radio and TV for over 53 years. Among his many accomplishments, Jim is past president of the Sausalito Art Festival, was president and chief lobbyist for the National Radio Broadcasters Association from 1970 to 1980, was President and Chief lobbyist for the California Broadcasters Association, was inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame, received an award from President John Kennedy for having been the first successful stereo FM radio station in the country. He is the Chairman of the California State Emergency Communications Committee handling all of the State Amber Alerts and is a fill in talk show host on San Francisco's KGO am 810 Radio. Jim is a founding member and Vice President of the Sausalito On The Waterfront Foundation.
Jeff Scharosch is an active community member. He is past president of the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of directors for many years and remains active today. He is also a member of the Sausalito Business Advisory Committee, the Marin Economic Forum board of directors, he chaired the Sausalito Stage of the Amgen Tour of California bike race for four years, orchestrating the first professional bike race to ever cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Jeff most recently chaired the Dancing Under the Stars event celebrating the opening of Sausalito’s new public safety buildings. In additional to Jeff’s work in Sausalito, he is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco’s Hospitality Industry Management Program, currently on the program’s executive board and is dedicated to mentoring youth and individuals within the hospitality industry, including an ongoing internship program at the Spinnaker Restaurant in Sausalito.
Board of Directors
Mervyn Regan - President
Merv is co-founder of the annual lighted yacht parade and President the Sausalito On The Waterfront Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Growing up in the Bay Area, Merv moved to Sausalito in the late 1970′s. He serves as presidents of the Dipsea Race Board, Dipsea Foundation Board and the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation. Merv is a director emeritus of the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce and was president twice. Merv is president of Innovative Marketing.
Chris has been in federal service for over 26 years starting with the National Park Service, then to the Forest Service and ultimately to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Bay Model in Sausalito as manager since 2001. Chris has served as president of the Rotary Club of Sausalito, founder and past president of the Volunteers in Public Safety, Amgen Tour of California bike race organizing committee, past president of the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce and the chair of the Waterfront and Marinship Steering Committee. Chris also serves on Marin Literacy, Dominican University's Women Leadership and Philanthropy Committee and the Marin Employees Advisory Council. Her true love is walking the dogs at the Marin Humane Society. Chris graduated from Dominican University in San Rafael, CA.