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If the family that sails together stays together, the Burkhart family are clearly staying together. When Frank Burkhart bought the Islander 36, ISLAND GIRL, he had limited experience and no crew. Twenty-four years later, the Burkharts and ISLAND GIRL are a regular sight among the sailboats on San Francisco Bay and the surrounding waters.
However, she wasn’t always a family bay-cruiser. Although Frank had some basic sailing skills when he bought ISLAND GIRL, he decided the best way to improve quickly was to race. So he entered the boat in the Offshore Yacht Racing Association (OYRA) series, which is a series of ocean races across local waters such as California’s Half Moon Bay, Drakes Bay and the Farallones. “Putting a crew together took time, but ultimately I had a crew that made me look good,” said Frank.
By 1996 Frank and his crew were serious contenders in the OYRA and managed second place in their division, as well as receiving the South Tower Demon award for “having broached way too many times under the Golden Gate Bridge.”
The crew did improve and by the following year found themselves in first place. This was also the year that the future Mrs. Burkhart, then known as Lynn Langford, joined the boat and began to impress everyone with her sailing skills, and her boat-food skill, producing what Franks described as the “best food on the Bay.”
Soon after, Frank and one of his crew were invited to join a boat in the 1998 Pacific Cup (San Francisco to Hawaii). Following the PacCup, ISLAND GIRL and her crew relaxed a little with “less serious ocean racing and a lot of beer can racing an, a lot of casual sails.
A few years later the Burkhart boys, Will and Luc, were born and sailing took a back seat to everyday family life. However, the twins were not going to stay onshore forever. Today the teenagers are an integral crew on ISLAND GIRL ,enjoying beer can racing out of Sausalito Yacht Club and regular weekend sails all over the Bay.
This past summer Frank and the boys gave ISLAND GIRL a much-needed make-over. “As with any boat, maintenance and upkeep is constant. With the boat being used only occasionally while the boys were growing up, there were multiple tasks and upgrades needed.”
Together they sanded her wood bare and applied 6 coats of varnish, sanded the deck, painted and applied new non-skid, and hauled the boat to have the hull topsides sanded and painted. “ISLAND GIRLis now looking like a new Islander 36 ,” Frank said.
Frank remembers one recent night sail across the Bay that stands out. “One son caught a ride home from Alameda by car, so my other son and I decided in the middle of the night to sail home. Leaving Alameda at 2am, we had the typical beautiful views of San Francisco, past Alcatraz and finally into Sausalito. Winds were definitely up, mostly above 20 knots with 30+ knots gusts coming into Sausalito. To say the least, the boat worked hard and had water pouring over the decks most of the way home.
“It was fun listening to the discussions between ship captains on the route they were taking and to watch out for a sailboat crossing the shipping channel. At least we knew, that we had been seen as we were the only sailboat on the Bay.” (For anyone who hasn’t experienced San Francisco Bay at night, it can be very black and contain numerous large ships!)
And as Frank and his family become saltier and even more experienced, what will their sailing future hold? “More racing, maybe back to OYRA. And definitely many more days on the Bay with family and friends,” Frank said.
What a great testament to love of family, boat and sport!