Sea Star Base lucks into a 1950s-era Sailfish
In 1949, the Sailfish was featured in the glossy pages of Life Magazine, where it was described as the world’s wettest, sportiest boat.
Some 70 years since the boat’s heyday, the Sailfish, and its later iteration, the Sunfish, are among the most recognizable boats among those who sail, said Mike Janota, director of the community sailing center at Sea Star Base Galveston.
“It’s the most common single-person sailboat in the world,” Janota said. “Everyone has seen one.”
The historic boat also might be the luckiest find those at the Sea Star Base have made in recent memory.
Although the newer Sunfish still is widely available, the original Sailfish has become something of a collector’s item, which is part of what made the events that began a few months ago so remarkable, Janota said.
“A man just pulled up here a couple of months ago and wanted to know if we wanted it,” Janota said.
The staff at the base spent the next few months restoring the boat and took it out on the water for the first time to allow Coast Monthly to photograph it. Adorned with a bright red and white flag with a picture of a large, finned fish on the side, the vintage vessel is hard to miss.
Designers at Connecticut-based Alcort Inc. first designed the Sailfish in 1945 as a way for the company, which originally was known for iceboats, to expand into different markets, according to an article in Small Boats Monthly.
The sailing dinghy was unique because of its look, a low-aspect ratio sail and a shallow-draft hull. Sometimes called a wet boat, the sailboat sits close to the water’s surface, and those aboard it frequently feel water splash against them as they cruise along.
The restored model at the Sea Star Base dates back to sometime in the 1950s, Janota said.
Those who bought the Sailfish in those early days had the option to either purchase it with boat plans, by which buyers would then construct themselves, or through the company’s shop, already assembled, according to Small Boats Monthly.
Alcort continued constructing the Sailfish until the late 1960s, when the company sold to New York-based American Machine and Foundry, which continued to build the sailboat until discontinuing it in 1975.
But the Sunfish is still built and found worldwide.
“It’s just a really great boat,” Janota said.