AYC’s Founder: The Unsinkable Ruth Beals

A youthful Ruth Beals.

How difficult do you suppose it was for a woman to start selling sailboats in the desert in the 1950s? Drop a stake in a vacant lot and call it a sailboat store. Gather a nucleus of sailors and turn it into something called the Arizona Yacht Club. Very difficult, I’d guess, but after listening to the stories from her daughters, not a bit surprising for Ruth Beals.

Sue Bohl and Maggie Lindsey speak proudly and lovingly of their mother—their favorite subject, they say—and Bob Naylor and I were delighted to listen. We met at a Phoenix restaurant for a late and long breakfast, and over omelets and many cups of coffee, we got to hear about the woman who AYC claims as our founder.

Sue and Maggie brought a stack of photos, clippings and records that tell a bit of the story: Ruth was born on January 9, 1918 and died October 31, 2010 at 92. She married three times, the first after WWII to Howard Beals, Sue and Maggie’s father. Besides selling sailboats at Sails Ahoy, she was instrumental in starting the Big Surf water park in Tempe with the world’s first wave pool.

Sue Bohl and Maggie Lindsey. Photo: Mike Ferring

Her daughters proudly point out that it was Ruth who got the $1 million dollar investment from Clairol to start the park. And there’s this delicious twist: when the marketing woman from Clairol in New York saw the lovely Ruth, they featured her in a Clairol ad that ran in all the nation’s biggest magazines.

Ruth wrote of her introduction to sailing in her college alumni magazine, describing how she persuaded her family to get a small boat, “even though as far as we knew there wasn’t a sailboat in the entire state.”

They hauled the boat and a slim instruction book to a Mexican vacation.

Ruth Beals at the helm, from a newspaper photo spread.

“In blissful ignorance we bobbed about the bay having a great time capsizing and learning everything the hard way, and then found out the bay was alive with sharks!”

“Much to my delight,” she continued, “enough people were interested in the sport to form an organized group. We started with three boats and 15 people.”

The young yacht club quickly flourished, pushed along by $1 introductory memberships, and she described an active racing and social life. Then as now, they did it against the backdrop of Arizona beauty, “Sheer rock walls in canyons, distant mountains. The sight of our graceful sails against this backdrop is unbelievably lovely.”

This was a woman who showed no fear. As a single woman, she traveled to Mexico, Central America, Alaska, Tahiti, England, Australia, and ran the Colorado river. To help sell sailboats, she got a shopping center to let her bring boats for display and got the local newspapers to feature sailing photo spreads. And in 1958 she started a yacht club that’s made us proud for 62 years and counting.

Maggie Lindsey sorts through clippings and photos of her mother Ruth. Photo: Mike Ferring

A close-up of Ruth from the Clairol ad that ran in major national magazines.

A newspaper ad promoting Ruth’s sailboat shop, Sails Ahoy.


Historic Club Championship Photos

The 1995 Club Championship contest in Santana 20s. Photo: Bob Worrall

Bob Worrall was sorting through what he says were some 30,000 pictures he’s accumulated on his computer when he stumbled on some with some serious AYC history: shots from 1995 and 1997 of AYC Club Championship racing.

The 1995 Championship was run in Santana 20s and was won by Al Lehman Jr. with Willie Nowak as crew.

The 1997 Championship was run with Catalina 15s and was won by, yup, Al Lehman Jr., but this time with Darrell Carapetyan as crew.

Here’s a selection of Bob’s shots that I’ve tweaked a little in Photoshop:

My First – THE FIRST – Governors Cup 1994

 By Dennis Lynde

Well, this is from quite a while ago, but I was asked to recall a former Governors cup that I had participated in and my first was THE FIRST.

In 1994 I was working for The Sailboat Shop and had the pleasure of selling a new Hunter 26, which he named Wit’s End, to Cliff McCrumb, a Phoenix police officer, and real nice guy.  He and his wife were going to go cruising, but his dad is a long time sailor also and had owned a few sailboats.

Hunter had just come out with their new 26, which was a real departure from previous Hunters, and had a lot of freeboard, a centerboard, full batten main and working jib. You really could not put a large headsail on this boat, since the shrouds were all led to the outside of the deck and hull which prohibited an overlapping jib. This was really a cruiser with a lot of space below, an open transom and a large cockpit.

Cliff decided he would like to try his hand at racing, which he’d never done, so I volunteered to crew for him, and along with a friend of his, Tom Comtois, we decided to enter this new race.  This was the First AYC Governor’s Cup.

Back then, the new dam at Lake Pleasant had just been completed the year before, and none of us were real familiar with the new lake, and it was in the process of still filling, so this sounded like a real fun challenge and a cool way to learn the new lake.

In 1994 the race was held on January 1st, pretty cold at night, but beautiful during the day. Cliff rented a slip at the then new marina and launched before I got there. When I arrived, like any good racing sailor, I asked him if he had cleaned out the cruising gear for the race, and could I get him a cart to take everything off the boat. He said don’t bother, we would race it like it was equipped, and we did. Sleeping bags, BBQ’s, two anchors, batteries, dinnerware, cushions, heaters, etc, etc, and with all the lockers full to the brim. I couldn’t touch a thing.

With “Wit’s End” being a new boat, Cliff only had 2 sails, a working jib, and full batten mainsail (if you don’t have one, get one). The full batten main was a new toy for mono hulls back then. Anyway, we entered the non-spinnaker class, which was a 2 lap 25 mile race of the lake. There was also a 4 lap 50 mile course for the spinnaker boats. Thank goodness we did not enter that class.

Starting out there was a good size fleet, and I don’t remember if we had 2 starts or just one combined fleet start, but there was very little wind and not much to come for quite a while. We settled into drifting mode, I was on the helm, trying not to pinch in a boat that had a lot of freeboard and a small headsail, but lo and behold, because of the small headsail, which was easier to fill in light to no wind, and the full batten main, we were out pointing all the boats that had a large headsail up and a standard main.

This kept up the whole first leg of the race, with this sail and wind combination being just right. And with even with all the gear on board, during a lull we had plenty of momentum to carry us through.

It took us the better part of a day just to get to the far end of the lake and find the first mark, which was a small buoy with flashing yellow highway emergency lights, not very bright, and prone to slipping off to one side of the buoy. Well, we found the marks at the far end of the lake, rounded them alright and tried to make compass references on the chart (remember, no GPS back then).

We finally finished the first lap in the light, and then it got interesting. It was not a full moon, and it got dark at the back of the lake real quickly. We fumbled our way through the course in the black of night, with absolutely no lights at that end of the lake. Luckily we had a wide assortment of flashlights with us, (remember the full lockers) and were only scared 4 or 5 times when we would shine them down on the water and see rocks ghosting by  a short distance away. Also luckily we had all brought winter gloves and jackets, and Cliff pulled a propane heater out and set it in the cockpit next to our feet.  Cruising Boat, remember?

We rounded the last mark and headed for the finish line at the other end of the lake at about 11:30pm and THEN the wind kicked in. We had a broad reach in about 15 knots of wind for the rest of the race and made it back down the lake in about 45 minutes, just screaming along.  We had lost sight and sound of all the other boats and had no idea of where any of the competition was. We finished about 12:19, and motored to the dock.

Cliff asked if we were hungry, pulled out his BBQ and proceeded to make pork chops, green beans and warm bread and coffee for the crew. Something warm to eat at 1:00 really hit the spot. Cruising boat, remember?

You can imagine our surprise the next day when we were awarded 1st place in our class. We thought it was pretty amazing, and even though it got cold that night, we had a great time, never ran aground and really enjoyed ourselves. If I remember correctly, some of the spinnaker boats were finishing the next morning after a 4 lap journey.

EDITORS NOTE:  Have a story from “back in the day” that you’d like to share?  Please contact Emory Heisler or Rob Gibbs by email at CompassPoints@ArizonaYachtClub.org

Rembering Boats of a “Zippy” Nature

Submitted by Dennis Lynde

After reading Rick Johnson’s excellent article in compass points about a Martin 242 named “ZIP’, it brought back memories of another time, many moons ago, of another “ZIP” that sailed with AYC.

This “ZIP” was a Montgomery 17 flush deck, which was my first new boat, and pride and joy. Pale yellow, with multi colored stripes, 1200 lbs displacement, 25 ft. mast, no interior, shoal draft keel with centerboard, and a ball to sail. We raced her for 3 years with the club, and in San Carlos Mexico, with Tucson Sailing Club, which also had several M17 flush decks sailing in their club. Al Jr. was a crew down there with me at least once. We also put the mast in the water when a wind shift knocked us down while under spinnaker. Very exciting. I sailed with her for 3 years, until I decided I wanted a boat with accommodations below, and good light air capability. Thus did the San Juan 24, “Bigamy” come into my life, but that story will be for another time.

Do YOU have a story about any of the many one (or two) of a kind boats that have sailed with AYC over the years?  They have likely been in either the Portsmouth or PHRF fleets.  Here are some photos of a few that may help you remember!.

 It would be nice if any of you have a special boat in mind, or just one you were fond of that you would write and mention in an article too!  Send them to CompassPoints@ArizonaYachtClub.org .      .org .