By Matt Thomas - CYCT Historian
June 2018

Past Commodore Ed Pinkham has been sailing for sixty years.  You’ve likely seen this soft-spoken man at the helm of his sailboat, Jeopardy.  For Ed, sailing is a “vocation.” Ed has sailed and raced in all different sorts of boats in places all around the country.  And, no matter the conditions, Ed knows how to make it pay.

Ed has sailed since he was 13.

When Ed’s family moved to San Diego from Kodiak Island, Alaska, Ed’s father, a Navy doctor, bought Ed an 11-foot, centerboard Penguin sailboat.  Ed was 13.  Ed’s family joined the San Diego Yacht Club and Ed raced his Penguin in San Diego Bay.  His competitors included Dennis Conner, who went on to compete in the America’s Cup.

Wherever Ed was, he sailed.  When the Navy sent Ed’s dad East, Ed sailed on the Chesapeake Bay.  When Ed’s family moved to Florida, Ed crewed on his dad’s Starboat in Key West.  Ed served in the Navy in the late 1960s and he sailed Snipes in Rota, Spain.  Later, in Idaho, Ed sailed a laser and a 17-foot centerboard Snipe in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

In the early 80s, Ed won the NW National Championship on his Snipe sailboat.


Ed started racing with the Windseekers in 1995 on his J-30, “Levitation.”  Ed recalled that the races back then were less formal.  The CYCT did not run the Windseeker races, though many CYCT members sailed in them. CYCT participated in the TARC races and hosted Fun on Friday races.  Ed noted that the boats were smaller in those days.   Ed said you don’t see San Juan 24s or Catalina 27s in the Windseeker races anymore.   Ed estimated that the average boat size is now about 35 feet.

Ed has competed in longer races like Swiftsure eight to ten times, both in his own boat and as crew.   Ed also made two trips down the coast to California, sailing with Gene Brown on Mystic and Ron Holbrook on Intuition.  Ed described these trips as “cold, wet, and long.”

The Black Gasser

Ed said his most harrowing sailing experience was racing on a Nacra 5.2 Catamaran on Lake Lowell in Idaho.  A “black gasser” descended upon the fleet and the winds shot up to 35 knots.  Ed was sailing on a reach when the storm hit and he said that he “never went faster.”   The RC abandoned ship.  Ed eventually made it to shore and helped other sailors get in safely.

Another harrowing experience occurred when Ed was CYCT Race Chair.  He and his wife, Sue, were in the old Romeo Charlie monitoring a race.   A tug went by and the bow of the RC plunged nose down into a large wave.  The RC was quickly swamped.  Luckily, the motor and bilge pump still worked.  Twenty minutes later, the RC was cleared of water.  The only loss was Ed’s cell phone.

Service to the CYCT

Ed has served as CYCT Race Chair three times, Membership Chair twice, Rear Commodore, and then Commodore in 2004.

Ed said his most difficult task as Commodore was telling the club about the death of a sailor who had drowned during a race.  Ed represented the club at the sailor’s funeral in Gig Harbor.

Ed was participating in the same race in which the sailor died, but Ed did not learn of the accident until after the race was over.  Ed described what he recalled learning of the tragic event: The sailor, who was the skipper of the boat, fell off during a spinnaker run.  He was wearing an inflatable life jacket, but it was restricted by his clothing.  The crew was inexperienced and had difficulty getting the sailor back on board.

Ed’s advice to CYCT sailors is to keep sailing.   The more you sail, the better you will get.  Ed said he admires his former crew members who buy a boat and then beat him.

Ed advises that you should do everything you can to prepare your boat for racing or cruising.  Change the oil.  Learn the rules on rights of way.

Ed exemplifies the love of sailing that our club fosters.  Let’s take Ed’s advice and keep on sailing.