Summer 1978: Dock Construction
Dock construction took place in the summer of 1978. Pete MacRostie, who rowed and graduated in 1978, engineered the steel structure of the ramp, which was fabricated by the team’s friends at Fibersteel. As with all crew construction projects the team needed to keep material costs to a minimum, while ensuring the materials would still function. Pete knew what size I-beams would work best. And he correctly stated that the dock would be strong enough, but it would be very bouncy. The rest of the dock was wood. In order to keep the dock low, the team used a hot wire to split the foam floatation panels in half to make them thinner. They connected bare copper wire directly from the positive to negative poles of a 12V truck battery. It got HOT and did a great, if not dangerous, job of melting through the foam. The hot wire was pulled through the foam by two people who would each hold a pair of pliers to grip one end of the hot wire.
Dock circa 1979
UCD Crew Department of Water Power “branding” – coined by original team member Bob Lockwood
Pull up bar installed in Fall of 1978 (Photo from 1985)
Training Barge Acquisition
In preparation for Season 2, the barge was acquired in early fall 1978 from a defunct crew that had rowed at the Port of Oxnard. The former coach of that team called UCD Crew Coach Rich Sundquist in June 1978, shortly after the end of the first racing season, to make a deal. Rich was exhausted from that first season so he didn’t immediately jump on it. Instead, he promised to call him back when he figured out a way to transport the barge.
Fast forward a few months and by September 1978, as the second season was about to begin, a training barge had become highly desirable. So late one afternoon Rich borrowed rower Chuck Nichols’ truck, rented a flatbed trailer, and drove all night with Pete MacRostie to Oxnard. They arrived at the Port of Oxnard around 6 a.m. and began searching for the barge. They eventually found tied to a commercial dock, the large, rectangular, barnacle- and mussel-encrusted rowing barge.
It was shockingly massive in size, more than 2,000 pounds of thick fiberglass, with gunwales made from 2-by-8 lumber wrapped in more fiberglass. It was unclear if they could even transport it since the barge was much larger than the flatbed trailer they’d rented It was nearly twice the length of the trailer.
They asked around, but failed to locate the guts of the barge, which included the seats, slides, foot stretchers and oarlocks. Then they met someone who let them borrow two canoe paddles to paddle the barge through the port to a boat ramp and crane area on the far side. Because the barge was so much larger than the trailer, Pete and Rich both had doubts about moving it that day but Rich swore after driving that far they would take it back to Davis even if they had to take it in pieces. Rich asked the crane operator if he would lift it onto the trailer but he quoted them a by-the-foot charge – – the same as for a yacht – an expense far beyond the team’s means. Rich backed the trailer down the boat ramp as far as he could until the trailer was fully submerged and even the tailpipe of the truck was gurgling. They floated the barge to the very front of the trailer, tied the bow down and pulled out. There was so much barge hanging out the back that the trailer hitch was jackknifed up until the stern of the barge was dragging on the ramp as they drove to level ground, scraping off countless barnacles, mussels, kelp and other sea creatures. After tying down the stern they dragged the barge down the road for about a mile to the outskirts of a strip mall with a hardware store. There, they bought a handsaw and proceeded to cut off the largest piece of the barge’s stern (7 feet?), the amount they believed would allow them to transport the barge without it dragging on the ground. That chunk hit the ground with a bang. The two of them together could barely lift one edge of it, but they managed to rotate and wrestle the large chunk of barge into the main barge on the trailer in order and bring it home to the Port where Rich reassembled it with steel brackets and fiberglass. Fibersteel built short angle iron riggers, and Rich’s box of spare parts from UCSB contained enough brass oarlocks, ironwood tracks, Pocock seats and clog foot stretchers to fully outfit it.
Postscript and odds and ends
- Rich and Pete had rented the flatbed trailer on a 24-hour local rental rate and they did, in fact, return it within 24 hours.
- A few weeks after launching the barge Rich received a call from the person who’d offered it to him back in June. The man was not happy. Rich had not made it clear he wanted the barge so the man had offered it to Humboldt State. Some members of the Humboldt crew drove from Arcata to Oxnard only to find the barge was gone.
- By belated agreement Humboldt ended up with the guts — the riggers, seats, slides, and foot stretchers, while UCD got the barge.
California Aggie Recruiting Ad – October 25, 1978
1979 Racing Season
During the 1979 racing season, coached by Rich Sundquist the team posted victories over Loyola Marymount University, California Maritime Academy, and San Diego State University. The team qualified for the grand final at the Western Sprints at Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos, Calif. More details on the team’s second season of racing were featured in articles in the California Aggie. See below.
California Aggie March 8, 1979
California Aggie April 26, 1979
California Aggie May 10, 1979
Victory over SDSU at Redwood Shores
1979 Varsity 8
Coxswain Melissa Berry
Stroke John Boesel
7 Josh Muldavin
6 Phil Kearney
5 Mark Vandenberg
4 Gerry Brown
3 Tom Halley
2 Jay Ferrier
1 Chip Brown
Coach: Rich Sundquist
California Aggie May 24, 1979
Sacramento Bee June 3, 1979