Respite At 60

By William Kleiser
Published: February/March 2013

Respite: 1) A period of rest and recuperation, an interlude. 2) The name of our family boat for the past 60 years .

The summer of 2012 marked the 60th anniversary of our family cruising aboard Respite in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Certainly there are older and more elegant vessels in the Northwest, but Respite was built by my father to meet the needs of our family and has remained our summer retreat since her first voyage in the summer of 1952. Respite herself was based on a history of Northwest cruising that goes back to the early years of the 20th century, well before the age of full-service marine centers.

Photo of the Respite at Wallace Island
Respite looking composed last year at Wallace Island Provincial Park, British Columbia.

Our family isn't from the Northwest — we're a firmly rooted California Gold Rush family. But in 1915 my grandfather was working in Portland, Oregon, for a few years, and decided to build a power cruiser. After a couple of years on the Columbia River, he decided to venture north. In 1915 he ran his 36-foot power cruiser Luana down the Columbia River from Portland, up the Washington coast, and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. That launched our family tradition of boating in the waters of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Canadian Gulf Islands. This tradition is now four generations old and going strong.

The Conception Of A Family Boat

Photo of Author's brother Jim and his grandmother in the cockpit, circa 1955
Author's brother Jim and his grandmother in the cockpit, circa 1955.

It was in the years just following WWII that Respite was conceived and built. My father, having spent most of his summers cruising these waters, was determined to do the same with his family. My grandfather's boat had been sold following his death on the boat at Orcas Island in 1945. So, my father set about building his own boat. Up until the day he died, he loved to build things. It never would have entered his head to just go buy a boat. He wanted to have something built to fit his specific needs, and something larger than he would have been able to afford at that point in a production cruiser. That was the birth of Respite.

My father had a clear idea of the cabin design he wanted: a center deckhouse with open sides that could be enclosed with canvas curtains during bad weather, sleeping cabins fore and aft, galley down just ahead of the deckhouse, and a deep cockpit. In a smart move on my father's part, he engaged a young naval architect named William Garden to design the lines of the boat. Based on the letters between them, they disagreed on many aspects of the design, but Garden's hand ensured that the boat's lines flowed properly, even if the cabin design was mainly my father's.

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