Monday, July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021

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Family boat Corahleen returns to water after restoration

Rick Bishoprick spent years restoring 1957 wooden boat

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
5 Photos
Rick Bishoprick spent more than 25 years restoring his family's wooden boat, Corahleen. He hopes to sail it to the Gulf of Cortez and eventually race to Hawaii.
Rick Bishoprick spent more than 25 years restoring his family's wooden boat, Corahleen. He hopes to sail it to the Gulf of Cortez and eventually race to Hawaii. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

PORTLAND — As the sailing vessel Corahleen, suspended by straps and cables slowly unwinding from spools above, inched toward the water, owner Rick Bishoprick crouched on a nearby dock to savor the moment.

Bishoprick’s father and grandfather built the wooden boat and launched her in 1957. But since 1994, Corahleen has sat on a trailer, parked in Washougal and Ridgefield as it slowly underwent repairs, work done mostly by Bishoprick and his dad. After Stan Bishoprick died in 2013, Rick took on the restoration effort.

Monday marked the first time Corahleen had touched the water since ’94. Launching the boat was a moment of pride for Bishoprick and his lineage of boat builders in Clark County that founded Legendary Yachts in Washougal the same year Corahleen came out of the water.

As Corahleen hit the water, Bishoprick smiled and gave a quiet, gleeful cheer.

Memories

On Thursday, Bishoprick placed his hand upon the underside of the boat’s hull and observed a minor crack in the paint that will close up once the timbers soak up enough water.

“She will swell up and seal up,” he said. “We’ve got to get past that.”

The cracks are a feature of most wooden boats when they touch water for the first time, and Bishoprick is familiar with the process.

“It’s a whole new chapter,” said Bishoprick. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about forever.”

Bishoprick’s father, Stanley “Stan” Bishoprick, and his grandfather, Stanley Jr., built Corahleen, a 56-foot double-ended staysail schooner made of cedar and steel framework in 1956 and launched her in 1957. The original design came from the sailing magazine Rudder in a series on how to build a wooden boat. Its name is a combination of his grandmother’s and her sister’s names.

In 1958, Corahleen raced in the Transpac, a famous West Coast sailing race to Hawaii. The boat finished dead last because Bishoprick’s grandmother insisted the sails be doused every night, while every other boat sailed through the twilight hours.

After being born in 1967, Rick Bishoprick developed his earliest memories of sailing Corahleen on the Columbia River and into the Pacific Ocean.

“It was the best roller-coaster ride ever,” he said, referring to the boat’s motion of the rolling waves of the sea.

Bishoprick remembers crawling along the deck as a child and sticking his head through the windows, where his mother, Nancy Bishoprick, would give him food.

One of Bishoprick’s more intense stories from Corahleen is one he never told his dad: He was sailing Corahleen alone in the Columbia River when he was a teenager. He engaged the autopilot and walked up the deck. Without warning, the autopilot pivoted the boat around 180 degrees, tossing Bishoprick into the water. Bishoprick thought he would never be able to sail Corahleen again — if it wasn’t destroyed.

Suddenly, the autopilot turned 180 degrees again, and Corahleen sailed toward Bishoprick, allowing him to grab a rope and climb aboard, averting disaster.

“That’s when I knew Corahleen would take care of me,” he said.

In 1994, Stan Bishoprick pulled Corahleen out of the water and launched another boat, Radiance. He founded a wooden boat building business called Legendary Yachts in Washougal that year. The two kept Corahleen at Legendary Yachts, and they taught workers to help slowly and steadily repair her.

As Rick crouched by the deck of the boat’s bow on Thursday, he said Stan “would be pretty proud” of what his son had done to restore and launch Corahleen.

Restoration

Below deck, in the ship’s galley, Bishoprick stood before an almost-finished wooden interior.

“I love the smell down here,” he said of the faint diesel, wood, varnish and brass scents.

Although Bishoprick and workers have repaired and restored Corahleen since 1994, the boat’s original timbers remain in place except for two cedar planks, he said. It’s a testament to his grandfather’s craftsmanship; he treated the planks with hot turpentine and linseed oil to make them last.

Cory Rheault, service writer at Schooner Creek where Corahleen was launched Monday, worked at Legendary Yachts starting in 2007. He recalls having Corahleen as one of the responsibilities that workers took on.

“We’d check the lights, check for hornet’s nests, check the windows for leaks,” he said. Seeing Corahleen in the water again “is really exciting, knowing the family and history of it all.”

About two years ago, Bishoprick trucked the boat to his property in Ridgefield, where he could focus on the sanding, painting and more. He replaced the rotted deck and top of the cabin, which was no easy task.

When the pandemic hit, Bishoprick couldn’t find sandpaper or protective face masks, but he persisted.

“Sandpaper: That went the way of the toilet paper,” he said of the shortage.

A few weeks ago, he brought Corahleen to Schooner Creek on Hayden Island for the last bits of painting and minor fixes.

Christening

Just before a massive boat lift placed Corahleen in the Columbia River on Monday morning, Bishoprick and a small group of family members gathered around the boat for its christening.

It wasn’t the most traditional version, because Bishoprick’s grandmother was a teetotaler who abstained from drinking alcohol; she didn’t want to use Champagne. So the Bishopricks, in 1957, improvised when they first launched the vessel, just as Rick did on Monday.

Just as her mother-in-law had done in 1957, Nancy Bishoprick held a bottle of Champagne that had been emptied, scored, filled with milk, resealed, placed in a mesh bag and tied with a ribbon. She smashed it on the bow of the boat, and the family hugged. Some tried to hold back tears.

“It’s nice that Rick has put his passion and love into this,” Nancy said. “It restores that sense of family.”

Workers plan to attach the hollow, wooden masts and rigging next month to make Corahleen seaworthy. Bishoprick plans to keep her at Portland Yacht Club until he can sail to Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Show in September. After that, he plans to sail to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where Mobula rays launch themselves out of the sea and into the air for a brief moment.

“We’re going to dive with them,” he said as he stood in the cabin, near an air compressor diving system.

He plans to have his best friend and his best friend’s wife join on the trip, along with occasional guests, and he envisions putting together videos to download to YouTube so viewers can keep up with the journey.

Bishoprick also plans to sail Corahleen to Hawaii in the Transpac race, the same race it lost in 1958.

“I’ve got to redeem the last-place finish — come on,” he said with a smile and his hands thrown in the air.

This story was updated to accurately state the year Rick Bishoprick was born.

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