Large yacht loses power, towed away from Mats Mats rocks
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
The 100-foot Malibu is seen at Port Ludlow Marina, where it was towed Wednesday after losing power due to an electrical short. Capt. Steve Gordon is at right.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT LUDLOW — A yacht's voyage was cut short Wednesday when an electrical short caused it to lose power and drift close to a rock formation in Mats Mats Bay.

The 100-foot Malibu was towed to the Port Ludlow Marina early Wednesday afternoon with all eight people aboard safe.

The Malibu, which was first commissioned in 1926, was sailing north at about 9:30 a.m. when it lost electrical power and started drifting toward the rocks, Capt. Steve Gordon said.

“The electrical panel shorted out, and we could smell the smoke,” said Gordon, who has served as the boat's captain for several years.

“Even though we had a generator, our main engines were out, and we had no way to move.”

As the vessel moved toward the rocks, John Jacobi, the head of the corporation that owns the boat, climbed into a skiff and towed the boat away from the rocks, though he could not make headway across the tides.

While Jacobi kept the Malibu from colliding with the shore, Gordon called Vessel Assist in Port Hadlock and the Coast Guard, both of which arrived on the scene within 30 minutes, though there was some difficulty locating the boat's exact location because of fog.

The Coast Guard left the area after determining that Vessel Assist had the situation under control, according to spokeswoman Lt. Regina Caffrey.

The vessel was towed back to Port Ludlow, where it had been docked Tuesday night.

“There was a sense of danger and urgency when we thought we were going to hit the rocks,” Gordon said.

“We were lucky that we didn't catch fire, we didn't hit the rocks and that the fog lifted,” he said.

“It could have been a lot worse.”

The eight people on board included two crew members. An earlier report from the Coast Guard erroneously said 10 people were aboard.

Those on board take a similar cruise every summer, Gordon said.

Gordon said Wednesday he hoped to repair the vessel and continue the trip to the San Juan Islands but that that depended on the availability of parts.

It was possible the Malibu would spend the night in Port Ludlow and continue its voyage today, he said.

The Malibu was christened in 1926 and purchased in 1999 by Windermere Services, the umbrella company to the Windermere real estate franchises and the enterprise founded and chaired by Jacobi, according to a 2006 story in The Seattle Times.

The yacht was designed by Ted Geary and built by Norman Blanchard, two well-respected names in West Coast boating circles during that era.

It was built for the Rindge family, which owned a prosperous ranch that covered much of what is now Malibu, Calif., according to The Times.

Its history includes time spent as a gunboat during World War II and later as a swank floating getaway for the wealthy.

The boat capsized in the San Juan Islands in July 2001 with Jacobi aboard and stayed on the rocks before a barge crane arrived and hauled it back to Seattle.

Jacobi embarked on a renovation project to restore the vessel, which took two years and cost $2.4 million — twice as much as the assessed value of the boat, according to The Times.

Jacobi was not available for comment Wednesday; he was taking a nap following the ordeal.

Gordon said he did not know the boat's current value but said its upkeep was considerable.

“It's in beautiful shape,” Gordon said.

“But if [Jacobi] gave it to me tomorrow, I wouldn't have the money to keep it afloat.”

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: July 24. 2013 6:20PM
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