Ocean Pacific – California Dreamin part 1

The 1960s were stimulating times in Southern California; the ’40s had birthed a generation of “baby boomers,” born to parents who had lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. Their offspring enjoyed the climate of freedoms that came with parents who were now too preoccupied with making a living to focus on directing the activities of their children. This generation learned early to be independent … if they wanted something done, they did it themselves. And they thrived on this concept.

The ocean, the surf and the sand in Southern California provided the perfect lab for the future anglers, divers, or surfers.The inspirations and dreams spawned while sitting on a long-board waiting for the perfect wave changed many lives.

Jim Jenks, a boomer himself, born in San Diego, was one of those surfers. His every thought during his teen years was consumed by surfing and cars, in that order. He married Marilyn right after graduation, and for more than half a century they have built an enduring family, which includes three children, plus grandchildren.

He was offered a job with the Goodyear Tire Company in their Executive Training Program – a position he eagerly accepted as he had already acquired an interest in Hot Rods that he still enjoys. To this day he drives his award winning, bright orange, 1939 Ford sedan on weekends.

After a brief stint with Goodyear, he was hired by Don Hansen, of Hansen’s Surfboards, where he worked his way up to management in what was to become one of the largest surfboard manufacturers in the area. “I was surfing every day and life was good,” he fondly recalls. His position with Hansen’s allowed him to enjoy surfing spots like Swami’s, San Onofre and Stone Steps before they reached legendary status among the surfing community.

At every opportunity, surrounded by groups of his buddies, he was out seeking the perfect wave. Friendships blossomed that continued throughout his life. One by one, these friends found their niche and carved out successful businesses from what looked to be an idle pastime. Finding a solution for the discomfort of wearing swim trunks that did not quite fit correctly when wet, Jenks’ response was to design his own line of trunks specifically manufactured for surfing, which eventually resulted in an international giant in the surf-wear industry. By the early 1980s, Ocean Pacific Sunwear had reached $300 million in sales and had dominated not only the “California Lifestyle” apparel industry, but also the worldwide market.

“I thought, if I could figure out how to make a surfboard or repair a car, I should be able to figure out how to make a better pair of shorts,”

Jenks mused.

Fellow Hansen employee Richard Dowdy and Jenks chose Stone Steps as the location for a unique surfing contest which required participants to drink about a quart of beer before each heat. It was one of the most popular surfing contests in the area until 1973 when both stepped away to focus on their careers; Richard became editor of Surfing Magazine, while Jenks’ devoted his time to Ocean Pacific Sunwear.

Hansen’s manufactured a board dubbed Ocean Pacific, which was used as a rental board in areas that didn’t compete with the Hansen line. Jenks, looking for a name for his company, decided on Ocean Pacific, and chose a small-embroidered OP to be the perfect logo for his new enterprise.

Around this same time, he had also been helping Dale Woodard build fiberglass lobster skiffs in the evenings. Using one of the skiffs, he began fishing Cardiff Reef, fueling his lifelong fascination with boats of all sizes.

In 1972, Don Hansen agreed to become a partner in the fledgling Ocean Pacific Sunwear business. Then Jenks’ schoolmate, Chuck Buttner also joined the team as national sales manager and the rest is history.

“Surf shops were just starting to thrive,” Jenks explained, “and we offered them an entirely new income stream with this line of swimwear. Later on, we offered T-shirts, tropical shirts and other items. We became a very large successful company. It got to the point that I really didn’t need to be there anymore because we had licensed out everything. Business was good.”

Jenks’ interest in boats continued to grow; additionally, he had become a hardcore fisherman and purchased an old 41-foot Hatteras. He hired Steve Reschke (better known to the fishing community as “Captain P-Bod”) who played racket ball with Jenks. Together, they set up the Hatteras for fishing, which they did often.

Enjoying OP’s growth, Jenks continued to pursue his passion for sportfishing and purchased his second boat, his first new boat, a tricked-out Pacifica 44-footer with “OP” emblazoned on its stern. Jenks and his boat became a familiar sight in Southern California and below the border, always showing up wherever the fish were biting.

During the early ’80s, Jenks began to consider retiring and his thoughts turned to building a one-of-a-kind, ocean-going yacht sportfisher large enough to fish anywhere in the world … pursuing his own vision of an “Endless Summer.”

Applying the same kind of innovative approach that had served him well in his business success, Jenks began the process of building his dream – a mothership with a day boat, similar to that of his hero, Zane Grey, who had retrofitted the “Fisherman II,” a multi-masted schooner, by removing the masts then repowering with a diesel engine and adding deck-loaded fishing launches. In this boat, Grey had fished the waters of New Zealand as well as the surrounding waters. It was Jenks’ dream to do the same … except better!

Jenks decided that the logical place to begin would be at the local Coast Guard office on Harbor Drive in San Diego. There he met with the Officer in Charge. His question to the Commander was: “If you were planning to travel long distances aboard a mothership and day boat for sportfishing, what would be the best configuration for the voyage?” After some thought, the Coast Guard Commander answered, “The safest way would be to carry your day boat; the second best way would be to have the boat run on its own bottom, if the vessel had ample range.” He continued, “However, then you have the responsibility of a free-running boat and all the expenses associated with that approach.” “The third and worst option,” he advised, “would be to tow the boat, which would require additional crew to be aboard at all times.

Satisfied with the Commander’s answer, Jenks contacted his friend and naval architect, Ed Monk, Jr.

“What would be the best design to carry the biggest small boat on the smallest big boat?”

Jenks queried. Monk replied with a question of his own. “How far do you need to go?” Jenks reasoned, “We need ample fuel to motor from here to Hawaii without any problems. After that, there are fuel stops closer together all the way to Australia and beyond.” After much discussion, it was decided the parameters for a day boat would be from 31- to 34-feet and the mothership would have to be from 90- to 100-feet with lines similar to a Monk designed Elliot … with a forward wheelhouse, a bridge, an extended deck for the fishing boat in the center, but with clear walk-arounds on the entire boat.

Monk asked if Jenks would be traveling in any British territories. Since the trip included both New Zealand and Australia, they would have to adhere to British Maritime law. If the mothership were a 96-foot or larger twin-screw vessel carrying freight, a licensed engineer would be required. So the decision was made to keep the vessel to 90-feet.

Another important feature was that with the day boat in place on the deck of the mothership, an angler should be able to follow a fish all the way around the boat without any difficulty. When the day boat was in the water, the deck area could be covered with a tarp draped over the boom with outdoor furniture placed underneath. The shade coupled with afternoon breezes would provide a pleasant area to hang out to avoid the heat.

Additional features on the “wish list” included large tanks for live bait, a walk-in freezer system the width of the boat and 6-feet tall, plus two fuel tanks, outside sight gauges for checking fuel, centrifuge, (suggested by Bob Bisbee), duplicate two 40-kw Northern Lights, 1,200 rpm generators with twin-buss system, where each side could provide all the electricity needed, and one could rotate weekly between the two, plus tanks for 7,000 gallons of fuel. Lastly, but very important, was one of the partners of the builders advice, “DO NOT use a system or equipment that hasn’t been on the market at least five years, allowing for extensive testing.”

After years of planning, meetings and a huge dose of California Dreamin’, Jenks signed the contract. On July 7, 1983, the Spokane Chronicle published the following: “Jones Goodell announced Jim Jenks has ordered a 90′ Ocean yacht equipped to carry a 32′ to 34′ day boat to be constructed at their yard in the Tacoma area.”

Back in San Diego, Jenks began planning for his trip. Upon learning that Captain P-Bod would not be able to leave his family for extended periods of time, while in Cabo, Jenks invited Captain Peter Groesbeck, of San Diego, to stop by the Pacifica to see the plans for the new boat. After only a few hours of discussion, Captain Groesbeck could hardly contain his excitement about the new venture and an instant friendship was formed. After a lengthy discussion, a new employee and trusted Captain assumed the responsibility for the new Ocean Pacific.

It was Groesbeck who would supervise the building of the new boats in Tacoma…making sure that every detail was just as Jenks had planned. It would be Groesbeck who would sea trial the boats before departing for the South Seas. . . but more importantly it would be Groesbeck who would share the dream of the fishing adventures on this mothership, the first of its kind. From start to completion, the two men poured over every detail of their itinerary to Cabo, Clipperton, Hawaii, the South Seas and Australia’s Barrier Reef — a 20,000 mile journey which would last nearly two years and would be filled with extraordinary adventures which we will explore in Part 2.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

That Baja Guy-Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world record...