Editor’s Note: Former Dana Point Times columnist James Lenthall makes a special return in this week’s edition to dedicate “Our Home Port” to the legacy of his late father, Jim Lenthall.
It’s one of my very earliest memories, a foundational memory, recorded by the raw mind of a 2-, maybe 3-year-old, fogged slightly by nearly 50 subsequent years of life and trivia, but certain nonetheless.
My father and I row a small raft through the barren west end of Dana Point Harbor, before new docks would draw hundreds of boats to their new home. The West Marina was vast and empty then, spare one or two old fishing trawlers anchored overnight. I recall that we were fishing, though I don’t remember catching anything. But the magic of those serene moments with my dad in our brand new Dana Point Harbor not only forged a lifelong memory, but serves as the deepest roots of my family’s life built around this harbor.
Dad moved his first sailboat into Dana Point Harbor in 1971, becoming one of its very first tenants. He developed into an accomplished local sailor, crowding his den with trophies. I sometimes accompanied him on those early local races, though I served mostly as ballast. In 1977, my father became the first Dana Point Harbor skipper to sail the Transpac race from California to Hawaii. Those were the days of dead reckoning and celestial navigation; he didn’t win, but he finished the unusually brutal race and counts among his proudest moments seeing Honolulu come over the horizon precisely when and where he predicted it. He and his sailboat—the Outward Bound—became legends in our harbor. Five Outward Bounds later, the Lenthalls are still here.
It is impossible to reminisce on my childhood—or any stretch of my life, really—without visions and tales of Dana Point Harbor. And my two boys, accomplished sailors themselves (it skipped a generation), have been raised along the same path that my dad set us on when he first moved us to Dana Point and parked his boat here in ’71. I have little doubt that our adventures on the current Outward Bound shaped my boys’ earliest memories. We have centered our lives around this place, we built our family here, our greatest ocean adventures were based from here. And, with enormous gratitude for all Dana Point Harbor has blessed us with, we strive to give a little back.
In 2006, my dad and I participated in our first community workshop on the Harbor Revitalization Plan. It was a raucous event, with an energetic crowd peppering the facilitators with tough questions and opinions. My dad whispered to me that I should comment about the planned slip mix, so I stood and made our suggestion. It would be my first act of harbor advocacy among countless more in subsequent years. It was my first step on the path that would bring me to the board of the Dana Point Boaters Association in 2011, eventually ascending to president of the organization, which led to establishing the Dana Point Harbor Advisory Board, which serves effectively as our harbor commission. These two organizations have made a profound impact on the future of our harbor on behalf of our community. And so often in these roles I play, I am inspired by my dad’s legacy, and I strive to make him proud.
My father, Jim Lenthall, died last month—Friday, Aug. 16, at 10:22 p.m., to be exact. Dad’s final year was spent largely contending with his ailing health and the mounting complications that cascaded in on him with relentless savagery. Rare were the days when he could muster the energy to leave his home. But when he did, it was always to our harbor, if only to spend a few moments resting on the deck of our boat, or nibbling at some prime rib at the yacht club. And he wouldn’t dare miss the festivities of the Fourth of July, his favorite day of the year in our harbor. And as it turned out, his very last.
I write these closing words on the deck of the Outward Bound, moored in a slip very near where my earliest memories were forged. I imagine a dad and his boy trolling a fishing line from their raft, alone in the empty marina, not catching a thing. For me, that day planted the seed for my life in this harbor, and all I try to do to deliver its successful future to the next generation. As my dad did for me. Whatever little legacy I leave behind in this place will be an extension of his.
I just thought you should know.
James Lenthall is a lifelong Dana Point resident and boater, and presently serves as president of the Dana Point Boaters Association, chair of the Dana Point Harbor Advisory Board and as a director on the board of Dana Point Yacht Club.