Out to sea with our local food and drink
By Hannah Lonergan
Photography by Patrick Tregenza
It’s Wednesday night in the Santa Cruz Harbor and the weekly summer sailboat races are about to start.
It would be understandable if you mistook the Chardonnay II for one of the entrants—the SC 70 was built by famed Santa Cruz racing yacht builder Bill Lee at his yard above the high school in Soquel, and it has a hull designed for speed.
But step onto the Chardonnay II’s deck and you’ll find the boat is outfitted with vacuum flush toilets, beer on tap, a stereo system and other amenities more suited to comfortably relaxing and watching the races—or the sunset, or whales breaching—and enjoying the Monterey Bay area’s local food and drink while out on the bay itself.
If this sounds enticing, it won’t come as a surprise that over the two dozen years that owners Jim Beauregard and the Santa Cruz Seaside Co. have operated the charter sailboat—and an earlier, smaller version called the Chardonnay—it’s become a popular local institution, drawing return trips from locals and tourists alike.
“I’ve seen people grow up on this boat, been to birthdays and weddings,” says Kat Burrows, the vessel’s manager. Also known as “Boat Mom” to the close-knit staff of 23, Burrows says the Chardonnay II brings new people together, too.
“I’ve seen complete strangers make lasting friendships,” Burrows says. “There’s an enchantment from the close quarters and being out on the water, out of your element, away from all life’s distractions.”
The company offers more than 10 different types of sails over the course of each week, ranging in theme from “Sunset and Hors d’oeuvres” to “Hawaiian Grill,” and local passengers, like Ruck Haybryne, tend to have their favorites.
“This is my fifth time on the Chardonnay II. I think of myself as a pizza connoisseur, so naturally the pizza and beer night is my favorite,” Haybryne said recently over a craft beer from Uncommon Brewers and fresh tomato and feta-laden slices from Upper Crust Pizza of Santa Cruz.
The Chardonnay II prides itself on sourcing from local purveyors and invites along the winemakers, brewers and chefs behind their products. For a recent Friday Night Winemaker sail, Dan and Molly Lokteff brought their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from their Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just 20 minutes from the dock.
“The unique venue makes it something we plan on going on again soon—or as soon as a spot opens up,” Dan Lokteff says. “The vineyard charters fill up pretty quickly!”
The Chardonnay II runs public charters every day of the week except Monday; the boat is available any day for private charters.
All public sails are $56 for adults and $29.50 for children, including food and drinks, except for the Tuesday and Thursday BYO nights, which are just $39.50 for adults and $23.81 for children for the sail only.
Sundays are particularly busy, with a whale watching and ecology brunch during whale migration season in late spring and early summer— complete with onboard marine naturalists—and champagne brunches in the off season. And on Sunday afternoons, the boat offers Sushi sails and in the early evening, a chef from a different local caterer or restaurant for its Taste of Santa Cruz sail. (Assembly, Johnny’s Harborside and Oak Tree Ristorante are among the restaurants on the roster for this season.)
Beauregard, who also owns two other Santa Cruz institutions, Shopper’s Corner and Beauregard Vineyards, says that before the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, he had designed and hoped to build a 93- foot ship. He still thinks about it, but for now, he says he’s holding himself back and enjoys his sails on the Chardonnay II.
“It’s invigorating,” Beauregard says. “It kind of clears the mind.”
Hannah Lonergan is a Cape Cod native with a deep-rooted love for sunset hikes in Big Sur, meandering through farmers’ markets and kayaking around the otters in Elkhorn Slough.
790 Mariner Park Way, Dock FF, Santa Cruz Harbor