July / August 2024

The Fife Schooner ASTOR

A crown jewel of yachting
The schooner ASTOR.

The 74′ LOD schooner ASTOR was built for a client and friend of William Fife III who took her to Sydney, Australia, soon after her launching in 1923. In 1987, Richard and Lani Straman bought her in San Diego, California, and have been stalwart caretakers ever since.

“We have a joke in my family,” says Richard Straman, who has been the owner, skipper, and maintainer-in-chief of the 74′ LOD schooner ASTOR, designed and built by William Fife III in 1923: “When we bought the old girl in 1987, we had a 14-page to-do list. We are still on page 1.”

He’s exaggerating. ASTOR was far from a basket case when she joined the Straman family, and today she is a showpiece. But back in 1987 she was 64 years old, fairly original, and showing her age.

Richard and his wife, Lani, first went to see ASTOR at a fishboat dock in San Diego, California. Her owner had been getting by with oil lamps for interior lighting and running lights. “Her topsides looked like she was a steel boat that had been sanded with a 3" grinder and painted with house paint,” Richard says. Belowdecks, the varnish on the raised-panel bulkheads in the saloon had darkened to the color of mocha. There was no refrigeration. She had almost no deck hardware, no travelers, and the running rigging had outlived its intended purpose. The surveyor had serious concerns about a patchwork of repairs to the teak deck.

“But she had a stunningly beautiful hull and rig, and they were sound,” Richard says. “So were the engine and drive train.”

Lani loved the feel of the boat down below. “You could see what she could be,” she says. “We made an offer on her within an hour of our visit.”

They had no clue how this big schooner was about to turn their lives upside down—in the very best way.

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