Photo courtesy of James Holkko
Presenting Classic Boat Festival 2023
Richard “Slim” Gardner
By David R. Huchthausen
Victoria Classic Festival Judge
PNW CYA Historian
PNW CYA Past Commadore
I first met Slim Gardner at a Classic Yacht Association function nearly thirty years ago. He strode into the room, towering over everyone, commanding the crowd and forcing respect by his very presence. His hands were covered with massive gold rings, and when I spoke with him, my first thoughts were “this is the closest thing to a pirate I’ve ever seen in my entire life”. Over the decades we became great friends and cruising partners throughout British Columbia and Puget Sound. During that time Slim has more than outlived my initial impressions of him. One evening during Pirate’s Night at Pierre’s Echo Bay in the Broughton Islands, Slim and his entire crew strode into the large dining room completely decked out in authentic pirate garb, replete with officers’ jackets, hats, tall black boots, scabbards and revolvers. Slim has become such an icon that would be difficult to single out many individuals who have had a more profound impact on both Classic Yachting in the Pacific Northwest and in the runabout community. Starting with his 65’ 1937 Commuter Consolidated, which he purchased in Miami and trucked to California, through his many beautifully varnished Chris Crafts, his fabulous restorations have garnered admiration wherever they were shown or cruised.
Since he first joined the Classic Yacht Association in 1974, Slim Gardner has served as both Fleet Commodore and National Commodore. He has also been awarded Life Membership, granted only to those who have made significant contributions over many years. He has been an active participant in every major Classic Yachting event up and down the entire West Coast. Slim acquired and extensively restored his beloved 1929 Hoffer-Beeching fantail “MV Deerleap” more than 30 years ago. He has attended every Victoria Classic Boat Festival since 1999, and has been awarded Best Restored Power, Best Liveaboard, Best Engine Room and multiple People’s Choice and Hospitality Awards. Every year there are hundreds of people lined up along the dock waiting for a tour. Venture into the engine room if you dare, but you might be blinded by the reflection of the twin Gardner diesels in the bulkhead wall of mirror polished stainless steel.
During his decades of cruising aboard “Deerleap”, Slim has exposed awe struck dock walkers, boating novices and seasoned mariners alike to the history and drama of Classic Yachting; he is indeed one of a kind in our realm. Slim has been an inspiration to many and the envy of others, and I am extremely pleased that he has been chosen as the “Honorary Commodore” of the 2023 Victoria Classic Boat Festival. Slim is, and always will be, a Pirate, and as such, he is indeed the perfect choice.