This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of 48° North.

For Doug Frazer, sailing started at a young age in a remarkably unconventional way when, in 1962, his dad bought a 36-foot wooden staysail schooner that happened to be resting on the bottom of Santa Monica Bay. As he recalls:

“My dad thought it would be a good deal since there wasn’t much competition to buy the boat and we could do all the work as a family. We raised that boat from the bottom of the bay, named her the Tropic Bird (later Tropic Turd) and towed her around Point Fermin and worked on her — sanding, varnishing, and rebuilding the one cylinder Yanmar diesel. We sailed that boat to Catalina Island a few times and had some great adventures snorkeling and hanging on a mooring in Avalon.”

From those shipwreck saving beginnings, the next boat was the one that would put the sea in his veins: “After the Tropic Bird, my dad and uncle — both relatively terrified of the ocean — bought a Columbia 28 around 1973. I was off to college the next year in Santa Barbara and this is when sailing really started for me. I would sneak the Columbia 28 out of Los Angeles harbor and sail her for 20 hours with my surfing buddies up to Santa Cruz Island where we explored, hiked, surfed; and lived off of fish, lobster, and beer. I wore that boat out over the next few years and my dad and uncle didn’t even know about our adventures until many years later.”

After college, Doug took some time off of sailing until about 10 years ago when his beloved sister died from ovarian cancer. “I knew I needed to heal,” he said, “So I called up a friend who knew more about sailboats here in the PNW and he steered me to a Hunter 17. Sailing that boat helped me heal from the grief of losing a sibling, and then the Swan came along around 6 years ago.”

About the Swan 391 OxoMoxo

Built between 1981 and 1987, the Swan 391 represents Nautor Swan at the early peak of its racer-cruiser period of renowned design, craftsmanship, and performance. Designed by Ron Holland, Swan 391s have done exceptionally well on race courses throughout the world and are also known for being comfortable cruisers. Consistent with this history, Doug Frazer’s 1983 Swan 391 OxoMoxo has had her fair share of fun and success sailing throughout the Pacific Northwest.

In this latest ‘My Boat’ installment, Doug fills us in on how he came to buy this classic design and why she’s named OxoMoxo, as well as the story of one of the most epic knockdowns you can imagine.

Tell us the story of how you found your boat and what makes it special to you. 

Originally inspired by the cool, sharky look of its IOR design — with wide decks and wedge-shaped cabin top — the Sweden 36 (which was in my budget) was the first boat I set out to buy. I found a suitable boat in Victoria and went up to see her. In addition to the Sweden, there was also a Jonmeri 42 and a Swan up there. The old Swede was worn out from a career of weekend racing and the interior was pretty tired. I had a look at the Jonmeri, but it looked slow and like too much of a project for me. So, I finally went to see this one-owner Swan that had only been sailed in the summers. It didn’t take much for me to fall in love.   

What’s the history of your boat? Tell us its story. 

OxoMoxo was originally purchased through a Seattle broker and was built for the buyer — a cardiologist from Oregon. Doctor Chapman and his family sailed the boat in the San Juan Islands and around the Gulf Islands during the 30-odd years they owned it.

What do you like best about your boat? 

She has enriched my life in so many ways. I love that she has brought me so many friends, especially in the sailing community here in Seattle. She has brought me back to happy again and healed me from moments of sadness and loss.

Tell us about your boat’s name.

The name OxoMoxo was originally inspired by the Grateful Dead and their graphics by Rick Griffin. The word is originally AoxomoxoA, a palindrome, but we shortened it by dropping the A’s. An entry from the Urban Dictionary describes AoxomoxoA as such:

“If you fly stunt kites to win competitions, you won’t understand, but if you fly to give pleasure and entertain the audience, you might find AoxomoxoA. If tangled lines are an irritating frustration, you won’t understand, but if you find untangling relaxing and therapeutic, you might find AoxomoxoA.”

Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.

We have raced OxoMoxo in the longer races in the region including Swiftsure, winning the Van Isle 360 in 2017, and then racing in the 2018 Vic Maui. At the end of one Swiftsure race, I think in 2016 or so, I had a full crew onboard and we were bombing along under spinnaker. Nearing the final turn into Victoria from the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we accidentally wrapped the kite around the headstay and were knocked down in 40 to 45 knots of breeze.

As you’d expect, we couldn’t get the kite down and could not seem to get the boat back on her keel. All of a sudden our 40-foot boat seemed about the size of a dinghy and we were really flummoxed about how to get back on our feet and into the harbor. We called for the Canadian Coast Guard because we were concerned that we might not make the harbor entrance and end up below the entrance, or worse, on the breakwater itself. Fortunately, the wind finally abated when we were within about 200 yards of the entrance and we were able to finish.   

What’s one of your favorite stories involving your boat?

The birth of the “OxoMoxo Rule” during the Van Isle 360 is a memorable story. To start, though, I must say that the year we won the Van Isle was a very lucky race for many reasons, least of which was any expertise that I brought to the equation. We were lucky to get a Canadian named Ged McLean on our crew. Ged is one of the smartest and most tenacious guys I know, and he somehow managed to get our team to work harder than ever, inspiring all of us to never back off the throttle. Having my 10 year old son on board kept the mood light and as the youngest sailor in the fleet, he always
received special treatment.

One of the funny circumstances we experienced was at the finish of the Ucluelet to Victoria leg.  The finish line was an imaginary line drawn from Clover Point south out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but the rules did not state how close we needed to be to Clover point on that line. As we approached the finish in the morning after chasing light breezes all night, OxoMoxo found herself nearly 10 miles off Clover Point, but ahead of our fleet.  We radioed the committee and pointed out that we were crossing the finish line…but they said “We can’t see you!.” We replied that we were crossing the line, but were 10 miles offshore. It was determined that this was a legal finish. At the awards ceremony at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, we were commended for our close reading of the rules and were awarded second place on that leg. Thus, the OxoMoxo Rule was born.