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ISLAND HISTORY: McBryde Sugar Co. engineer and yachtsman Joel Cox

“Helen,” the first yacht built entirely on Kaua‘i, was christened and launched by its owner, McBryde Sugar Co. civil engineer and yachtsman Joel Cox, at Wahiawa Beach on Feb. 7, 1927.

Cox had designed “Helen” especially for deep-sea navigation and for oceanographic and marine-biology studies.

Expert sampan builder Takekichi Ichimura of Wahiawa had built “Helen” under the supervision of Kalaheo Vocational School Principal Frank S. Pugh, who’d laid down her lines.

Constructed of white oak and Douglas fir, with 700 pounds of lead on her keel, making her stiff enough to sail in any weather or ride out any storm, “Helen” had a length of 30 feet, a beam of eight feet, and drew 30 inches of water.

A Japanese seafaring custom was observed when Cox’s guests met at Ichimura’s shop near Wahiawa Beach just prior to the christening and launching.

White head-cloths with Japanese characters written on them were given to each person, heaping dishes of seafood and various beverages were brought in by Japanese girls, and several speeches were presented in Japanese.

When “Helen” touched the water, Cox christened her in the usual manner, and in an hour, when she was safely anchored in Wahiawa Bay, the work of completing her rigging was begun.

Among the 150 people who witnessed the event were about 100 children to whom Cox gave dozens of fresh oranges.

Born in California, Joel Cox (1892-1978) came to Hawai‘i in 1898 with his parents Isaac Cox, an educator, and Catharine Cox, who would become one of the founders of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

On Kaua‘i, he was also employed by the Kaua‘i Railroad Co. and Kaua‘i Pineapple Co., and retired from Alexander &Baldwin in Honolulu.

An accomplished yachtsman, he captained his 40-foot cutter, “Esprit,” from San Pedro, California to Diamond Head, O‘ahu in the 1954 Transpacific Yacht Race, a distance of about 2,225 nautical miles.

“Esprit” also finished first in the O‘ahu-Kaua‘i overnight yacht race of May 1952, and finished 6th in the Transpacific Yacht Race of July 1955.

Joel Cox and his wife, Helen Cox, had four sons.
Source: The Garden Island

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