Part One of Two Updates on the Progress in Building a Historically Accurate Replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s Flagship
By Judi Curry
There are not many times in life that you meet a person you don’t want to say goodbye to. This was not a romantic endeavor, but rather a person that is so genuine, so humble that you obtain energy just from being with him.
I recently met one of those extraordinary men – a Sicilian, who has worked in the boat business for 50-odd years, learning the trade as a teen in Sicily. He is a wonderful craftsmen and you can’t help but marvel at the finished product he creates.
Who is this man, you ask? A little background first. A while ago I did a story of the “Women volunteers of the San Salvador.” This is the ship that you can see being built just west of the airport on Harbor Drive. I was going to go back and do a story of the men volunteers but never got around to it.
Luckily, I’m on the mailing list of the San Salvador and had received a message from the volunteer coordinator regarding the stepping of each mast for measuring shrouds, or the rigging that secures the mast on either side. This involves holding the masts and their crow’s nests in place on the boat with a crane while temporary lines are used to measure the distance to the deck.
The message went on to say the event would also include the firing of one of the cannons, and remarked that it “should be a great day to come by if possible.”
And…it was possible. This article is two-fold; I’ll first introduce you to this extraordinary man. Next time I’ll show you what the San Salvador looks like now.
Vince Sardina began working on boats when he was 10 years old in Sicily. His father owned a boat yard and when Vince was finished with school for the day he helped his father at the yard.
By the time he was 16, he was managing the yard when his father was not there. And even though it was his father’s boat yard, he still became an apprentice first; and a journeyman later on. He was one of three sons and three daughters. Only he became interested in the boat business.
In 1933 his maternal grandparents moved to San Diego while his paternal grandparents moved to Buffalo, New York. By 1955 the entire Sardina family was in San Diego. Vince settled in Buffalo originally, and his second day there he was employed at the Richardson Boat Yard.
Later on in his life, he met his wife and they lived in Chicago, where, again he worked in a boat yard. He constructed many different kinds of boats from yachts to large sailing vessels.
When he and his wife moved to San Diego with their three children, Vince began working for the Kettenberg company. When they sold out, he went to work for the company that bought the business. Throughout his entire life he has worked in boatyards and you should see his finished product.
Everyone I spoke to talked about this man, primarily how he did not want to take credit for what he had done, but everyone knows he did the work. While I was there, he was creating the instrument panel and working on the molding of the windows. He said the most exciting part of working on the San Salvador was laying the planking – and lest you think that didn’t amount to much, there are more than 1,000 planks that bear his workmanship, each one set beautifully next to each other.
If you look at these pictures it will give you an idea of just what type of man Vince is. You can see the strength in his face and hands. He is gentle but firm, confident in his ability, quiet in his demeanor.
All of this while being humble at the same time. He is respected by those he works with and they admire him and his ability. There does not appear to be any jealousy from his co-workers. Rather, they enjoy working – and learning – from him. He told me that he loves getting up in the morning and coming to the San Salvador. There is something new happening each day, and he is proud to be part of the building of the ship.
He works from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and loves every minute of the day. I asked him if his wife resents the time he puts in at the San Salvador and he told me that she owns her own Italian Deli – BMH on the 7600 block of El Cajon Blvd. They only live a few blocks from it so Maria is there almost as much as Vince is at the San Salvador.
I would suggest that you go visit the San Salvador and for a $5 donation take a closer look at what he, and all of the workers are doing. They hope to launch the ship in March or April. Look at it now and see the “inner workings.”
I can’t thank Vince enough for spending the time with me; it was a enlightening and joyful. I hope I get another chance as they get closer to launching the ship.