The Sea Witch

Sea Witch in May 2006

Sea Witch - The Original!

Built 1937-1939 at Wilmington Boat Works (WILBO), Wilmington, CA 

Mike Gebhardt
Home Port:
Titusville, FL
ail: Skipper Gebhart

(1-A Hugh Angelman)
(1. Haldane & Dorothy Douglas)
(2. Godwin and Deborah Pelissero)
 (3. Robert & Sandy Driscoll)
(4. Henry & Barbara Whittier)
(5. David and Jennifer Snow)
(6 or 7 Bill Mansfield



Site Directory


The Driscolls'
Blue Water Odyssey
with the Sea Witch
available on DVD 


The Latest from Skipper Gebhardt

On July 4th, 2017, the Sea Witch Sails Again!

Well, here it is! Sea trials today went fine. Unfortunately it was a pretty low wind kind of day 5-7 kts maybe, VERY hot and sunny too, but the boat performed well enough, no real problems encountered. (except what to do with all the excess line once the sails are up, lol)

     Considering this was my first time taking her out, things went quite well. I had the assistance of my good friend, and experienced sailor, Brent Royal along to help manage the rig and because I expected I'd need some experienced help getting her into and out of the fairly tight slips at Titusville marina.
     We had discussed how we'd return her to the slip because we had no idea what the prop walk would be like considering how offset the prop shaft is. Originally we had talked about testing the "walk" off shore a bit, but as we neared the marina I noticed a slight rise in engine temperature so I decided to just push on and do the best we could returning her to her new slip. Since we hadn't stowed the sails yet, it was a bit of a chore to see ahead very well, but I was just jumping back n forth checking each side as we came in.
     Once we got close to our new slip in between a big Morgan and a 50 something Benetau, I just hollered out to Brent who was stationed near the bow, that I was just going to "Captain Ron" her in.
     He knew exactly what that meant, and it went off beautifully. I had to back her in due to my huge bowspit, so I kept about 2-3 kts headway till we were just off the slip, gave her a hard to STBD, and as we passed about 45 degrees, I put her into reverse and let her
swing momentum get stopped by the reverse action. By the time the swing stopped, we were aligned straight out from the slip and sliding right in very nicely at a comfortably slow rate. Not bad for her first time under my hand.

Mike Gebhardt

Good work Skipper!


On the 8th of September, 2016, Mike Gebhardt, of Geneva, Florida, purchased Sea Witch.

On the 4th of December we heard from Mike, who says:
...Thought I'd give you an update on the progress on my Sea Witch Hull #1.

      She's coming along nicely. The engine and drive train are working great now, most of the electrical is working, and I've even made a few trips aloft to repair some of the rigging.
      I've been chasing a good bit of rot along the gunnels and toe rail, but haven't seen any structural issues. Railing repairs are coming along, but the woodworking is VERY time consuming, and tedious, but I enjoy doing it. I've had tons of people coming by to say they are SO happy to see her coming back to life.

      I expect she'll see her first sail around springtime. That'll be her first time away from the dock in about 5-7 years. She will be staying in Titusville for the foreseeable future.
      Be sure and mark me down as her new owner....

Mike Gebhardt
This is the best news concerning the Sea Witch in a long time. We had two or three false starts, but Mike sounds as though he might just give Sea Witch what she needs!

Mike sent us this view of Sea Witch as his work has just begun. Looks like she's all there!

Good luck Mike!! Keep in touch!

Sea Witch at beginning of

Click on Images for Larger View

Sea Witch, September
Sea Witch, Dec. 31st,
DECEMBER 31, 2016
And on July 4th, 2017

Stay tuned!

Photos submitted by Former owners
Hank and Barbara Whittier
They put a lot of work into Sea Witch, but their ultimate
dream was thwarted when Hank suddenly passed on
to the celestial sailing grounds.

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In June of 2007 we finally made contact with Henry "Hank" Whittier, the (then) current owner of this web site's name sake.

(Sadly, Hank Whittier passed away in about 2009)

In January of 2007 we received an email from Henry "Hank" Whittier. He said, "I may have a few current Sea Witch pictures if you are interested... She's now located in Florida, and has a bronze plaque commemorating her 1951 TransPac Class C victory... which may attest to her pedigree!"

We promptly answered, of course, letting Hank know that we were very interested. Then we began waiting for some photos but the wait extended for months. We'd begun to fear maybe Barbara and Hank had sailed off and disappeared into the sunset without notice. But apparently our emails had got drowned in an ocean of spam. After another attempt on our part, our email got through, and Hank came through with flying colors and this page is the results..

Hank and Barbara purchased the Sea Witch from the Driscolls in the Spring of 2004, and are presently engaged in refitting her for a future of cruising the Caribbean from their Titusville, Florida, home port. Here's Hank's report on the current status of Sea Witch (June 2007):

"Sea Witch has been undergoing a major refit since September last, quite literally top-down! We rented a 45 - foot lift to replace shackles, blocks, halyards, and completely rewire the lights, including installation of a new
tricolor at the top of the mast and replacement of the spreader lights. The traditional nav lights have been retained but upgraded.

"The hull was repainted with awlgrip primer and six coats of insignia white awlgrip above the waterline and a couple coats of premium ablative blue, below.

"The original color scheme maintained by Dr. Bob Driscoll has been continued (blue/white/yellow), with pale blue decks and cabin top, white topsides (also awlgrip).

"...Although our intention has been to keep Sea Witch as original as possible, the instrument panel has been relocated from its somewhat vulnerable position on the galley sink island over the engine to the berth-side of the aft closet...

"Although the original Sea Witch had no bow pulpit, the
Driscoll family maintained a steel pulpit. Since my wife and I are both past 60, it seemed like a good idea to replace it with a new light weight aluminum pulpit. It weighs less than 60 pounds (not including the light weight teak  platform), so it shouldn't materially alter Sea Witch's handling.

"All-in-all, a lot of work has gone into her support, but it has
been a labor of love... or enchantment, if you like. It may
sound like bragging, but I'd feel very free to wager that no 
other vessel in our marina has attracted the attention or
compliments Sea Witch has!

"When I was much younger, I spent seven months sailing
from Tampa to Palau (Belau, today), and the following
years dreaming of a chance to return to the Pacific "on my
own bottom."

"Considering the age of the Witch... not to mention my 
wife's and mine..., I think we will try to content ourselves
with islands closer to home... the Caribbean!"

Obviously the Sea Witch is in very good hands, and here's wishing Hank and Barbara, and the Sea Witch, many more years of sailing adventure.

Webmaster's Note. News belatedly reached us of Hank Whittier's untimely passing in June of 2012, some three years after the fact. Just as belatedly, our heartfelt sympathies go out to Hank's wife Barbara.


Among the distinguished former owners of Sea Witch, were Godwin and Deborah Pelissero, of Santa Barbara, California. They owned Sea Witch from 1958 to about 1968 when it was sold to the Driscolls.

We heard from Godwin Pelissero, Jr. In late May of 2007, and he has kindly provided us with a photo of a wonderful painting of Sea Witch, as well as the photos below.

Sea Witch, painted by Peter Ellenshaw for the Pelisseros

The elder Pelisseros, who were still going strong, at 90 and 86 years of age (2007), commissioned the above painting in the early 1960s.

The artist, Peter Ellenshaw, was a matte painter for Walt Disney, and quite renowned in that field. Peter passed away in February of 2007, at the age of 93. His son, Harrison, has followed in his father's footsteps and, as did his daughter, Lynda Ellenshaw Thompson, who administers their web site at:

Of his memories of Sea Witch, Godwin, Jr. wrote (of our site):

"Love the site! ...She (Sea Witch) was berthed in Newport Beach, California just down the bay from Hugh Angelman's Sea Rover. I spent many glorious days and nights aboard 'The Witch', mostly sailing to Santa Catalina Island as well as trips south to San Diego. My bunk was the stern bunk next to the galley. I would fall asleep staring up at the stars through the open gangway and awaken to the smells bacon and coffee on the wood stove (later replaced by my father with a butane gas stove; a sure way to identify the true Sea Witch with its tin smoke stack missing).
     "I was a young boy (born in 1951) but I also remember sitting aboard the Sea Rover listening to Mr. Angelman tell stories while he smoked his pipe."

Mr. Pelissero gives us the good news that Kitty Davies, the widow of Charlie Davies, is still alive and well and that his mother, Deborah, corresponds with her regularly. Kitty is pictured in the first photo below, with husband Charles Davies and Godwin, Sr.

Photos Contributed by Godwin Pelissero, Jr.

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Photos, left to right:
Top: (1) Charles & Kittie Davies w/Godwin Sr. cr: 1963. (2) Charlie Davies w/Godwin Pelissero Sr. (probably Catalina Is, CA) circa: 1963. (3) Sea Witch at Newport Beach, CA circa: 1960.
Middle: (1) Off Catalina Island (Probably Moonstone Cove) circa: 1963.
(2) Sailing, circa 1963 (Unknown lounging crew). (3) "ditto"
Bottom: (1) Port Hueneme, CA (Godwin Sr.) circa: 1963 and (1-2): San Diego, CA Circa. 1960-'61. (2) Newport Beach, 4th of July, 1960 or '61
(3) Lower right photo was one of the photos used by Peter Ellenshaw for the painting. Godwin, Jr. and sister, are on the pulpit in the photo.

One of the things that led to Sea Witch's initial and lasting fame and popularity was that she placed remarkably well in the 1949 and 1951 Transpac races from California to Honolulu, winning the 1951 race on corrected time. Stephen Carlson, of the Sea Quest, has dug up the headline from the TIME/CNN archives: 

"Sea Witch Wins LA to Honolulu Race
July 30, 1951, 2,225 miles, 14 days, 14 hours, 46 minutes."

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Transpack Plaque

That surprised a good many people, and sparked a great deal of interest in the design. It became a "class" in itself, and WILBO began receiving orders for other Sea Witches as well as from would-be builders who wanted the plans.

Robert Driscoll Photos
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In April, 2009, we heard from Jeanny (Genie) Driscoll, a former daughter-in-law of Robert and Sandy Driscoll, of Blue Water Odyssey circumnavigation (1979-1984). She confirmed these are photos of the original Sea Witch during the time her father-in-law owned it. Genie says the middle photo was taken by her father on the 27th of June, 1990, off the South African coastline
     We have since learned (from Stephen Carlson of the Sea Quest) that the Robert and Sandy Driscoll made a second circumnavigation in Sea Witch, in 1988 and owned the boat until they sold it in 2004.

(Click on Thumbnails for Larger View)

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