Donation puts wind in UCSC's sails

When Peter C. Adams was a biology major at UC Santa Cruz, he occasionally left his books behind and sailed off into Monterey Bay, courtesy of the campus Boating Center. Now, as a successful entrepreneur, he is returning the favor.

And what a favor it is. Thanks to Adams, the UCSC Community Boating Center is now the proud owner of the 44-foot Zayante, a 1965 Alden Pearson Countess Ketch. The Boating Center has received donations of other vessels, said center director Phil Vandenberg, but never one so large--and rarely one in mint condition--as is the Zayante.

"It just seemed like a natural thing to do," said Adams, a 1983 Crown College alum who now owns his fourth company, Lighthouse Information Systems, in Scotts Valley. Lighthouse "works with startup and entrepreneurial businesses to accelerate their success," Adams said. "We take on the complete responsibility for IT, which allows our clients to focus their scarce management time, talent, and attention on getting product to market."

The Zayante takes its place as the grandest of a small fleet of sailboats owned by the Boating Center and available to students and others taking sailing classes. Members of the campus community and the general public who have taken the necessary sailing classes may rent various vessels to sail around the bay, Vandenberg said.

While specific uses for the boat haven't yet been decided, "there are a myriad of possibilities," he said. In addition to sailing classes and Sailing Club trips, small campus groups may be taken out on special occasions or for whale watching, Vandenberg said.

The gift will greatly expand the Sailing Club's range; members must now stay where they can be seen from the mouth of Santa Cruz harbor. With the Zayante, trips to Monterey, which would take about three hours, are a possibility.

Adams said he doesn't consider himself a major philanthropist and that the late-December donation of the Zayante, valued at about $125,000, is his largest charitable gift ever.

Sailing is not only Adams's hobby, it brought him and wife together. Karen Adams is a manager of online services at Caldera (formerly The Santa Cruz Operation). "She and I met when I was working in Florida and living on a sailboat," he said. "We both moved back here semi-independently and then married a few years later."

Several factors played a role in his decision to donate the boat. He likes what the Boating Center does for students, the way the boats are kept, and the fact that the Zayante will be used by the center, and not sold for cash. "They genuinely appreciate the gift," Adams said. He is also impressed with Vandenberg. Now in his 30th year at UCSC, Vandenberg knows his way around the Pacific, having raced sailboats to Hawaii 11 times.

Adams met Vandenberg in 2001 aboard the Zayante, and told him later that "it was clear to me that you would appreciate her--I wanted her to go to a good home that would take care of her, use her, and maintain her."

The majority of the Boating Center's funding comes from California Department of Waterway grants and private donations--either monetary or in-kind--rather than university funds, Vandenberg said. "We do everything we can to be self-supporting."

The Adamses had bought Zayante 10 years ago and rebuilt much of it with the idea of spending a few years sailing around. They had sold their house and were getting ready to go when they found out Karen was pregnant with their oldest son, Ross.

The news changed everything. Since then, their sailing has been more limited, with occasional visits to the Florida Keys to sail, as their family grew again with the addition of another son, James, now 5.

"Business got so busy three years ago and remains that way and, as such, we didn't use the boat as much as we would have liked," Adams explained.

"I'm very much a Florida sailor," used to calm seas, he said. "I wasn't used to this bouncy stuff," he said of Monterey Bay. In fact sailing in the water off Santa Cruz tends to make him seasick.

He's happy his Zayante has found a home where it can be enjoyed. "It's a boat that's basically set up and capable of going around the world, and I'm not going to do that."

Adams likes having the boat nearby, with an on-board caretaker, and visits a couple of times a week to talk to Vandenberg or drop something off. "I'm still finding little things around the house that belong on the boat."

His willingness to part with the Zayante reflects his satisfaction with UCSC. Although he doesn't use his science background directly in his work, he feels UCSC gave him a true education. "I got a great education there in biology and chemistry, but what I really learned was how to think. A lot of other places are about memorization, and UCSC is about embodied learning."

The small classes, teacher interaction, and opportunities for undergraduate research "are unheard of at other institutions," Adams said. "It's important that people learn how to think, and UCSC excels at that."