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Cynthia Saldana Photo 

Brandon Trejo, right, of Napa suffered his first loss as a professional fighter on Saturday night in Salinas. Trejo lost by unanimous decision to Bogar Padilla of Ensenada, Mexico.

In a Napa County boat yard, wood and sails become the stuff of dreams

Theirs was a relationship that bloomed over a shared love of sailing and boats. Now, after spending their adult lives together – and on the sea more often than not – Ruth and Garrett Jolly, having restored a succession of oceangoing boats, have returned to Ruth’s home territory of Napa County to build one of their own.

A 35-foot-long craft has been taking shape for nearly three years, including the last five months at the Napa Valley Marina. When completed later this year, the Rediviva (Latin for ‘revived’) will become a tribute to the days of wooden sailboats, and the latest example the do-it-yourself spirit of the 26-year-old Jollys, who are documenting their project in their blog Salt & Tar and a YouTube video series.

“The goal is to go as far as we can, and see as much as we can,” the dreadlocked and tanned Garrett Jolly, who married Ruth in 2012, said Saturday morning aboard the unfinished boat off Milton Road south of Napa.

Inspired by boatmaking techniques left behind by the move from wood to advanced materials, the Rediviva will be the sixth vessel owned and restored by the couple. Unlike their previous boats, it will be almost entirely the Jollys’ creation, its structure assembled from scratch, in part from trees they chose from woodlands in Washington state.

For the couple, creating an ocean-going craft almost entirely with their own hands may be the ultimate expression of a skill that is at once their work, their pleasure and their hands-on classroom.

“To me, restoration was my school,” said Garrett. “We bought boats for next to nothing, or got them for free. My mindset is that if it’s gonna be cut up, I can’t screw it up any worse. I would buy it and tear into it and see how it was put together, see the concept of what makes a wooden boat work. So over time, I learned by doing.”

The goal for the couple’s latest effort is that “if it were the 1800s, this still wouldn’t look out of place,” he added.

Garrett, who sailed his first 8-foot craft as a 10-year-old in Morro Bay, and Ruth first met as 15-year-olds when their families happened to be vacationing in Aruba at the same time – although a sailing excursion they would have shared was canceled due to a boat problem. Too young for driver licenses, the teens nonetheless began seeing each other as regularly as they could, taking the train for as long as 10 hours each way between her home in the North Bay and his on the Central Coast.

“Over time it became a lifestyle that we shared,” recalled Ruth, whose family came to Napa when she was 7. “We bought our first boat at 17, together.”

The couple’s first sailing boat lacked an engine and took a beating as its new owners battled 40-knot winds to take it from Santa Barbara north to Morro Bay. Despite that bruising start, Garrett and Ruth persisted, sailing to Mexico after moving in together as 18-year-olds. Despite earning a college degree, Ruth committed fully to the seagoing life, working a succession of restaurant jobs to help support the couple’s boat restoration and sailing.

“That was a crazy time of school and working full time, and I wanted nothing to do with it anymore,” Ruth recalled Saturday outside Napa. The couple is funding the Rediviva’s construction with a temporary chef’s job at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena, as well as a Patreon online fundraising account.

“A boat can be a lot of work, but out on the ocean, everything slows down. That’s when I had a realization that I could do this forever. To get someplace completely on your own power, that was something I had ever experienced before. It wasn’t about what I wanted to do when I grew up; it was what I wanted to be.”

Even the couple’s hunt for raw materials showed their determination not to take the easy, store-bought path. Their search led them to a Craigslist advertisement for lumber scrapped from a demolished 1940s schoolhouse, which netted them bargain-price wood from the school’s rafters and gym bleachers (whose seat numbers are still visible inside the bow). A long-dead Douglas fir, still standing in a Portland park, found new life as outside planking for the Rediviva’s hull, and the Jollys also acquired an engine, portholes and windows saved from other boats.

Sixty-seven acres of logging land in White Salmon, Washington belonging to a friend supplied the masts and spars. The woods also became their first workshop, as the couple spent more than two years laying down their boat while living in a travel trailer on the property before moving the vessel to Napa Valley Marina.

When complete, the Rediviva’s snug and currently bare-ribbed confines below decks will nonetheless contain a bedroom, bathroom, galley kitchen, dining room and two guest bunks, driven by solar power and illuminated by a combination of oil lanterns and LED lighting.

Ruth and Garrett Jolly’s plans with their throwback vessel may include revisiting seas and towns they visited in Mexico on previous boats, as well as striking out for more distant landmarks in Hawaii and Alaska – and crossing oceans toward Asia, one of the few adventures still on their to-do list.

“We’re too spontaneous for plans; we make ideas,” said Garrett Jolly. “And the idea is to see as much of the world as we can.”

Plan to redevelop Napa post office as a hotel inches forward

If you ask Jim Keller, the redevelopment of Napa’s historic downtown post office can’t happen soon enough.

“I’m ready,” Keller said in an interview. “I wish it was moving along a lot faster than it is.”

However, with a project of this caliber, “it’s a few-year process before the shovels hits the ground.”

Keller, a local real estate investor and developer, bought the Second Street post office from the United States Postal Service for $2 million in March 2017.

The post office, located at 1351 Second St., has been closed since it was damaged in the August 2014 earthquake.

Keller then also bought a parking lot across the street and announced his intention to buy the Zeller’s ACE hardware property behind the post office.

Keller’s redevelopment concept includes converting the former post office and Zeller’s into a 175,000-square-foot, 163-key hotel and building a 79,000-square-foot retail and 228-stall parking structure on the east side of Franklin Street, behind Billco’s.

One year after his purchase of the post office, “We are getting close” to submitting a formal project application with the city.

“I expect to be done with it in the next few months,” he said of his application.

Once he receives a thumbs-up from the city, Keller will take that stamp of approval to potential hotel developer partners “to get this thing going.”

Keller said he remains “extremely motivated” to move the post office project forward.

“I’m pressing everyone I can to get this building restored,” said Keller.

“The last thing I want is another earthquake to hit or anything else that would compromise the integrity of the building any further.”

But, “we have processes we have to follow.”

Watching other projects debut in downtown is encouraging, he said.

“It’s good to have some new traction on First Street,” such as at First Street Napa next to the Archer hotel.

“This project is going to help that retail too. It’s going to put a lot more heads in beds that then frequent First Street Napa and the overall downtown.”

“And we need it,” said Keller. “There are a lot of people that are still relying on more development and more traffic down there.”

In addition to retail, “I love the residential component that is starting to be more present downtown,” such as the townhouses that have broken ground at the Napa Valley Register’s former site, said Keller.

Seeing the Archer hotel come to fruition – and the response to it—is also exciting, he said.

“The momentum we’re building downtown is awesome. We’re really distinguishing ourselves as the place to be in Napa Valley,” he said.

Keller said that in the preliminary conversations, hotel partners and possible retailers are particularly interested in how the post office building distinguishes itself from any other project downtown.

“There are few hotels entitled but none of them have the distinct character and uniqueness of the post office,” he said.

After the August 2014 earthquake in Napa, the future of the post office seemed in doubt. In July 2015, the USPS originally moved to demolish the building, which was built in the Art Deco style in the 1930s.

The agency said that it would cost $8 million to repair quake damage, while it would cost only $500,000 for demolition.

After considerable public outcry, the USPS decided to try selling it to a buyer who could repair the structure and preserve its architectural integrity. An asking price was not publicly listed.

Keller eventually stepped forward with an offer.

The Napa Franklin Station was built in 1933 with funding from the federal Public Works Administration. In 1985, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

New homes, downtown garage part of Napa Cinedome master plan

The downtown Napa neighborhood where a movie theater once stood may become home to several dozen residential units in a city with chronic housing shortages – as well as the site of a new parking garage.

City land-use authorities will scrutinize a strategy for developing 5.4 acres around the former Cinedome, the Pearl Street movie house that was demolished in 2015. The master plan, which comes before the Planning Commission on Thursday for an early non-voting review, would provide a road map to building out the theater site and neighboring lots with parking, townhouses, and 22,000 square feet of restaurant and shop space at the north end of downtown.

Properties covered by the plan include the Cinedome lot, which remains owned by the theater’s former owner SyWest Development of San Rafael, as well as city lands south of Pearl Street currently used as surface parking lots. The proposal also includes land the Napa Sanitation District own north of Pearl, home to a dormant pumping station as well as a skateboard park and playground.

The latest version of the plan places a long-awaited multilevel garage on a city-owned 1.2-acre parcel off Pearl Street’s south shoulder opposite West Street, west of the old theater site. Estimated to cost at least $12 million, the parking structure is expected to hold more than 300 vehicles at a time in order to absorb the expected growth of downtown visitor traffic.

Still to be decided is whether Napa pursues a conventional garage with drive-in, drive-out access, or opts for a mechanized structure to allow for a smaller footprint, according to senior planner Michael Walker. A drive-in structure’s larger area requires a portion of the old Cinedome site, which SyWest so far has declined to exchange for city-owned land east of the former theater, he wrote to the commission in a memorandum.

Meanwhile, the master plan targets the 1.2-acre Napa Sanitation block for 45 townhomes – two stories tall along West, Clinton and Yajome streets, and three stories high on the south side facing Pearl Street. On the opposite side of Pearl, Cinedome’s old 0.7-acre footprint would be marked for a mix of residential and office uses – including up to 60 homes – although retail and hotel development also may be allowed.

Two acres south and east of the Cinedome property would form another mixed-use area to serve as a gateway to the nearby Oxbow Commons, which doubles as a summertime downtown park and wintertime flood-relief channel. Ground-floor shops with upstairs housing would form a part of this area, as well as a café and a smaller commercial building.

Because the parcels are controlled by different owners, it remains unclear whether Napa would seek to have all parts of the Cinedome redevelopment take place together, or move ahead with a new parking garage independently of SyWest and Napa Sanitation. In particular, separate build-outs of the SyWest-owned Cinedome site and city-owned lands to the south may require new access roads for emergency and service vehicles, according to Walker.

Portions of the Cinedome area, including the east half of the Napa Sanitation block, also remain within the Napa River floodplain, limiting what areas can be built up without extensions of the local flood control network that have not yet been funded.

Also Thursday, the Planning Commission will receive a first look at a new Hanlees car showroom planned for Soscol Avenue’s auto row.

The Chrysler dealership, a part of the Gasser Foundation’s housing and commercial development west of Soscol, would be housed in an aluminum-clad 17,780-square-foot building with a winglike roof extending slightly upward at each end, according to plans filed with the city. It would occupy the northwest corner of Soscol Avenue and Saratoga Lane, which will serve as an entryway to Peatman Drive, the north-south access road for the Vista Tulocay housing complex.