Karl Uthoff

Karl’s passion and love for sailing has provided many opportunities for many people. The BCMS has benefited greatly from his generosity and we are a much richer society because of him.

Please pass along a comment, story, Karlism or message to Karl and his family. I will make sure that Karl and the family receive them. Please feel free to contact Alec Mackenzie, Ron Tomas or myself if you have any questions.

25 Replies to “Karl Uthoff”

  1. There are a number of Karlisms out there. My favorite is “Its always an adventure when you sail with Karl!” We had many adventures over the past number of years. Experiences that I will never forget and wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for Karl. He is a mentor, teacher and most of all my friend. I will miss you and never forget the times that we shared. You will forever be a part of the Bad Kitty team.

  2. Karl has inspired me to just get on with whatever boat project I’ve been stuck on. His can-do attitude and distain for analysis paralysis is always refreshing. Karl’s contributions to the BC multihull scene are the stuff of legends – re-told at every opportunity.

    Our thoughts are with Karl and his family.


    Jamie and the McKerrow Family

  3. Last year at Swiftsure I realized Karl was not up to sailing so My son Max and I took him out to watch Bad Kitty. I think Karl had a great time his eyes were glowing as he watched the Bad Kitty crew sail her towards Race Rocks!
    He was quite vocal of his praise and criticism of the “Crew” efforts, he was having a ball watch the race unfold.
    We returneed to RVYC to have lunch and discuss the days events it is sad to realize that was the last day I would spend on the water with Karl!
    I know Karl will be “Sailing” to new adventures I wish him fair winds always at his back!
    My thoughts are with Karl’s family, Karl was a great Friend and sailor.
    Sail on Karl, Bad Kitty lives on!

  4. My wife Shirley met Karl before I did, I was sailing in the St Marten Trade Winds Race around Easter 1980, Karl had just come to Vancouver to run the Bell and Howell repair shop and Shirley had taken in a slide cube projector to have it fixed. He had multihull boat pictures all over the workshop so she told him where I was, what I was doing and why, so he said when I got back he would like to meet me, So we met and I was amazed at the passion of his enthusiasm for fast multihulls. He talked about the cat he had had back East, and about the one he was going to build here. PDQ 34 it was designated at the time. It was built within a year, not quite finished the night before the RNSA single handed Race and had the hatches stuck down with duct tape for the competition. I was still in my ULDB mono but determined to build a cat, and 6 years later I was all ready to go in the Swiftsure with Gilbert and Sullivan. Karl was sailing his cat, now on its third or 4th name and somewhat more developed, bringing it single handed from Vancouver to meet his crewman in Victoria. His crewman had phoned to say why he could not make it and I passed this info to Karl as he arrived from Vancouver, so he just accepted the fact, turned around and single handed back in quite decent winds, No worries as the Ozzies say. Once I had my cat in the water I saw Karl from time to time, usually on the race course, always positive, always pleasant, always enthusiastic and always competitive, but in the manner of cricketers rather than that of all in wrestlers. But much as he loved his boat, his pride in his family came tops. Karl is a man to be admired in so many ways, and to be remembered with great respect.

  5. The second time we met Karl and the rest of his BCMS accomplices we had been invited to camp and race in Uthoff’s paradise. Before the start he sailed past us in Manitou and asked us our rating; ever being the responsible, rigorous Principal Race/Rating Officer. We told him, and with an impish smile he said: who knows, you might win today! To our surprise we did indeed “win”, but decidedly not because of our sailing. Rather because, we were new and this was perhaps a tongue in cheek way of welcoming and making us feel like we belonged. This warm patronage from, as some have said, a legend in our sailing community, is not something us mere mortals will ever forget.

    And this is then what we were honoured a glimpse of; someone who plays, races and lives with generosity, humour, irreverence and abandon. An attitude we hope we may learn and never unlearn as years go by.

    Forever respectfully,

    Thank you Karl

    Eric and Upma of Geneva

  6. I am deeply saddened by the news of Karl’s condition. I am also very sorry that I am not able to visit him in the hospital. At Swiftsure last year I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with him talking and ‘picking his brain’. I learned quite a bit and, as a result I decided to go with a screecher on my boat instead of a spinnaker. I will think of Karl every time I unfurl it. I wish I had more chances to spend time with him.

  7. Great job on the photos Bob… great to see all the sailing Karl has done in photos on this page. Be well, and best wishes during this time for Karl’s family and his many, many great friends.

  8. To Karl . I am wishing you can take comfort in your time of passing. I pray you are secure in your faith and in your journey is charted. All of us must go away someday, and all of us know that your someday is at hand for you. I thank you for all the good times we shared together and your words of encouragement, that will stay with me forever .I will hold on to your smile, so keep on sailing on the love of sailing, god keep you safe. I will miss you on the start line. from Markus and the crew of the blue lightning. god speed, and all the love may it go back at you.

  9. Thanks Carl for rescuing our Nandi way back when, ashore by the freeway, close to White Rock. We have had a great time racing with you at Cowichan Bay, etc… Budweiser was a great crew too. Gale, Jacqueline, and Robert and Karl All the Best. You are great people to know! Thinking of you alot. Love Martyn, Marian, Margaret and Linda

  10. Dear Karl
    I treasure our moments together and your wonderful practical support in getting our club going. I remember you everytime I am on the Nandi.

    My great regret is that I did not contact you in the last number of years.

    If I could give you strength I would give it to you.

    Always your friend Martyn

  11. Karl,
    You inspired me. I watched you as you made your changes to “Bad Kitty”, without hesitation, or flinching to make things work better and faster.

    So, I started making changes on “Dutch Treat” although with much trepidation. Then I thought-what would Karl do? and carried on. Thank you, Karl, for never criticizing or questioning me but encouraging me.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  12. Thanks Karl for the 1000s of memories. Our first RNSA Single-Handed Race. Co-starting WMA. Getting official starts in VARC races. Getting official starts in Swiftsure. Our Thurs. Evening Series. It was a wonderful time for us.

  13. I started racing against karl back in the mid eighties.he had twixt at the time.a much tricked out Bucaneer 24.He amazed me about his ability of fixing broken things in a hurry.And he broke a lot of them.He told me once,’if it does not break,its too heavy!That was back then!He was definitely an inspiration for me and helped me a lot.I will always cherish memories from him.Sail on man!

  14. Even before we came to BC I’d heard of Karl and his exploits with Tardis and Bad Kitty. But I didn’t know then what a gentle man (the space is deliberate) he was, although I’d guessed he would be enthusiastic about sailing, boats and design. It is therefore sad that we didn’t meet him often.

    The last time we saw Karl was maybe typical. It was on his first sail on his new trimaran. One might have expected Karl, as a new owner – never mind his health problems – to be content to sit in the cockpit and steer. But that is never Karl’s way. Instead we watched him run round the deck tweaking sails and adjusting the rig while Robbie helmed.

    And that is how we will remember him.

    Our condolences go to Gaye, Robbie and the rest of the Uthoff family

  15. REMEMBERING KARL by Peter Walford

    In 1984 I bought one of Karl’s boats, a Buccaneer 24 with an oversize hot rod rig. It was an event that set me on a course I am still on today, sailing fast multihulls. I owe Karl a lot. His influence is always there for me, just under the surface. I can’t say we were close, and I don’t think we ever had a conversation that wasn’t about boats pretty much directly.

    I got the news of Karl’s passing on Sunday morning as I was on my way out to my new project boat, a Farrier F9AXR, and thought about the many times I had probed Karl’s knowledge about fast sailing. I went through an evolution of other boats looking for better speed, but always there was that unmistakeable image of Bad Kitty on the horizon smoking the rest of the fleet, with Karl happily fused to his skipper’s chair while the crew leapt and trimmed the boat, and it came to life, lifted on the wind under its preposterously efficient rig.

    I remember the first time I exceeded the apparent wind; it was the maiden voyage of MUNCHKIN, after fixing holes and rotten wood and putting on some paint. We sailed into Cowichan Bay as the afternoon wind was picking up. I sailed on blistering reaches all afternoon until the end of the boom snapped off, grinning ear to ear the whole time. Later, when I next saw him, I asked Karl how to control the boat when the too-small rudder pulled out of the water. He shrugged and said to just trim the main traveler, forget the rudder. “We raced with the rudder out of the water all the time, you don’t really need it.” A definite Karlism.

    Karl built Munchkin very fast with the philosophy that if it didn’t break, you built it too heavy. There were sharp things and snags everywhere- bolts cut off to a knife-edge, string ends flying from the nets – I was always bleeding after a day’s sailing that first summer. However, it was purpose-perfect; underwater it was smooth, she was light, the floats had been lengthened just enough to prevent pitchpole…. there was enough power in all the tackles to tame the beast. There was absolutely no fat on the boat. It also was disintegrating from the day I bought it, and I never did win. I’d still be mending it today had it not dragged its mooring and been flogged to death on the rocks in a November storm.

    I remember Karl deciding- was it in the early 80s?- that he was fed up with fat overweight cruisers and he set off to establish the Western Multihull Association. It was an unprofitable move for multihulls in BC, because there was barely enough multihullers to make up a quorum, counting racers and cruisers all together, and so we splintered off into two smaller groups with not enough in either camp to make things happen. The movement stalled, and probably was also held back as home-building morphed to production and advanced design , and the fleet contracted. But the purist in him had to make a stand, and it was probably 20 years before diplomacy and the development of Farrier boats bridged the rift in BC and put us cruisers and racers back into one group. In the interim he carried the torch in Swiftsure, the Van Isle 360, and down to Ensenada… always on purpose, no compromises, fast, eccentric, gaining respect for the breed through sheer persistence.

    Leaders like Karl are always mystical, non-conformist, distant from the masses, zealots with a passion, settling for nothing less than all out engagement. It was Karl’s time, a special time , the dawning of the multihull age in BC; Karl stepped into it, helped create its energy and then flavored it , like a master chef, with his Germanic twist, egging you on, defying you to beat him, noticing everything, gladiator, but never crude or harsh. It was just about sailing well and winning. Go ahead and take your rest now Karl, the rest of us have a few more mainsheets to pull yet, and thanks, brother. May the draw of your spinnaker be perfect wherever your sunset takes you now.

    Peter Walford

  16. The Unknown Shore, by Elizabeth Clark Hardy
    Sometime at Eve when the tide is low
    I shall slip my moorings and sail away
    With no response to a friendly hail
    In the silent hush of the twilight pale
    When the night stoops down to embrace the day
    And the voices call in the water’s flow

    Sometime at Eve When the water is low
    I shall slip my moorings and sail away.
    Through purple shadows
    That darkly trail o’er the ebbing tide
    And the Unknown Sea,
    And a ripple of waters’ to tell the tale
    Of a lonely voyager sailing away
    To mystic isles
    Where at anchor lay
    The craft of those who had sailed before
    O’er the Unknown Sea
    To the Unknown Shore

    A few who watched me sail away
    Will miss my craft from the busy bay
    Some friendly barques were anchored near
    Some loving souls my heart held dear
    In silent sorrow will drop a tear
    But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
    In mooring sheltered from the storm and gale
    And greeted friends who had sailed before
    O’er the Unknown Sea
    To the Unknown Shore

    Karl you will be greatly missed. My sincerest condolences,

    Wayne Carlson

  17. If there are sailboats in heaven I know who just got himself a new one! What I’ll always remember is how he loved to help out people in general and especially novices to sailing, which of course I was when I met Karl. His attitude toward his crew and sailing was, even during intense competition, friendship and good feelings all around first, boatspeed second, and finally winning if we could get it. Karl certainly was a winner in life and made winners of us all! My condolences to Gail and all the family, and the entire sailing community.
    Take care, Peter Grundmann, Haida Gwaii

  18. John and I have thought much over the past month and a half about our friend Karl and his family. Their selfless sharing of their Winter Cove property. Our one on one chats at the dock where Bad Kitty, Quimaris and Ko’ah are moored. Karl’s wonderful success stories that inspired us to stick with it and his countless mishaps that kept us laughing far too late into the night by the fires at Browning and Winter Cove. There are no words. just thanks from two busy struggling parents with a run down sailboat and a bunch of kids. Thanks Karl for making us always feel welcome in your world of sailing. And thanks Uthoff family for sharing your husband and Dad with us. We are forever greatful.
    Love The Harker Family

  19. I’ve been avoiding reading this blog and posting a comment for some time, everyone here is still trying to make sense of everything that has happened. It has been incredibly hard going down to the boat or over to Saturna and not having him there.

    I would like to thank everyone that has shared their thoughts and memories. It means so much to us to know just how many friends dad had.

    Thank you, everyone.

    Robert Uthoff

  20. It is with great sorrow I come across the knowledge of Karl’s Death. I too was greatly influenced by Karls incredible natural sailing talent. I was also influenced by his complete lack of attention to detail as well. I too was often bloodied and bruised, after a day of sailing on his boat.

    I started racing with Karl when I was in my early teens. I am looking at a picture of me helming his Buccaneer 24 Twixt right now. Our Families, the Slater’s and the Uthoff’s were amongst the first families with multihulls on lake Ontario. I was probably 8 years old when I first saw Karl on his first boat, another Crowther Trimaran, I believe a 28 footer, with Lara as baby in crib strapped to the deck, and oh yea the boat was a horrendous color of pink, some kind of primer that went on to be covered with white when time and money permitted. The Karlism I remember the best was looking us over after some breakdown or mistake and exclaiming disgustedly, ” What a group” with that usual massive Grin on his face.

    I went on to become a sail maker and run a catamaran building company for twenty years. I never had the natural talent and complete lack of fear that Karl had, he really was a remarkable man. I hope his family can take some comfort from all that is being said about him on this website, I know I will always remember him steering twixt with a glint in his eyes as the rudder inched out of the water and we would surge ahead into our next adventure.


  21. Although I was a regular crew member on Bruce Campbell’s Limelight V, I did once crew for Karl. I arrived at the dock to see Karl sawing an opening in the top of one hull. Normally, I would ask someone why they were doing that just before a race, but not with Karl. I also noticed that I was the only crew that day which caused me some concern. As we headed out to the race start, Karl continued to saw away.

    I just attended a memorial for Karl at Locarno Beach and it was wonderful to see old friends celebrating Karl’s Life. What an unforgetable person! Thankyou to Karl’s family for doing this.

  22. Well, it has been ten years since Karl died. He is always on my mind as both inspiration and entertainment. So many memories. I still tell his stories – they are all true and entertaining without the need for embellishment.

    Miss you Karl. You lived life your way and I was glad to be along for the ride.

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