Friday, October 15, 1999

Star-Bulletin file photo
Longtime sailor Omer Darr shuttled passengers
between Honolulu and Tahiti in the 1950s.

Omer Darr, Pacific
sailing master, dies


By Burl Burlingame


The horrors of World War II amid the beauty of the South Seas persuaded blue-water sailor Omer Darr to return someday in more peaceful pursuits. He eventually became one of the best-known sailing masters in the Pacific. He died Oct. 6 at home in Honolulu.

Darr grew up in Washington state, often sailing on Puget Sound and on the Columbia River. Newly divorced and after three military campaigns -- Aleutians, Philippines, Okinawa -- as a quartermaster aboard the destroyer USS Watts, Darr mustered out of the Navy in 1946 and traveled to Hong Kong to have a schooner built. Unable to find enough teakwood for the project, he joined the Chinese Nationalist Customs authority as skipper of a patrol boat.

Darr survived numerous hit-and-runs with pirates and smugglers and then returned to the United States in 1947, more determined than ever to take up a peaceful pursuit. He purchased the 71-foot schooner Nordlys in Annapolis and sailed it to Tahiti, where he fell in love with the islands and people, and purchased property on Moorea.

In 1949, Darr married Harriet Abreu of Honolulu. In addition to Alan, a son from his first marriage, the Darrs had four children: William, Robert, Michele and Jonathon.

In the mid-'50s, Darr acquired the 134-foot schooner Te Vega, one of the largest steel-hulled schooners ever built, and began a deluxe sailing cruise line, voyaging from Honolulu to Tahiti and back six times a year. He also sailed the 96-footer Wanderer on charters from California to the South Pacific. Stanford University acquired Te Vega and retained Darr as skipper, studying ocean currents in the mid-'60s.

His last ship was the 58-foot Fairweather, operated out of his home on Moorea as a charter vessel in the South Pacific. In July this year, the Darrs celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Funeral services were today at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

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