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Mark Maddock first stepped foot on the storied yacht some 40 years ago

By Hilary Reevesthea-sidebar

When Mark Maddock boards the luxury yacht Thea Foss with the rest of her crew in preparation for an upcoming cruise, his goal is simple:

“We take a lot of guests out on their first trip, and there are those who have come for their 30th trip,” he said. “Regardless, it’s our job to make their day memorable. We try to make every single trip more pleasurable and more memorable than the last.”

Maddock is the yacht’s assistant engineer and deckhand, and first stepped foot on the Thea Foss more than 40 years ago. He grew up in the 1960s in Tacoma, Wash., a port city south of Seattle, but eventually moved to nearby Puyallup, a small town to the east nestled under the foothills of Mount Rainier. He was the youngest of four brothers – eight years younger than his next-oldest sibling.

“I was kind of the surprise baby, I guess,” he laughed.

His family settled on a five-acre farm off River Road where Maddock and his brothers raised cows and sold cucumbers for a penny apiece. His father spent six days a week working for Foss.

“Dad started working on the boats in 1932 when he was just out of high school,” Maddock said. “His father, my grandfather, had died a couple of years before in a car accident, and as the oldest sibling, he had to provide for his family.”

When company man Henry Foss bought the Thea Foss, then named Amber, in 1950, Maddock’s father was among those men sent to California to bring her back to Tacoma.

“Henry (Foss) had been looking for a second yacht,” he explained. “The original Thea Foss was a 60-footer that they had built, and he wanted something bigger.”

Maddock’s father and the others retrieved the yacht in Long Beach. On their first day sailing north, there was a fire in the main deckhead. The fire was promptly extinguished, the yacht sailed into Tacoma, and the transformation began.

Thea Foss docked in calm waters in Lake Union.“The first things they had to do was get all the gray paint off –– the Navy had covered the entire interior in flat gray paint,” Maddock said. “They rebuilt it as a yacht from the inside out. I feel like the boat’s been part of my family for years. We knew the Foss family quite well. My mother was also Norwegian, and we used to get together around Christmas for a traditional Lutefisk dinner. The company was very tight-knit at the time.”

Maddock’s father retired from his executive office position at Foss in the 1970s, about the time Maddock began working as a deckhand in high school. For Maddock, the Thea Foss was his home away from home.

“I spent many years working on her, part time,” he explained. “Budgets were tight, so it was basically me and a lot of the older, retired people on crew. We took customers out in June, July, and August.”

After enrolling in Green River Community College after high school, Maddock landed a winter job as the facility coordinator of the Student Union Building – a position he held long after he earned his bachelor’s degree in business.

“I worked at the college from the early 70s to the mid-90s,” he said. “It was a perfect job, because I d a 10-month contract with the college, and I worked three months for Foss. It kept my battery charged for both jobs.”

In 1995, Maddock decided to leave his facilities job behind and go to work full-time as chief engineer on the owners’ yacht, Malibu. Shortly after, Thea Foss was shuttered due to the expense of trying to maintain her.

But when Foss parent company Saltchuk Resources moved its headquarters to a new building on Seattle’s Lake Union in 1999, there was a period of months between the move and the readiness of the new location. Thea Foss was towed in for use as office space.

“The Malibu where I was working was just one dock over,” he said. “The company was eventually contemplating which boat to keep, and I was very vocal that the Thea Foss was a better boat – a heavier sea boat – than the Malibu.”

Saltchuk sold the Malibu and began work to refurbish Thea Foss later in 1999. Maddock has been back on the yacht ever since.

“The first year was a major renovation,” he said. “We’ve slowly overhauled more and more processes over the years. The boat was out of service for about two years while we redid that state rooms and the water tank. She’s looking pretty sweet now.”

But just like homes, boats require constant maintenance.

“There’s always stuff that needs to be done, projects that get brought forward from the back burner,” he said.
The single-boat crew begins the summer season in May with evening trips in and around Seattle and Tacoma. Overnight cruise season begins in July.

Mark in a Foss green polo leans on Thea Foss's handrail.“We’re the only crew on the boat,” Maddock explained. “We spend a lot of time together, and we’re like a family.”

Maddock’s favorite cruise destination is Desolation Sound, in the northern Gulf of Georgia, halfway up Vancouver Island.

“It’s really got it all – big mountains, Christmas trees, peaceful water.”

But he said he’s looking forward to the week he will spend with his wife of more than 20 years before he reports to begin work on the yacht on Sept. 25, preparing for a fall evening season that will run through Christmas. In January, the crew will begin maintenance and repair, and take vacation time. In mid-April, the crew comes back together for training, and another season begins in May.

“My Dad loved being in the office, but I love the boats,” Maddock said. “I’m easygoing. I like to just keep the wheels already in motion moving. There’s always something going on aboard, and I hope I get to stay on and continue on the Thea Foss. She’s a very classy boat, and everyone’s done such a wonderful job of restoring her. I’m a lucky guy. I love my job: great people, and a great company to work for.”