Weather Forecast


The Dar-Ja has moored in Hudson for 59 years

Darlene and Jack Lown dance on the deck of the Dar-Ja in 1985. They met at a dance in Waterloo, Iowa, and married in 1949. Jack died in 1987. Photo submitted1 / 3
John Lown, standing on the deck, left, takes a group of friends and relatives sailing on the Dar-Ja. Lown, who has been sailing the 55-foot yawl since he was 5, is steering the rudder with his foot on the wheel. The 62-year-old boat built by his father has two masts and four sails. Submitted photo2 / 3
John Lown pays a wintertime visit to his second home in the summer. His family's sailboat has been moored beyond the dock in the background each summer since 1954. Photo by Randy Hanson3 / 3

Among the sailboats moored along the dike road in Hudson Harbor next spring will be one that has a longer history here than most residents of the city.

The Dar-Ja has dropped anchor in Hudson each summer since 1954, three years after Jack Lown finished building the 55-foot, two-masted vessel. This summer will be the boat's 60th season here.

It's a love story, John Lown, Jack's youngest son, said when he called the Star-Observer a few weeks back to relate the history of the sailboat.

Lown was motivated partly by the death of his mother, Darlene, last November, and by a decision of the Hudson City Council last fall to prohibit the storage of dinghies on the dike road. Dinghies are the small rowboats that mooring holders use to get to their sailboats.

Jack Lown was just 21, and still a resident of Waterloo, Iowa, when he embarked on the project of designing and building a boat to sail around the world. He was six years into building his sailboat when he met Darlene at a dance in Waterloo. They married in 1949. He launched the boat in 1951 (without its two masts in place yet) and christened it the Dar-Ja.

The Dar in the Dar-Ja's name comes from Darlene. The Ja is for Jack. Jack passed away in 1987.

Darlene and Jack's children have been sailing and maintaining the Dar-Ja since Jack's passing.

John, Curtis and their sister Mary Ann are the primary users of the boat now. John's twin sons, Jack and Josh, his fiancée Becky, and Mary Ann's six children and eight grandchildren often enjoy sailing on the Dar-Ja, too. In all, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren of Darlene and Jack enjoy the sailboat named after them.

"It seems like there is always someone wanting to go out and use the boat," John Lown said, friends and other relatives included.

"Hudson basically is a second home. I personally try to get there three to four times a week. And if I'm not on (the boat), it seems like my brother or one of my sisters is using it."

At his mother's funeral at St. Charles Church in northeast Minneapolis last November, everyone wanted to know how the Dar-Ja was.

He hopes the Hudson City Council can be persuaded to again allow dinghies to be stored on the dike road.

The 1992 ordinance that prohibits boats from parking for more than four hours on city property was adopted to keep boaters from docking along the Lakefront Park seawall for extended periods, Lown said. He said it was always assumed that sailboat owners could keep their dinghies on the dike road.

"I don't know how those two ever got tied together," he said. "It has become a bigger mess than it ever needed to be. I would hope that cooler heads will prevail and some common sense would set in."

Lown believes the 49 sailboats moored along the dike road add to the community -- esthetically and financially.

"I can't imagine the area without them," he said.

He added: "A boat our size goes out with 10 to 12 to 15 people at a time. We're stopping at the stores or going to the restaurants after. My residence during the summer, for the most part, is First and Walnut (streets) down here."

For the full story and more photos, see page 7A of the Feb. 21 print edition of the Hudson Star-Observer.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066