I know it has been a while. I think the last time I wrote was in November. I have sat down and written three letters but somehow with my world the way it has been this winter, they were not sent out.
We have launched Summerwind, the 1929 Alden schooner. It has been a race to the end. On launch day, the boat yard was crowded with people. Those who worked on her, friends, the press and three busloads of students from the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy. Everyone was taking photos.
Our son James skipped a half day of school for the occasion. He went through this project just as much as his parents. The mast had just been set the day before. As I said, it was truly a race. There were a few well-chosen words said but the yacht spoke for herself. Mrs. J. Don Williamson raised a bottle of fine French champagne and smashed the stainless steel dolphin striker. It exploded to the booms of cannon fire and cheers from the crowd. What a launching!
Everyone in our crew had butterflies in our bellies as she went into the water. All of us hopped on board. Our crew, the systems people, and the yacht’s captain and crew. Don Thibeault forward, Jon Meek and Purich Lucas in the engine room, Hopal Harris and I took the center bilge. Where was the water? Finally, she started one small weep.
For the last few months, Vlad, Paul, Don and Chris pounded cotton and oakum and a setting iron. The sound of caulking mallets hitting irons could be heard two blocks away. For the people working inside the boat, it was deafening. But it was worth it because when Summerwind went into the water, it was the moment of truth.
Bernard Smith and the paint crew were asked to do the impossible and as usual, they came through with grace. Bernard worked as many as 72 hours a week, fighting cold weather to get her painted for launch. They long boarded Summerwind until she gleamed. She’s a fair beauty. Jon carved the scrolls and cove stripe by hand on the new hull.
At the launching, Jon presented Mr. Williamson with the original Alden scroll that was carved into the old hull. We saved and restored it to her original 1929 black and gold leaf. We hope it finds a home onboard. It is the only original part of the hull except for the keel.
There is a bittersweet part of restoration. As time passes, the people and companies that worked on her over the years disappear, we just threw out a chunk of wood carved 1981 by some proud craftsman. It now reverts back to John G. Alden and Mr. Charles Morse, the builder. That’s okay. We know we were here and what we did.
This month, I was humbled and honored by being featured in Woodenboat magazine. Mr. Aaron Porter is an exceptionally fine writer and he captured a point in time on this project and my life.
I want to shift gears to tell you a story that you might find amusing. After Stephanie, my wife, read the article to me because I was driving and couldn’t wait, I gave Aaron a call and thanked him. I said, there were a few things that were a little off.
In our industry, there is something called “tagging” a project. He had not heard of the term so I proceeded to tell him about the K2, the 67’ Trumpy formerly named Georgejan, Contract 421 built for George Wasserman in 1965.
These two young men from Long Island, both named Kevin, hence K2, bought her. From the engine room aft, the keel was pushed up 6 inches and all the floor timbers were broken. Our crew, Nathaniel Smith and Richard Wellman replaced 40 ribs, 20 floor timbers, 6,000 fasteners and a few other little projects such as a chine log. Six months later, there was a great photo of K2 in Woodenboat magazine’s Launchings. The cutline said it had been entirely rebuilt by one of the Kevins and some guy named Ed, who apparently did varnish work on the boat. Well, Nate and Richard were madder than hornets. Good thing they didn’t have gas money to drive to Long Island from Florida. After telling Aaron the story over the phone, less than an hour went by before I got a call from Kevin Lessing, the Kevin involved in the “Launchings” piece. “Get outta here,” Kevin said in Long Islandese and laughed. I asked about his friend Ed. Ed has moved on to work in Saudi Arabia. Both Kevins get this log so they will get a laugh out of it. I haven’t spoken to Kevin Lessing in years so his timing was spooky.
So, back to tagging. I had the opportunity to work with Basil Day in Thomaston, Maine, a subcontractor on Whitehawk who built the mast and bow sprit. The ketch was built by O. Lie-Nielsen in Rockland, Maine. This yacht is a masterpiece for its time, 1978. But I was only 23 then, and my job was sanding splices, sweeping floors and carrying clamps. And, I watched and learned, knowledge I still have today. On the Victory Chimes, a three-masted Ram schooner built in 1900, my job was to be “the dumb end of the stick.” The lead man who I think was named “Bun,” was a master at bending heavy chunks of wood without a steam box. He called it “Egyptian technology” and we still call it that and use what I learned from him today.
Thank you, Aaron Porter, but I didn’t have much to do with either of those great boats. I hope all of you will pick up this month’s edition if you don’t already subscribe to Woodenboat. I know everything is digital these days but there’s nothing like being able to hold something in your hands. When I get older, I would rather go find a yellowing magazine or an old photograph then search for some computer gadget.
Up north, Nathan and crew have been busy. It’s been a cold winter for North Carolina, even some snow. They are working on America, a 75-feet Trumpy built as Jimiana, Contract 420 for James L. Knight. With this project, we will have worked on this yacht through five owners. Before us, Mrs. June McNelis had the same people take care of her for years. After the sudden death of her carpenter, we were called in for an interview and asked for references. I went down to see the Patience II and all went quiet for a while so I figured she found someone else. Six months passed and I got a call that we were hired.
Then Kris and Sheryl Garrison, great people, owned her, followed by Joe Bartram then Mark Spillane and now Ted Conklin of Sag Harbor. The yacht is named after Mr. Conklin’s Sag Harbor hotel. They all have one thing in common, the yacht has gotten better with each successive owner. She is much more beautiful through her ownership by Joe Bartram. His knowledge of these yachts and his taste really made the interior refit remarkable. The Garrisons focused on the structural and mechanical aspects of the yacht. We are just hugely honored to be a part of her journey.
The next yacht to be hauled at Moores Marine in North Carolina will be the S.S. Sophie There will be one big difference. The JDW building, named after the owner of Summerwind has been broken down in Florida and shipped to North Carolina. This will allow larger projects to be under cover. Sophie is 80 feet so Nate can’t wait.
Next, who won Vintage Weekend’s John Trumpy Award at Ocean Reef? Sirius, a 1964, 60’ cruiser, Contract 412, built for Henry C. Gibson owned by Earl Samson. Sirius was restored by NOA Marine’s Dan Avoures before he retired. Earl and his captain, Peter, have done a great job of maintaining her. The People’s Choice Award went hands down to Enticer. She came in on a Saturday, when Vintage Weekend was in full swing. When Enticer came to the dock, it was like the world stopped. Enticer, built in 1935, Contract 228 for Joseph M. Cudahy is now part of Earl McMillen’s fleet. So the two Earls took top awards and of course, they were both Trumpy yachts.
At Ocean Reef, there was some mention that new Trumpys were going to be built. And I received a call from a friend at the Miami Boat Show, Marty Isenberg, who asked, “Did you know a Greek company was going to build Trumpys?” In this month’s Yachting magazine, there is a whole story on it. I know people have mixed feelings about it. I haven’t had time to read the story yet but my thoughts are I hope the new Trumpys don’t lose their lineage and I wish them great success in bringing renewed interest in these fine American yachts.
Last but not least, we are preparing to launch a 40’ Garwood varnished from end to end. Don Thibeault and Gary Neal reconstructed the lazarette and engine room and Bernard handled the varnish. The Garwood has twin 550 HP gas motors and does 40 MPH. Her name is Outrageous and that she is.
Until next time,