They don't make them like that anymore
I always think where do I start? I’ll begin with Marc Thomas. Margaret and I met up with him years ago at St. Michael’s Wooden Boat Show. He works with Luke Brown Yachts and he lives and works out the Chesapeake Bay area. We first met aboard the 1917 Consolidated “Blue Mist.” This would be a start of a long friendship. The boat sold at auction and then was shipped to Florida and landed at Rybovich Marine Center, where it was readied to be exported to the Bahamas.
I met the Bahamian captain and discussed the importance of renewing the varnish and repairing the cracks in her wood work. She was built in 1917 so I couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of addressing these issues now. This boat was beautiful at the time. He told me that they would get it done over the Bahamas. No problem. Three years went by and Marc calls me. Could we rescue “Blue Mist” from the islands? Did I know a captain who could bring her back to the states? I called Capt. Jim Sabin. The next thing I know, Jim and his crew “Tuna,” and yes that’s the name he goes by, were off to save her.
When they arrived at the boat, “Blue Mist,” was full of water, the floor boards were floating with fuel on top of the water. The smell of mold and wading in that water would have sent the average crew packing.
Capt. Jim and Tuna rolled up their sleeves and a few days later, they had her in operation. I remembered taking a phone call from Jim that amounted to “What the hell did you get me into?”
Bringing a commuter class home in high seas was one very rough and tricky ride, like riding a mechanical bull. It took Capt. Jim two weeks to calm down after that trip.
So have I gotten a little off track? I’m getting there. When I saw the public relations material for Ocean Reef’s Vintage Weekend, there on the cover was “Blue Mist.” It made me think of all the people that helped save that beautiful Consolidated. But it was talking my friend Allen Zwickel into taking a look at her and Allen falling in love that saved “Blue Mist.”
I thought about Marc Thomas because recently he forwarded me an email of a boat for sale, a barn find, in Maryland. She had one owner, was built in 1955, and she is a Dyer launch named “Pea Soup.” She is filled with dust and grime. The canvas rubrail is hanging off. She has been in the barn for 25 years. An elderly woman was moving out and her son decided to sell her.
I couldn’t say no. I called in answer to the ad and Marc went over to take a look. The next thing I know, I am now the proud owner of two Dyer Glamour Girls. I know it sounds crazy and it is but these are fun projects. And no, I am not going to start collecting them. I may find someone else who really wants her when I’m done. I just like these little projects. They are the coolest little launches and they still make Dyer Glamour Girls today.
Next, St. Michael’s Wooden Boat Show. I felt like the guy who makes shoes but has holes in his own soles. I decided that “Chinook,” my 1911 Fay & Bowen needed to get done. I had promised that it would be at one show or another but she was still laid up and covered up. All mechanics were done, varnish done. Paint? Lettering? So with two and half weeks to the show, we got her done. Rick, our painter, did a fabulous job. And Steve, our gold leaf man, made the whole boat just pop.
Of course we could have done more. And we missed a few important details. At St. Michael’s, they put me right in a corner where every person passed by. With the boat in a trailer, you could really see her graceful lines.
A lot of people asked if she was a drake stern. I would argue no, she is a torpedo stern. The drake is planked up and down. And a torpedo, the planks are lengthwise, bow to stern.
Then the judges came and looked her over. When one held the cotton American flag out, he noted the 50 stars, not 46. Hmmm… And the plastic coated steering cables, not to mention my flag was too long and would have dragged along in the water. They set me right. For 6’4”, I felt pretty small but the criticism was all constructive and that’s what I got for rushing to get her to a show. She will only get better.
When I got to the awards, I was surprised to get “Competitors Choice Class of Its Own,” and “Class of Its Own.” It was pretty nice of them and I did get a friendly to do list. It was satisfying to meet all these great people and seeing all these great works of art. And yes, my boat has a ways to go yet.
Next, the tale of two yachts.
Somehow, we have gotten the reputation of only working on big yachts, Trumpy, Consolidated, New York Yacht Launch & Engine Co. Well, that’s not all we do. Next week, we will be sending home Dr. Scott Rhoden’s 32 foot Chris Craft. We have had her for a while. With a broken keel in two places, the shock pulled many of the bottom screws loose. This boat lives in Lake Hartwell year round and “Pathfinder,” has been in the Rhoden family for three generations.
The keel was just one of the problems. How to do this cost effectively and put the boat right? What is socially acceptable is a 5200 bottom. But this boat doesn’t live on a trailer. So for strength, speed and cost effectiveness, we decided to cold mold the bottom with three layers of ¼ Douglas Fir marine plywood. We used the same epoxy we have used for years, with 8600 PSI rating, pre-resin saturated the inner layer then fiberglassed the last outer skin.
This bottom is bullet proof. With the bottom done, we moved to the top sides. There has been a lot of amateur work done through the years so trying to remove the grinder damage was pretty involved with recaulking, fairing, sealing, priming and then finally top coats. “Pathfinder” is now one sexy little yacht. Everybody who worked on her said she has turned out more beautiful than they ever expected. I never doubted it.
The next story is about a much bigger yacht, the “Olympus.”
I remember years ago when the Trumpy book first came out that when “Aurora V” was designed and built that John Trumpy Sr. had to step in on the drafting and lofting of the stern section due to the complexity of the design.
She has a sailboat stern and a reverse duck tail that goes under the water. The name escapes me at the moment. The frames/ribs are shaped like the number “2” and every part is converging. The bevels are fast rolling bevels. This is “Olympus” on a larger scale. She is 92’ feet with eight staterooms. Restoring this section of “Olympus” is not only challenging but amazing in its complexity and beauty. This design makes me feel that we are truly walking in the footsteps of masters.
The work on “Olympus” is going very well. It’s been a little hot so we wrapped her in a shade tarp building. This does two things: keeps it cooler for the workers and helps keep the sun off her varnish on these bright summer days.
It was a double homecoming of sorts for “Olympus,” after 78 years on the West Coast. She returned to the East Coast, where she was launched as “Junaluska,” on May 14, 1929 at the New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company yard in Morris Heights, N.Y. And she returned to North Carolina, home of the namesake lake near Asheville that George Callendine Heck, who commissioned her, had fond memories of spending childhood summers.
Heck, a partner in a Wall Street investment firm, had “Junaluska” designed with a low profile to travel under the bridges among his two Long Island estates and to his Wall Street office. Other notable owners included George Peabody Converse, of the athletic shoe fame, and his wife, silent film star Anita Stewart.
I know when its summertime your mind is on water skiing, sitting on the back porch sipping something cool or out on the water. The furthest thing on your mind is December. But remember the first weekend in December of every year is Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef in Key Largo. The reason I mention it now is the last few years, this event filled up quickly. If you love wooden boats, this is the show of shows and the place to be.