The Firestones as yachtsmen, "Tireless" heroes and of "Olympus"
This has been an amazing time, with launching the 1929 “Olympus,” and running her through her paces. What an incredible yacht. The lines were slid aboard, the fenders lifted and put away and she slipped through the water with such grace. Then she was gone, heading north. The last I heard, she was in Sag Harbor. If you are able to catch a glimpse of her as she heads South soon, you will be looking at the last of New York Yacht, Launch & Engine Co.’s grande dames.
For a company that was only in business for 31 years, from 1903 to 1934, and only built about a 100 boats, a third of them for the war effort, this Bronx-based company left a legacy of some of the most beautiful motor yachts built in America.
We had the pleasure of restoring an even older NYYL&E, the 1913 “Grace” that is 53 feet, so we developed some familiarity with the fine original workmanship on these yachts. Their craftsmanship and quality of materials are second to none. It’s good to have “Olympus” back on the East Coast after many decades in the Pacific Northwest. There was even poetic justice that we brought her back to North Carolina from the West Coast. “Olympus” was originally built for Wall Street financier George C. Heck as “Junalaska,” named after the lake in North Carolina that Heck had fond childhood memories.
Moving on, I want to thank all the people that have called about “Tireless,” Contract 410. One person, Donovan Rankin, from North Wildwood, N.J., went all in to help. He hopped in his car, drove to the Keys, Islamorada, and helped pump her out and raise the 67.6’ Trumpy from the bottom. “Tireless” was built in 1963 for Roger Firestone, yes that Firestone.
Mr. Firestone would cruise together with his brother Russell Firestone, who owned the Trumpy M/Y “Flameless.” Russell Firestone’s boat is now known as “Jenny Clark” and currently in the throes of a full restoration in our shipyard. Yes, it’s all a small world.
After they floated her, Steve Smith, a working man who has already saved two other Trumpy yachts, “Celebration,” 1964, Contract 418 and “Eleanor,” Contract 243, 71’, built in 1939, but Steve realized this project was much more than he could handle alone.
“Tireless” is now floating, thanks to Mr. Rankin, Mr. Smith, and all who helped. We need someone interested in helping her further. Please contact David Foster, 561-371-6510. Please help us save her. That’s half a good ending to a story.
Capt. Ted Schmidt on Trumpy M/Y “America,” which stopped in for maintenance on their way South, told us a charming story.
“Hi Jim, on our end of season trip up the Hudson we pulled into the Town of Hudson yesterday. Immediately, we're told that a great grandson of John Trumpy, Nick Zokos, was going to be married at that very spot later in the afternoon. Here's a picture of five Trumpy family members on “America.” I invited them aboard for some photos and we were invited to the wedding and dinner.
We met Nick last year when I saw him looking at America from behind a fence one morning as we were getting ready to leave. When I found out who he was I invited him aboard and he met Ted Conklin (“America’s” owner). Nick runs a wooden boat apprentice shop here and is very involved in the history of the Hudson River and the boats that made it.”
Schmidt added that it was fitting that the reception and dance all happened within 150 feet of the yacht.
A few weeks back, I wrote my final article for print edition of Boneyard Boats. This will be the final edition. David Irving, the publisher, has done a great job. I have met people at wooden boat shows that found their project boats through Boneyard Boats, finished them and were taking them to shows. David made this possible. Thank you and we already miss you. Though you will continue online, it won’t be the same. The online version is at https://www.boneyardboats.com/
Now from Boneyard Boats to boat shows. Margaret and I drove to two shows, two weeks apart. It was a lot of miles but it’s hard to fly when you are towing a boat. First was the Wooden Boat Show in Georgetown. Wow, it was a lot better than the year before. The neat thing about this show is how the whole town gets involved. There were over 100 boats and 10,000 plus people showed up on Saturday and another 5,000 to 7,000 on Sunday.
We brought “Chinook,” my 25’, 106-year old Fay & Bowen. We had swarms of people stop and talk awhile. All the stores and restaurants had their doors open. The show even had special clothes designed for the event, particularly for women that women actually want to wear. This year Margaret chose a hoodie, lightly striped with a cool print on the front. Margaret loves the clothes she gets at this show. She even said, “I wonder what new garment it will be next year.” Having your wife actually look forward to going to a boat show is a big plus.
The boats at the show ranged in size from a duck boat to an antique Elco flattop. On Saturday, late afternoon, I started wandering around. I headed down to the dock where I was invited aboard “Ruby,” the flat top Elco owned by Jerry Pope. As I stepped on board I heard a bump and a splash. It was my new IPhone, just a week old, sinking into the brown water. I felt naked without my phone, unable to make calls or remember any telephone numbers. But that feeling didn’t last because I had such a great time.
Two weekends later we found ourselves driving down that same highway, headed towards Hilton Head for the Concours d’Elegance. This is an altogether different type of show. This show even had ballerinas. Yes, you read that right. I looked up at the fairway and there they were, prancing and pirouetting. I asked Margaret to go get them. She asked me why. To get a picture of them with my boat “Chinook,” of course. Kind of campy, but cool. We gave all of them sunglasses, they thanked us and pranced away. It’s held at Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club. The show is on some 50 acres over three fairways.
The impressive variety of cars range from rat rods to some of the finest crafted cars ever built. The boats are right in the middle fairway. There were only 23 boats because the show’s organizers are quite selective on which vessels may enter. The application process required an interview and submission of photos and we were quite pleased to be approved. When we got there and looked around at the other boats, we felt a little unprepared. It was like showing up in blue jeans and a T-shirt when everyone else was in black tie. Most of the other boats were on custom trailers that cost more than our boat.
Our Fay & Bowen is very original, only about 75 percent restored. In the restoration work we have done so far, I have focused on what I wanted to keep, the soul of a 106-year-old boat. This boat is not a “back from the dead,” restoration. It’s more like awakening a sleeping beauty. This show had a good effect on me. And no, I didn’t commission a custom trailer, at least not yet, but I do plan on repainting mine. I am seriously looking for a 5 to 7 hp Fay & Bowen original motor so if you have any leads, let me know. I am pulling out the stainless steering cables and have found bronze cables to replace them. It’s been a long time since I have spliced wire but after sitting around for a little bit I started to remember, especially pricking my fingers and drawing blood in the first five minutes. So I have a long list of to-dos. My friend Chuck Mistele, owner of “Miss America IX” told me when you go to a boat show like this it will inspire you to do better. Count me inspired. Thanks Chuck.
This is considered one of the top five shows in the U.S. and it was humbling to be right in the middle. It reminded me of the first time I took a boat to Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef. Two more short stories to go.
We were recently contacted about repairing a Simmons Sea Skiff. These were built in Wilmington, N.C. and these boats are cult classics. The people who owned them loved them. In 1976 I was on the “Solan Goose,” in the ICW and hit a high-tension power line. No one died but it severely damaged my boat. We spent the summer in Masonboro Boat Works, just outside of Wilmington. Every morning, these wooden lap strake fishing boats would head out the cut, a shallow inlet with big waves. These little boats with 25 HP powers or less would dance on top of the waves with ease. I found out that they were built just up the road so I went to check it out. The first time I just peeked in. The second time, I asked Mr. Simmons if he was hiring and he looked me up and down, and asked me if I had a car. I said no and then he said no. That was that. No car, no job at Simmons Sea Skiff.
So when this Simmons Sea Skiff showed up, I finally get to work on one these even if it was 31 years later. This little boat reminded me of building skiffs and dories in Lubec, Maine. Just simple, strong and no-nonsense boats. So how do you go from a 94 footer or a 75 foot yacht to a 17 foot commuter class boat, it’s simple. You got to love them all and we do. We removed the motor, roller her over and now are ready to replace her bottom.
The little Trumpy “Jenny Clark,” she is not that little. In the last months she has had a lot of rewiring, new lighting, electronics, plumbing done. Now, we are refinishing most of the interior. And, most of the paint is being sprayed as we did on “America’s” interior when the late Joe Bartram owned her as “Exact.” That paint job has still held up beautifully. Now, it’s on to the varnish and the countdown has begun.
In preparing for paint, every piece of metal was removed: door hardware, stanchions, and so on. In re-assembly, we couldn’t find an end cap fitting for the handrail on the cabin top and we couldn’t simply buy a new one. After a grand search, still nothing. So we took off the other side, found a bronze foundry and sent the part to it. I ordered three of them made because they sand cast them, instead of the lost wax method, and it is a less precise process. I chose the two best castings and sent them out to be machined and now it’s off to be polished and chromed.
The irony is I am sure we will find the part somewhere safe after all this is done. But until then, we can’t let anything, big or small, slow us down. The owner of “Jenny Clark,” has been one of the finest that I have ever worked for in my career. He is very involved in many of the designs and appreciates craftsmanship.
When “Jenny Clark” is finished, this will be the finest little, at 53 foot, Trumpy there is. Period. Until next time, Jim Moores P.S. And for anyone interested in the Trumpy M/Y “Windrush,” the boatyard, River Forest Shipyard in Belhaven, N.C. is still accepting offers. Call Susan Jefferson at (252) 943-2151 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Windrush” is contract 425, 55’, built in 1966 for John Rutherford as “Sea Dreamer VII.”
Until next time,