Finding a path through the past
"Pathfinder" in her glory after our last refit.
It seems that I never run out of things to write about. Yesterday I decided to clean out my office, actually my plan drawers. It is like going back in time. I think the last time was when I was living in Florida 6 or so years ago. It is everything I wanted to save such as photos, blueprints, magazines, and a special drawer set aside for Steve Kniepp’s work. Steve and I worked together for 28 years. He did all our gold leaf names on yachts and drew original artwork to commemorate major projects. He once told me I was his art patron and it showed in his work.
He loved antique and classic yachts. Steve would make great preliminary sketches and we would look at them, then he would go back and fine tune them. I found three that had slid behind the drawers that I thought are worth sharing, like a hidden treasure. I realize how many beautiful drawings he did for us. I should frame them all for what they are, truly art.
One more Steve story. We were working on the “Honey Fitz” and while removing the bow paint, we found a partial carving of the original bow scrolls for the Defoe. The rest had been filled or sanded away long ago. This started the hunt. What did they look like originally from her “Lenore” days? They were probably filled in during her service in WWII.
Steve and I were on a mission, what was the whole picture? In our research, we found a photo of the 93-foot yacht under way. Steve blew the photo up and up and up then taped them together. He reported back, “I think I got it!” and as always, he brought his preliminary sketch and said, “What do you think?” It was perfect. Steve painted them on the bow, and they were beautiful. Now I want to fast forward to now in the foredeck restoration. Steve’s work will be destroyed. Katelyn Kiefer, the first mate, made patterns and from there I contacted Allen at B&B Yacht Design and asked if he could take a hand drawing and turn it into something that could be cut out on his C and C machine. So, I hand delivered the drawings and his reply was “I will try.” He made a small mockup, and it is beautiful. The exceptionally long scrolls will be cut in two sheets then casted in plastic and sent to a foundry. It will be made from cast bronze. I cannot wait to see them grace her bow once again!
There is a lot of talent involved in this project. All the lead carpenters were trained at Rybovich in the old days. Don Bishop is one of them. He’s an old school boat builder and has his son working with him now. The upper structure is being built with modern cold-molding technique and laminated using the best materials. My part is to help work out problems from structural to what would John Trumpy do? This has led to some adventures much like my last flight down to Tampa to meet up with the captain. There in the little town of Cortez sits a containerful of Trumpy parts from “Emma,” Contract 405, built in 1962 as “Martha P” for William Pugh. We met with the yard supervisor Andy. In the containers there were parts not only from “Emma” but the late Trumpy yacht “Eskimo III.”
She was Contract 384, built in 1958, a 67-foot houseboat built for John Kimberly. Eskimo was tied to a dock where pilings were broken off by a past hurricane at low tide the pilings poked holes in her and she sank. Now she was reduced to parts in a container and “Emma” that just 15 years earlier had been the belle of the ball at Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef, was getting parted out, awaiting demolition and her final journey to a landfill. There had been a foredeck restoration that had gone south. Her saloon windows were removed during that job, left on the deck, and the elements destroyed her from the inside out. We pulled out original lighting, door hardware, doors, cleats, chocks, and such. This was not Capt. Greg’s first adventure scouring for parts for “Honey Fitz.” He had met with the previous owner’s son who had stowed “Emma’s” parts and interior doors in his garage. The styling of the cabin and layout on the Honey Fitz was Trumpy in design, so the goal is to get the yacht back to her golden age of the presidential years. The forward part is a Defoe design and the main cabin and aft is of Trumpy. She will be very elegant upon completion.
My next story started three or so years ago. We had a 55-foot Trumpy in for a major refit, the “Jenny Clark” and we had “Pathfinder,” a 30-foot Chris-Craft in the same building. side by side. This boat came from the lakes of Northern Georgia. The owner tried to drive it up on a trailer. The angle of the ramp may have been too steep. Not getting it right, he tried again, when they pulled up, The keel was broken in two places. I do not know how, but my name came up. I got a call wanting to know if I would come take a look. It was a long day’s drive.
The keel was only part of the problem because the bottom had broken ribs and planks. By cutting and removing the bottom we repaired and replaced the inner structure then started cold molding a new bottom. One day in the middle of the project we received a call from a Chris Stevens in California. He said he had the same boat only a little older, and that he had seen on our website. He wanted to come and see the process, so I invited him. Much to my surprise Chris showed up. It is a long way from California. He and Captain Moe from the “Jenny Clark” hit it off. He took him on the Trumpy and Moe went over our process with him. He had been there all along. By the time I came to the meeting, Chris knew everything we did with only a few questions for me and headed back home.
This summer I received a call from Chris, “I am thinking about shipping my boat out east and having you put a new bottom in it.” I was wondering who this was and what kind of boat. After some conversation we started talking about Captain Moe and it all came back, and the conversation quickly changed to the Chris-Craft. He told me the boat was in Montana sitting on a trailer and needed to be trailered out east. We have worked with some particularly good boat movers, so I shot him a list of all of them.
We are moving towards spring and the price to pick up a boat is for both ways, most boats are shipped North and South not west to east, so it was pricey. Then his insurance company would not insure the boat for the move to the East Coast. Chris said, “Hell, I will drive it up, but I have to have insurance.” I said call Peter Tyson. Peter has been in the boating insurance business from when I was a boy. He has dealt with pretty much every scenario involving a boat. His offices were up at Richard Bertram Yachts in Miami back in the 1960s. So, I gave Chris his number, 772-770-0414, and that was done.
So after passing that hurdle, Chris and his son hopped in a rented truck. He said he was worried about snow. I asked why, and he said that it happens this time of year, with a little luck and a more Southern route they made it safe only losing a wheel on the way. They felt a little wobble then the wheel shot off and out into the woods. After finding and retrieving the wheel they realized the lugs were broken so they limped to the first place that could fix it. They went through a lot to bring the boat to us so we feel deeply grateful and honored. We jumped in on the project right away. The first part of the bottom has been removed, the shaft and rudder logs have been removed, so this project is in full motion.
I almost forgot the Life Car, the little steel boat for saving lives in the days before the Coast Guard. They would shoot off a cannon and a messenger line being shot off to the ship that ran aground by a storm or ill-fated journey on Cape Hatteras known as the graveyard of the Atlantic. I have written about this before and was corrected. This is the last one from “Cape Hatteras Station.” The one at the Beaufort Maritime is on loan from New Jersey Shore and there are others along the east coast. The bottom is missing and the keel is barely there. We went to the Beaufort Maritime museum and with the guided hands of our friends at the museum rolled their boat over making patterns and our friend Brodus Rose brought laser scans to get the shape for patterns for the plates.
We are stabilizing the inside of the upper deck and the weak parts of the hull. With the bottom out it gives us the opportunity to get into parts that would be almost impossible. Every project brings its own problems. The fun part is figuring out the simplest and best way to solve them.
Last year was the second year ever that Vintage Weekend was canceled. The first time was because of a hurricane and the second was because of Covid 19. We have our fingers crossed and if everything goes to plan this should be a spectacular year. If you would like more information, please call Kyle Landers at 305-393-4011. We are already making plans to be there.
Until next time,