Going West, Ted Geary & Reaching Olympus
I have so many things to tell you, but where to start? This last month I flew to Florida and Seattle. Both of those flights were about picking up and moving antique boats. In Florida it was “Aurora II,” my old Trumpy now owned by Lou Jezdimir. Lou needed to do his annual haul out and my schedule was jammed up. He took her over to Cable Marine up the New River.
Lou and I showed up late in the afternoon to meet with the yard manager and the head of the haul-out crew. At first I felt a little push back and felt tension coming from them. I was told by the manager that they didn’t haul out with six straps and that they had been hauling out boats for years!
I had to soften my tone. I asked if they had six slings available. I told them I wanted to work with them, not come in and take over, and that my specialty was working with these old boats. This was my boat for many years. I knew how she had to be treated. After trading some stories and basically proving I wasn’t full of it, that this was my specialty, we were finally on the same page.
I taped the rails to show where to lift the boat and sent them an article I had published in Professional Boatbuilder about how to properly lift these classics, complete with drawings.
Afterwards Lou sent me photos of the haul out and it showed that everything went smoothly. Was all of the commotion worth it? I think so. The head of the haul out crew told me that he remembered that the care needed on a wooden boat was much more than a fiberglass boat. That is so true. This story could have had a totally different ending. These guys haul boats out all day long and I’ll be the first to admit that they know more about picking up boats than I do. But, not when it comes to wooden boats. I can confidently say I am second to none in that area.
I like using Travelifts more than a rail. Picked up properly, I believe that the boat is under less strain. As each additional strap is added, the weight they have to support is divided. The problem lies in improper placement of the straps – they need to be near structural bulkheads.
Another problem is hobby horsing, that’s when you pick up the boat then raise or lower straps forward or aft to adjust the boat. By doing this you can crack all of the seams in the topsides and the shift in weight causes vertical shear. I wrote much more about this and if you would like the article, contact Professional Boatbuilder at 207-266-7244. It’s Issue 142, April/May 2013.
I’ve also been flown out to consult on wooden boat haul outs at other boatyards when they couldn’t come to us. And of course, the easiest solution is to come to our boat yard in Beaufort, N.C. And yes, that’s a not so subtle sales pitch.
On to our Seattle trip. A couple of weeks ago I jumped on a plane and headed there to meet the new owner of a New York Yacht, Launch, and Engine Company. It’s the owner’s first boat, even though she was built a very long time ago. This yacht is so famous on the West Coast that we know her name on in the East Coast! I knew of her way before being contacted to fly out. She is the “Olympus”, the 1924, 94’ yacht.
I flew out a few days early to spend time with my childhood friend Bob Meredith. Bob and my friendship is the kind that you can pick up after 20 years of not seeing each other. Two minutes together and you’re all caught up and all the time in between has been erased. When I was a young man in Maine my buddy Burt Wilcox would say you count your true friends on one hand. Bob is one of those fingers. Bob is a captain of a 475’ ferry carrying thousands of people in and out of Seattle every day, regardless of the weather. Talk about nerve wracking.
Seattle is such a beautiful city. For some, one of the big attractions is the Space Needle. For me it is boatyards, water fronts and old boats. They have the largest fishing fleet I have ever seen, but more importantly it’s the birth place of Ted Geary yachts.
He was the great mega yacht designer of the Northwest in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in 1885, he designed fishing boats, wooden hull freighters and sailing vessels. Geary was such a prodigy, he designed and helped build a 24’ racing sloop at age 14 that won many a local race with Geary at the helm.
His talent was so obvious as both a sailor and a designer that a group of Seattle businessmen and supporters paid his tuition to attend MIT where he studied naval architecture and marine engineering. And he paid everyone back when he returned to Seattle. While his talent was abundant in all manner of boats, he was most famous for his great luxury wooden motor yachts, the first of which was the 100 feet Helori built in 1912 with a cruising range of 4,000 miles at 13 mph with a top speed of 17 ½ mph in 1912! He not only designed but oversaw construction of these grand yachts and those built from the 1920s onward all remain floating to this day.
Bob and I, with his family in tow - they know the drill and just sat back and enjoyed it - went in search of these yachts in Port Townsend. We stopped and looked in.
There was “Malibu” built in 1926 by the Blanchard boatyard in Seattle, laid up in a temporary shed having sections of her bow and stern readied for re-planking. The West Coast has done a much better job at preserving these grand dames. Cold water, I think, has played a large part as well as the altitude. These yachts are works of art to be admired. They are the pride of the owners and to the locals. Whenever we asked about them you could see a proud smile.
Before I was to meet with the new owner I drove down to where “Olympus” was located, but the marina was locked up tight as a drum. As I looked up on the back of the old building, Lake Union Drydock Co since 1919, http://www.lakeunionhistory.org/Lake_Union_Drydock.html the old weathered gray buildings set on top of piling, at the end of the dock there were sea plane services.
This place looked like something out of a movie set.
Down the docks and out of my reach were old floating boat houses, some in great disrepair, there was an old schooner somewhere between 60 and 80 feet half covered. I love these kinds of places!! I took a photo and sent it to Sean Kennedy. Sean owns the 125’ Ted Geary “Mariner III”. Within seconds he called me and I asked him if this was where his boat was built. He told me that it wasn’t built there, but that he knows they built a lot of them.
The next day I arrived a little early and the shipyard was open. I walked in the office and started a conversation with the receptionist. As we talked she advised me that I needed to talk to John Stebbins and then she proceeded to call him. I figured I might not get the time of day, but it was the exact opposite. He gave me all the time in the world.
We started trading stories. The shipyard is 90% on docks and they are on the original pilings. As for all of the Ted Gearys, he rattled off the names: Canim, Electra, Principia and Blue Peter. I asked if he had some of the old plans and he replied that Mr. Geary collected every copy of every set of plans upon completion of construction and they didn’t have a single one of them. We then talked about the Dream boats that had been built and how many were still around. There was an old model of the Dream Boat sitting in the office. It was soon after that I had to go and meet the new owner of “Olympus.”
Going towards the gate strolling down the dock I glanced at each boat we passed. Finally we arrived. Peeking through the open door, there she sat in a big blue boathouse with the golden light of the afternoon bathing her. She looked like something out of myths and legends.
We were met by Diane Lander VanDerbeek and what I didn’t realize beforehand was that this meeting was actually about passing on “Olympus” to her new steward. This would be a ceremonial dinner, a changing of the guard. We drank Manhattans and had a wonderful dinner.
As the night drew down I realized how important this was to witness, this was a page turning on Mrs. VanDerbeek’s life, she has loved and cared for “Olympus” for 24 years. She wasn’t merely turning over the yacht to a new owner. She was entrusting “Olympus” to her new patron. It was truly moving and I was honored to be included.
On to the next story. The bottom restoration of “Jenny Clark” is pretty much done – new ribs, planking, fasteners, and then sheathed in biax with high-impact epoxy. The bottom is pretty much bulletproof. We have installed dripless stuffing boxes and added an Arid Bilge Vacuum Bilge Pump System. The “Jenny Clark” had a fiberglass skin installed at Merritt Marine in Pompano Beach back in the 80’s. The skin was removed for our work, but the owner wanted it reinstalled.
However, I wanted to do it better. I wanted to use a material that is sewn together, not woven. This is much lighter and much stronger, particularly by using airplane grade epoxy and structural fillers. This will add a great deal of strength.
I am not a big advocate of this method, and I have seen some big mistakes made, but also in the same breath most people do this as a last-ditch effort to save a boat. They don’t go the extra mile like treating the wood on the inside or making sure no water has places to stand.
What I like about the Jenny Clark’s owner Jim Sproatt is that he wants it done right, instead of covering up problems to deal with later.
Last but not least: “Pathfinder”. She is a 32’ Chris-Craft built in 1958. She has a broken keel that happened during loading the boat to be moved when something went wrong. We are now removing her bottom and installing a new keel. This should keep us busy for a while.
I am traveling down to Tavares, FL for one of my favorite boat shows of them all: the Mount Dora show. I will write about it and hopefully there will be some great friends and adventures to be had and worth sharing.
Until next time,