The High School Reunion and Dreamboats
Recently Margaret and I were up in Green Bay, WI for her 45th high school reunion. Personally I have never attended one of mine, so this was a glimpse of what I might have missed. As we pulled down Margaret’s father’s road, Margaret said, “Look!” I turned my head and there sitting in someone’s driveway was a beautiful launch with flags flying. As we drove past, I said, “Stop, let me out.” Instead, Margaret backed up and we both stepped out. After a long knock on the door of the home, a young girl answered. I asked what the story was and she went and got her father who was out in his man cave. It took some pounding on his door before he came out.
I don’t remember his name, but I do remember the conversation. He told me it was his father’s and it sat for years in the garage after his passing. Then the house was sold and she was left sitting outside. This was a beautiful, well-crafted launch: electric powered, mahogany trimmed, teak decks, her name “Miss Elco.” Her hull was a 1988 fiberglass, but her styling and craftsmanship was classic. As I ran my hand over her varnish, I could feel the slant of the crazing, little micro cracks. I told the man that he needed to save the varnish now or he would have to strip it down.
Some of the beauties at the Charlotte Antique and Classic Boat Show
We were supposed to be preparing for a party and here I was talking about boats. Hmmm…
It was at that point I quickly rattled off what he needed : i220 grit sandpaper to start, varnish, Penetrol, even the type of paint brush (2 ½” + 3” Coronas)… The man didn’t want us to leave, but it was time. I did an article for “Brass Bell” about varnish so I will send him a copy.
The pre-cocktail party at Mr. Zehren’s house was exciting even though I have never met most of these people; 40 Catholic women who attended an all-girls school. There was pink and white wine, a piano player, and electricity in the air as all these people caught glimpses of each other after 40+ years. I had fun and so did Margaret.
Recently I attended the 20th Annual Charlotte Antique and Classic Boat Show. Through the years, I have attended many ACBS events. I had the best time that I have ever had at one of these events! Now that’s a tall order. The cocktail party was held at Ed and Judy Longino’s house on Lake Norman. What made it special were the people, great conversations standing on the lawn. Ed and Judy’s son is the proud owner of a new Tesla SUV. It was parked in the middle of the back yard and I thought that was a little strange. It was only for the evening because the car was the entertainment. The car began dancing to the music, at first the windows up and down, then the lights, the gold wing back doors went up and down too, then the front door opened and closed. It was quite the floor show. There were smiles all around.
This show was held at Trump National Golf and Tennis Club. A couple of new things: The Aston Martin Club was invited and showed up in full force. Elegant cars and boats complement each other. The Garwood, “Miss America 9” was there. Down on the dock every so often Chuck Mistele would fire up the motors and the roar could be felt, even up on the hill. The judges were all the participants.
Each person picked the best boat and there was a list of 10 or so awards. At the awards dinner, sitting on the table was a questionnaire asking guests if they liked the changes and what they might like to see in the future. This is a great idea making everyone a part of it all.
I know I haven’t written about Lisheen Lady, a 1978 92’ pilothouse cutter built by Stephens Marine of Stockton, Ca. This is a company that was founded at the turn of the century by two brothers, Theodore and Roy Stephens. In 1902, they built a small sloop, the “Dorothy” in their backyard.
Their work caught the eye of a local businessman who gave them $1,000 in credit along with the plans for a 25’ motor launch that became the “Gee Whiz.” And then they were off. That same year they were commissioned to build a 50’ footer and outgrew their backyard. They started building boats on a submerged barge in the Stockton channel. The company, in one form or another, was in operation from 1902 to 1987, when it finally shuttered its doors. Some of its notable boats included the 1952 85’ raised deck motor yacht “Westlake,” and the 85’ 1962 motor yacht built for August Busch, named “Miss Budweiser.”
Two former U.S. Coast Guard officers re-patriated “Lisheen Lady,” after finding her in Europe, where she was doing charters for her Australian owners. Shawn and Chris plan on getting her back in shipshape to charter in New England and the islands.
After seeing so many of our fine American yachts going overseas, it’s nice to see a few return. The S/Y “Summerwind,” a 1929 102-foot John G. Alden schooner was plowing the waters off Palma de Mallorca as a head boat when an American businessman brought her back to the U.S., let us refit her, and won the Newport Bucket three months after re-launching.
But this letter isn’t just about the big boats. We recently installed a new bottom on Jim Hartman’s 22’ 1960’s Chris-Craft, ”Boo Boo.” Jim had removed the motor and tankage, so we braced her up and rolled her over. We have been working on perfecting cold molding bottoms. I think we have got it down: removing, plugging, prepping, molding, glassing, fairing, and priming in 3 weeks. This changes the boat. She is now strong, changing the way the boat moves.
“Boo Boo” should be faster now. The bottom really ties the boat together. The top varnish areas are now stable, less movement of the seams. The boat can be loaded on and off the trailer, no swelling, and with a tougher bottom, you can slide the boat up the beach and it is also fine to dry stack storage the boat. The cost of $750-$800 a foot for small boats makes bottom replacement affordable. I can’t wait to see Mr. Hartman’s boat in the water and hear what he thinks.
I know I have talked about the boat that we are designing. We are almost done. “A man that knows it all knows nothing.” I don’t know who said it, but it’s true. Through the years I have had many mentors, some of them probably didn’t know it. In designing our boat, I asked people I deeply respect to look it over. Mike and Dusty Rybovich weighed in and I listened. I consulted Donald Trumpy, and the list goes on. They have been incredibly helpful and I am grateful for their advice.
Inspiration comes from strange places. This boat design is not only a culmination of my experience working on some of the finest yachts ever built but from a gift I received several years ago. A while back, I got a call from a man who told me his father had passed away. His father had kept boxes and boxes of old Yachting and Rudder magazines dating back from the 1930s all the way to the 1950s. Every once in a while, I would grab a few to look through and read some of the articles.
The writing was stilted and boring for the most part but every so often I would find one that interested me. I picked up one and flipped to a page containing an interview with John Wells. Most people don’t know him, but for some of us, he was one of the premiere pre-war yacht designers of his day. He designed for Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Consolidated Yachts Inc., New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company, and the list goes on. He said, “I meet with the client and discuss his boat and I draw a pretty picture. Then if they approve it, then I go to work to make it work.”
He was from the era of art before engineering. The engineering was designed around the artistry. I have always thought of him as one of the greatest yacht designers of all time and my muse. Just watching the 1930 Consolidated “Justice” glide through the water takes my breath away with its beauty and function.
We are at 12 months in the design process. I have listened to the best and B & B Design’s Graham and Alan have been patient with me. Vance and Bill of Bill Prince Design have helped with styling and rendering. It all started with a dream that woke me up and I drew the boat I saw. I don’t consider myself much of an artist but night after night I sketched until I could see the boat: classic in style, engineered for performance that will be fast, light, strong and maneuverable, like a sports car on water.
It took a team to make my dream come true. We are almost done with the design and soon I will be ready to show it. I promise you have never seen a boat like this. And when it comes across the harbor I hope it will take your breath away. Then, I will tip my hat to Mr. Wells.
Back at the yard, about a year ago, I put a building over the 84’ 1962 Trumpy M/Y “Sea Hammock,” better known as “Eskimo.” Back in 2007, a year after a $3 million refit at Rybovich, the largest modern houseboat Trumpy ever built came to Moores Marine Yacht Center and stayed.
Here’s part of what I wrote back then: ”Cruising along just south of Swansboro, around Camp Lejeune bombing range, “Sea Hammock” struck something underwater while running in the middle of the channel. The stabilizer and the hull surrounding it broke free. Capt. Jeff did what was best for his ship, running it into a sandbank just ahead that jutted out in the channel. He placed her aground where the aft filled with water. She settled down right in the middle of the channel. Towboat and Capt. Rod and his crew covered the hole and pumped her out. Looking at the Sea Hammock, my heart sank deep in my chest.
She is a grand houseboat, Contract 400, built for John Kimberly and launched as “Eskimo.” In the next few days, I was receiving calls like there had been a telegraph sent out in the Trumpy community. I repeated the same answers: “No, she is not cracked in two. No, she did not sink! She flooded aft.” The fact is most of the damage I could see was water damage. So if you hear a lot of nonsense, set things straight.”
The Kimberley who commissioned her was John “Jack” Kimberley of Kimberley-Clark. The late Joe Bartram knew him well. He once stopped by the yard to take a look at “Eskimo,” on his way South for the winter. He shook his head said he was glad his friend wasn’t around to see what had become of her.
Shortly thereafter, we got a call that a benefactor wanted to pay to shrink-wrap “Eskimo” to protect her from the elements. By then, “Sea Hammock” had been abandoned by her owner. We kept dehumidifiers on board since she first arrived to protect her interior. “Eskimo’s” benefactor remembered the glorious yacht during Kimberley’s ownership, an era of refinement and gracious living. He wasn’t interested in owning the boat, just in preserving her, truly a gentlemanly gesture from a fellow yachtsman.
Over the years, we paid to shrink-wrap protect her a couple more times after the first shelter got worn. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and just built a roof over her. After various legal paperwork, we finally own Sea Hammock/Eskimo outright and have the U.S. Coast Guard documentation to prove it. Now, we are looking for another gracious benefactor to bring this last of the grande dame Trumpy yachts back.
Until next time,