Ducktails, hometown spirit & the true price of cheap work
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
I can remember when I was a kid that this time of year time would stand still. Christmas was eons away and spring even further. Now it seems that time is flying by as each day blends into the next. It’s as if they are flickering by, and I try to enjoy a part of everyday as they pass.
We have been working on the M27 prototype – the only problem is the yards have been so busy! We have only just been able to nibble at my project: cold-molding & glassing her topsides we have also bent the bow skin and I have just picked up the duck tail from our friends at B & B Designs – they cut it on their CNC machine. The tail is fabricated out of laminated PVC sealed cell foam – it’s waterproof.
Once we incorporate the duck tail in the physical build we can finish cold-molding the bottom. By now you may be thinking “What is he talking about? Ducktail?” Well this is one of the most innovative parts of our design! But, who should take credit for it? Me? No. It is actually based on quite an old design: The first one I saw was the John Trumpy, 1939 “Innisfail,” also known as “El Presidente,” 95’. She is sleek – slipping through the water, I have seen these on many boats throughout time.
Also, John Wells, someone I hold in highest regard, was a designer whose designs were built from the Great Lakes, New York, and down to Philadelphia. Their ducktails were added to prevent squatting in the transom, making these yachts faster. When we first started designing the M27 my thoughts were that I wanted a beautiful transom, like a wine glass.
I had seen how the 1929 New York Yacht & Launch & Engine Company’s “Olympus” turned so elegantly in the water, these are a pre-war design. Then there was Halsey Hereshoff’s 1978 “Stiletto” – a slender knife of a boat – 48’ double ender (pointed on both ends) with wings that had been added; she easily popped on a plane and sliced the water. Our ducktail was different though, ours has rounded corners that don’t dig into the water and is instead a part of the bottom of the boat rather than an extension. It also causes a lighter aft and reduces surface drag. The more we worked on it, the more refined the ducktail became.
When I went to pick up our first ducktail there was that child-like anticipation inside of me like I used to get right before we went to sleep on Christmas Eve. Loading it in my van felt just like unwrapping a great present that next Christmas morning. I think I smiled all the way back to the shop! I am impressed
how clean the machine cut the foam out with all the bevels & shapes.
I was recently exhibiting at the Newport Boat Show, spending time and catching up with old friends as well as meeting new ones. My booth was right beside some of the great shipyards in the Northeast: Hogdgon’s in East Booth Bay, Fairhaven of New Bedford, and Front Street of Belfast. For a guy that started with two bags of tools to be bumping elbows with these guys – well I guess I have arrived. I got great responses from the people I spoke to, so next year we will have a boat there!
After coming back from Newport and unpacking, I repacked a smaller bag and I was off to Georgetown, SC’s Wooden Boat Show. I drove south; knowing the next day that rain was predicted. I really didn’t care, I wasn’t afraid of a little rain, especially to be able to make what I think is the best hometown boat show in the Southeast. Why do I think this is the best one? Because the entire town gets involved one way or another. Last year I remember there were over 10,000 people in attendance in one day. This year didn’t seem as full - due to the rain probably – there were less boats and not as many people came this year. The ones that did had a great time though. The streets were filled with umbrellas and people talking and looking.
There were two boats that really stood out. One was a gold cup type racing boat built in Palatka, FL. She was built out of tulip wood. I met the builder years ago, unfortunately his name has slipped my mind. He built his boat’s strip planking out of short pieces of wood. I had always thought of tulips as flowers, the wood with the same name is beautiful. His boats were all uniquely designed to say the least.
The next boat was Jim Varner’s a 1950, 17’ Chris-Craft, “Love Me Tender”. What I really liked about this boat was the way she was restored. All of her planking was original on the hull and instead of red stain it was natural. Even though “Love Me Tender” had undergone a major refit, the patina of her age had been kept intact and what I liked about that was that you could really feel the 1950s era in it – it wasn’t over-restored. I drove the long drive on the way back Sunday thinking to myself it was well worth it.
Next, I was also recently down in Marshallburg, NC to see what was left of the Trumpy yacht “Luneta” a 1920s , 85’ Mathis Trumpy houseboat, Contract 196, built for Col. S.L. H. Slocum of Washington, D.C. This was the sad story of a man’s dream paired with a yard that didn’t know how to realize that dream. He was a victim of being told “how cheap” the job could be done for. He was told $250K would take care of his project. After $2M, both the yacht and the boatyard are now gone. The only thing left is the bow, which has been turned upside down and into a bar. I have seen so many of these boats die due to this type of fate. There are three such Trumpy yachts near my yard, and it’s sad to see them waste away – but they’re not in my yard and they are not my projects.
ABOVE - Click on slide show.
The reason I am even mentioning this is because my projects get finished and launched. My formula is this: set realistic goals, work with the owner, give a practical and realistic budget, and get it done. It is also very important to keep the owners engaged in the entire process – let them know each week with a brief and pictures of what progress is being made. If you run into an obstacle while doing work you must be honest with the owners so they change their expectations. Treat people fair & do your best. It might sound a little corny, but that is what I have done from the beginning, and it works. When someone else tears apart a boat and then abandons the project before completion, I am not going to come in and fix someone else’s work. It’s sad to say but true, but I don’t put my signature on someone else’s failure. What all these projects have in common is they were told “how cheap” the project could be done for. Well, after sitting unfinished for years and deteriorating, how cheap was it?
As many of you know, “Aurora II” is my old boat: contract 332, 1947, 61’ houseboat built for John Trumpy and Sons. She is a yacht with a lot of history. Started in Gloucester, NJ, she was shipped by water and is the first real Trumpy finished in Annapolis. She was the first clipper stem Trumpy and with the tear drop smokestack; her bow seat and flag mast is like no other. This year, she got new frames and planking in the starboard engine room. For the new ribs and rudder blocks we used purple heart, a South American hardwood. She also has a reconstructed new metal rudder tables out of steel.
The engine room area has new ribs and planking, a few extras fore and aft, on the starboard side of Trumpy M/Y "Aurora". The Eastern Atlantic Cedar for this yacht was cut and dried 10 years ago when Jim still owned the boat so it was well seasoned. It was replanked with the original construction material and the smell of the cedar, just heavenly.
I had told her new owner, Lou Jezdimir, that when he shuts off the motors to always shut off the battery to the motors as well. I should have told him why and really stressed my point. The old GM diesels leak power back out of the starters. For some reason the field is not broken and the currant runs out of the running gear. Well, it is all fixed and Lou now understands why.
“Aurora II’s” motors are from 1947 and still run like clockwork – no oil leaks and she purrs like a kitten while also being great on fuel. The captain who ran her for 40 years told me his secrets: 1,400 – 1,700 RPMs, mostly the lower number, but every so often he would kick her up. The other was that he ran them every week and took her on at least one river cruise, if not more, around what was then her homeport of Miami, from the river to South Beach and the islands was her cruising grounds.
When I owned her I followed his instructions – I took her on a cruise every Sunday and the boat ran smoothly. She is going to be splashed in the next two weeks. I love watching them launch, knowing they are in good hands and will be back another time.
Until Next Time,