When I'm 64, Arrivederci to a 1903 Hershoff 50 and the Surfmen's Life Car
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
It seems like just yesterday it was December. This March I just had my 64th birthday and unless I look in a mirror I still feel pretty young.
I remember singing to The Beatles song “When I’m 64” and thought man, that’s so old! That was when I was 12. Boy has time flown by. So now I have that song stuck in my mind: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I am 64?”
My friend Alan Hall called and asked about the ACBS – The NC Coastal and Piedmont chapter coming and having a look-see at our shop. Well, about 20 people visited and it was a nice turnout with many great conversations. It was just a fun gathering.
We recently picked up the framework for my Moores Yachts hull No. 2, both 1 & 2 are 27 feet. Hull No. 1 is a triple and hull No. 2 is a center console with no head.
Alan, Graham, and I have been playing with an idea of having a jet drive, and there are lots of pluses to that like being able to run up on the beach and a shallower draft as well as complexity, both in the installation and maintenance. I am still a little old-fashioned – I like things that are simple and have lasting quality. There is much more research to do before we move in that direction though. There is also talks of a M44. Still in the early stages of design.
Next, the M/Y “Olympus” has returned. The decision was made to complete the remaining refastening and re-caulking of the bottom of this yacht all at once instead of phases because “Olympus” is no longer a “shed queen.” This 1929 92’ New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Co. really gets used, up and down the East Coast and to the islands. That project has started and there’s a lot of sore arms to prove it as we remove old caulking.
We also have a Chris Hood 50-foot power yacht, a one-off, that we are redoing the interior, wiring, paint, varnish, and new cabin soles.
The owner is a Mainer who lives on the West Coast but still has his foot in Kennebunkport. When completed she will be heading to her new homeport. This boat probably has the best interior layout of a 50-footer I have ever seen, very spacious with a 17-foot beam and high ceilings. The engines have V-drives so they are under the aft deck. It’s quiet when running (like a Huckins). Lots of small decisions to make. The owner wants to be involved, so lots of photos are taken. And even though he is in northern California, he is still part of the process of his new yacht. Got to love modern cell phones!
We also are working on the “Paquet V,” a 1981 41’ Sonny Hodgdon built in East Boothbay, Maine, a beautiful custom wooden trawler as well as a number of smaller projects.
At the same time, we’re trying to get ready for the Palm Beach International Boat Show in West Palm Beach, FL.
I am driving down. Jim Brode, our resident model maker, has really outdone himself building scale miniatures of the M27, M30, and is currently working on the newest generation of the M27, the one with a center console, which we are planning to start constructing in April. He constantly keeps me updated with pictures and has even built special carrying cases for the models. It will be great to get back down to Florida for a little while – I hope you all can come and see me at the show! I will be outside in Space 304 in the poor boys’ tent.
Our part was pretty small but it’s still a great story, although a bit bittersweet. A 1903 Hershoff 50 has been sitting in a neighboring boatyard for four years with the owner in poor health. Before the boatyard, “Margaret” suffered through a hurricane when it was in Bath, N.C., so she has had a rough go of it for a while.
But all that changed when a particular gentleman picked up a Woodenboat magazine in Italy and saw “Margaret” featured in the “Save a Classic” column. Mr. Piani went to great lengths trying to reach the owner, flying back and forth from Italy to Beaufort, N.C., and making arrangements to ship her to Italy where “Margaret” will get a two-year, major restoration.
Our part in “Margaret’s” journey was small but tricky. We had to remove the mast and then move the boat out of the boatyard where she had settled into the soft ground and dried out for four years so she could be loaded onto a truck. The truck took her to our old stomping grounds, West Palm Beach, Fl., where she then boarded a transport ship to Italy.
The new owner didn’t want the Marconi-rigged mast because he planned to take her back to the 1903 original gaff rig with a topsail. “Margaret’s” new owner has a love of fast sailboats, having served on Italy’s America’s Cup team in 1987. We have a model of the “Stars and Stripes,” in our shop and he recognized it right away since he raced against her.
“Margaret’s” journey is bittersweet to me because it took a European to appreciate a great American wooden sailing yacht from 1903 and save her. The new owner plans to race her in classic yacht challenges in Europe. She will not only live again but fly, thanks to Mr. Piani.
One last story. I recently got a call from The Graveyard of the Atlantic (the museum).
There are only two surviving metal life cars left in the state of North Carolina. One is in the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, N.C., and the other was, until recently, in a backyard behind someone’s house in Manteo, NC, being used as a cistern for garden water. These life cars were used by the U.S. Life Saving Service, which was pre Coast Guard, for sea rescues. These life pods were used by surfmen as they were called to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners.
A small cannon or large gun would shoot a small line out to the ship so that a larger line could be towed to the ship. The line would be tied tight at both ends, then the life car would roll on roller blocks on that line. It was sized for one man, a tin can with pointed ends and a door on top. I would think the crashing seas would toss this little pod up and down. I am sure many prayers were said as a man was pulled to safety.
How many people it saved, I don’t know. But for someone to find it rusting away and realize its importance was tremendous. I got a call asking if I would restore it for a museum. I caught my breath because I didn’t want to sound too eager. Of course I said yes. It’s a great honor to be a part of preserving North Carolina history.
There is also the challenge that I like. Bringing a life car back to life so future generations can see how primitive life-saving equipment was, basically a man-sized tin can, will be a pleasure. And it’s paying respect to the courage of the Surfmen who risked their lives to save others with the most rudimentary of equipment.
There are more recorded shipwrecks here on Hatteras National Seashore than any other place in the Atlantic. You can drive down the beach and who knows what you might see or find after a big storm. With the shifting of sand, a carcass of a ship from the 1600s to the 1940s will show itself before disappearing back under the sands. Now all I need is a 4-wheel drive Jeep and a permit and vacation time. Sounds like an adventure!
Until next time,