The oldest known Mathis/Trumpy "Argo"is no more and swashbuckling dreams of a flatlander
Sailing has always been one of my passions. When I was a child, I watched every film that Errol Flynn was in, sword fighting, on our black and white oval tv. He was not on a ship but on a Hollywood set. I did not know at the time that they were not real ships or that the wind was made by a fan, but as a kid I was mesmerized. I was fascinated by adventure.
So being born in the flatlands of Indiana where cornfields are king, I dreamed of sailing and great adventures on the open sea. Well, I did that!
Two years ago, hurricane Florence came through the Coast of North Carolina for three days. We were pounded. I think it was the slowest storm I have ever experienced. In the past I anchored out my boat during a storm; so that was my plan this time. My sailboat is a Nonsuch 33. Her mast is free stayed with a big wishbone boom that weighs 150 lbs., like a big wind surfer. So, I prepared for a grand storm tying everything down and stowing the sail, which the boat only has one. It seems that hurricanes only strike at night in the late hours. Well, it’s not the wind; it’s the pulsing at 30 to 90 mph. The boat swirls around like a wild horse tethered to a stake. The free stayed mast bends like a fishing pole. The mast springs back and the boom, even though it is heavy, dances hopping up and down. At some point the boom hit the steering pedestal even with the main sheet tightened down.
The top lifted between the driving rain and high winds. I tried to secure the boom better, finally cranking it down and off to the side. Trust me, I am not trying to relive that moment. I love sailing this boat, it’s like flying a 717 sq. foot wing. The Nonsuch is like no other, she is fast, fun and fits all my needs. I love it.
So, when my friend Peter Leo took some photos of us under sail from his boat, I noticed that there was a fold in the sail. I thought maybe the mast had developed a bend in it from the storm. I like
to sail pretty fast, and she really flies in 16 mph and up winds. So, sailing this last fall the bend seemed
to get worse. On my last sail of the season the top stayed bent to the port side. Standing on the dock
and looking at all angles I said then I got to do something. So, after a little planning I made arrangements and we took her to the boatyard and had the crane come in and pull the mast out.
Someone had glued the two parts together with a rubberized adhesive. This would be a fight to
the finish making special clamps out of oak and threaded rod and jacks we slowly, 1/16th of an inch at a time , pried the two sides apart. The sleeve was over two feet. Three days of setting up then take it apart then jacking we finally could see the crack in the sleeve. It was ¾ the way around and one little 3/16 machine screw was all that stopped the mast from breaking. Now what to do?
I contacted Mike Quill in Ontario Canada who had rigged most if not all these spars for Hintenhoeller Yachts of Nonsuch. I gladly paid for all his thoughts. Then there was Danny Klacko, owner of Klacko Spars. They were the original builder of the mast. Mike said deep weld it and Danny said sleeve it so we did both. First, cutting then welding the old sleeve back together. Then we pounded a new sleeve into the old sleeve and drilled holes and poured epoxy to fill any voids that might be there.
Next, we used set screws to fill the holes and lock the two sleeves permanently together. Now to put it
all together with the heaviest sledge in hand, Oleg and I pounded on a chunk of wood at the top of the
masts and slowly the two came together. We were trying to make sure it was straight. Maybe we had
pounded so hard that we could not think straight. So, when Russell, the owner of the yard, came over
and nonchalantly said why don’t you use a string line we both looked at each other and thought why
didn’t we think of this. It was very important to do before drilling the 4, ¾ in. bolts that’s the final lock together.
The mast was perfect.
Today we hoisted her mast with the crane and softly dropped her back in place. While leaving
Russell’s boatyard, motoring away and looking up I had that childlike feeling when Christmas had finally
arrived all I could do was smile from ear to ear. Now I can’t wait to finish rigging and hoist the sail up and feel the wind in my face. Spring is here!
Next: Recently I got a call from someone in the industry. They said we hauled this 70-foot Trumpy out
and it cracked on all its seams on the top sides. What’s going on? So, I asked how many slings? Were
they placed there on the bulkheads? Why only 4 slings when the lift can put 8 slings. There was a long
silence, so I continued, did your target the blocks? The answer was “No!” They plan to remove the shaft
to replace bearings? Without targeting? The next thing said was they plan to soda blast the bottom to remove the old hard bottom paint. I had burning in my heart. This is a real bad idea. I said, “The
bottom paint is harder than the 1950’s mahogany wood. The amount of damage you can do is unimaginable.” I just keep shaking my head. Even though they could not see it.
I have always had a love for these beautiful old girls, and it gives me heartburn to hear this
stuff. I have clients and boatyards that fly me down or up to oversee the hauling and blocking using
lasers to ensure that the boat is set properly. How I learned was seeing boats and yachts get damaged. I
refined it over 30 years. I am available for consulting. But I don’t want to be called after the fact, that
doesn’t work for me or for the owner.
Next: In Trumpy News the oldest Trumpy ”Argo,” owned by Chistopher Williamson Contract 16, built in 1911, a 70 footer originally named “Lana” built for Arthur Curtis James is as far as I know the oldest surviving Mathis/Trumpy. Her home port was the 79 St. Basin in N.Y. N.Y. The boat Basin was slated for renovation so all boats were told to leave. I do not know the particulars of what happened but she sunk off Long Island in deep water. This yacht was a floating piece of history at the dawn of American yachting. It is a very sad loss of these great yachts.
On to lighter things: We are getting ready to embark on an adventure. Lou Jedizmer has invited us to ride in his 26’. triple cockpit 1920s varnished Chris Craft. Her name is Bayhorse and she is very beautiful!! I should have plenty of good stories to share.
Last: Our new old motor for Corsair, we went on a long search to find an original type of motor from the
1920s. The big problem is no parts or motors were available. So, what do you do? The owner wanted
reliability. And a motor that fit the class of boat, so the search took us from New England to the
Midwest. After a lot of research, the decision was made on a Hercules 130 hp K series 6 cylinder and
two to one transmission. Ted Carter from Antioch IL. took a 1940s motor and remanufactured it for us.
People told us Teds’ motors were the best, better than new. With all new parts, pretty much every part was replaced. The owner said he wanted two things: quiet and reliability. Well, I think I got my mojo
back and my passion for writing again.
Until next time,