Murray Peterson’s Designs: The PORPOISE Story, Part One
All of Murray Peterson's designs are special as are the essays about them that his son Bill composes to honor his dad's work. This one about PORPOISE is extra special for me because I own the boat. Getting her sailing again has been a long haul that began over a decade ago, back when OffsCenterHarbor was in its infancy. We produced a video as well as a guidepost of Patrick Dole and John O'Donovan re-framing her. They went on to take care of the deck, and along the way, PORPOISE was worked over some by the WoodenBoat School students under Eric Blake's guidance. Then my grandson David Kelly installed new ceiling. The boat still needs finishing, but with the latest batch of great work by Eric Dow, launching day is close at hand. As you can judge from the drawings and photos, PORPOISE is a little jewel that I feel was well worth restoring. She embodies the simple beauty that we at OCH so deeply believe in. MB
Listen and you will learn
by William M. Peterson
I, like some sailors, have confused porpoises with dolphins while at sea. It is difficult for me to discern the differences in size, body, and nose shape if they are not breaking the water’s surface. Although their leap and dive is called “porpoising”, it is common to both species even though dolphins are larger. They are both in the same Cetacean family as whales which also breach, but with less fluidity and grace. The motions of both porpoises and dolphins off the bow wave of a boat mesmerize and remind me of how much I could still learn about these sentinels of the sea.
The Harbor Porpoises of Maine I remember from childhood, even though their numbers had severely declined since Cape Porpoise was allegedly named for them by Captain John Smith in the early 1600s. Murray Peterson was likewise intrugued when he decided to name his 21’ knockabout sloop PORPOISE while she was being designed in late 1933.
The name seemed perfect for this beamy, harmonious hull with its foreshortened stem profile and tail-like stern. She was 21’ overall and had a 17’1” waterline, a 6’7” beam and a 3’ 1-1/2” draft. Her sail area, with its slightly overlapping jib, was 240 sq ft; her light hull weight was calculated at 1,461.52 lbs; her lead ballast keel at 1,400 lbs; her rig and gear, plus one 150-lb person at helm, at 420 pounds. Based on these weights, her total displacement was about 3,280 pounds, giving her a ballast-to-displacement ratio of 43%. After her construction and launching, Murray recorded on his table of weight calculations that she “trims fine”
PORPOISE was designed in Murray’s Marblehead office in the Rechabite Building on Pleasant Street as his design #109. Plans were featured in the January 1934 issue of Yachting magazine as “A Big Little Boat." That Design Section page claimed she “combines smart appearance, good sailing ability, unusual roominess and low cost of construction to an unusual degree.”
Murray’s office associates in the 1930s were Fenwick C. WIlliams and K. Aage Nielsen. Murray and Aage designed PORPOISE together, interspersed with a dozen other design commissions that were underway at the time. All three men worked together seamlessly as they had done previously in John Alden’s Boston office. Even though the Depression was in full force and had severely reduced the number of boat buyers, Murray and his associates kept going by focusing on small sloops and yawls between 20’ and 30’ that were then in demand—as long as the cost to build and outfit them could be kept to a minimum.
A bookend sloop to PORPOISE from the same era was a beamier 30’ centerboarder with the exact same 3’ 1 1/2” of draft. Her greater beam-to-length ratio gave her the stability to set 500 square feet of working sail. Both boats had a custom designed, roller reefing, main boom. If I were able to build that larger sloop, I would logically name her DOLPHIN.
As a youth, Murray did considerable day sailing around Casco Bay from Cape Elizabeth, and also on nearby Sebago Lake. He had owned and built several smaller boats including a John Alden-designed O-boat. This 18’ 1” one-design centerboard sloop was especially popular in Marblehead as a racing class. PORPOISE was a culmination of his thoughts on hull form, integrated ballast keel, 2-1 aspect ratio mainsail, self-bailing cockpit, and a head and galley for cruising. Aage had sailed along the coast of Denmark, while Fenwick grew up sailing out of Gloucester and Marblehead. The three of them shared their collective education, experience, and gifted artistry in creating all the designs that came from Murray's office, resulting in a decade of exceptional creative collaboration. They were good listeners and practiced Murray’s Danish father’s mantra, “Lyt og du vil laere”, “Listen and you will learn”. When PORPOISE was designed in 1933, Murray was 25, Aage 29 and Fenwick 33 years old.
Designed and built on speculation, Goudy and Stevens in East Boothbay, Maine, got the construction job following their completion of Murray’s charming schooner COASTER II (Peterson design # 55). Murray had a great appreciation for that yard's workmanship and became good friends with many of the crew there, especially co-owner J. Arthur “Steve” Stevens who was searching for more inside work for the coming winter. PORPOISE fit the bill perfectly.
The hull was planked with Philippine mahogany over white oak backbone, floors, and frames. The bilge stringer was yellow pine, and the decks and cabintop were white pine covered with #10 canvas. The cockpit coamings, cabin sides, and their swooping foredeck extensions were single continuous steam-bent planks of mahogany, varnished. The extensions, coupled with the curved fairings at the aft corners of the cabintop, helped blend the cabin into the deck and sheerline. The spars were Oregon fir, and the interior was painted pine with varnished mahogany trim.
PORPOISE's lead keel was beautifully cast and designed to fair into the hull and deadwood above it without any sharp transitions. More costly, but aesthetically well worth it. The bolting was Tobin bronze, and the plank fastenings copper rivets.
The final bill was $1,223.43 from Goudy & Stevens. Owner-furnished items and insurance brought the total to $1,571.33. Murray borrowed $600.00 for four months to finance this “leap of faith” and paid $12.00 in interest on that loan. There were many reasons why this project was successful, but having an inspired and detailed design, timing that fit the yard’s schedule, building materials that were onhand, skilled workers available, and a strong relationship between designer and builder certainly were at the top. Yet, even though PORPOISE embodied all of these elements, there would be no guarantee of a buyer during those dark days of the Great Depression.
In early July of 1934, PORPOISE was complete. Murray planned to sail along the coast to Portland, then on to Marblehead where the boat would be advertised and could be shown and demonstrated. One can imagine the adventure in making this passage without an engine or electronics. But Murray was up to it, having made similar passages that often took extra time in port when fogbound.
The passage from the yard in East Boothbay to a pier in Portland Harbor takes a long summer day of sailing even if the weather is favorable. You're usually beating into the prevailing southwest wind, and there's current from the major rivers including Damariscotta, Sheepscot, Kennebec, Androscoggin and Presumpscot to consider. Extra supplies and a contingency plan for unexpected overnights have to be part of the planning.
While we do not have a written record of PORPOISE’s first passage, she probably made for Seguin Island, then headed for Casco Bay’s Halfway Rock. Most probably, those light station keepers would have noticed PORPOISE since few other boats were on the water that summer. It is also quite likely that Murray made it in one day and was met pierside in Portland by his brother Roland. Norris Gregg also showed up, admired PORPOISE, and a sale was negotiated such that Murray was to continue the passage and deliver PORPOISE to Gregg in Annisquam. His arrival there was recorded in a photograph of him in PORPOISE off Annisquam Harbor Lighthouse.
With such an auspicious beginning, it is natural to wonder how PORPOISE faired in the many years that followed. She sailed out of Ipswich Bay for awhile, then Casco Bay—eight decades in all before working her charms on the Bray family and calling for help. They set out to gradually restore her so she'd be back sailing by her 90th year. That story is best told by Maynard Bray himself. There's an OffCenterHarbor guidepost here, and a video here, both about the re-framing. More will follow, according to Maynard, in Part Two of this series.
Update: Here is what PORPOISE looks like now, after a few weeks in Eric Dow's shop. MB
To purchase larger or full-scale versions of any of the above plans, to order a full set of plans, or to discuss building a replica, contact Murray G. Peterson Associates, 48 Jones Point Road, South Bristol, Maine, 04568. Website is <www.PetersonAssocLLC.com> and email is <email@example.com>.
Topside Seams Show? Consider Splining
LOAFER is one of the lovely Herreshoff 12-1/2 footers (so named for their waterline length) and was built in 1936. Although her freshly-painted topsides looked flawless each year on launching day, it wasn't long before her caulked-and-puttied seams began to show. To cure this unacceptable distraction, Eric Dow carefully routed out each seam to half the plank thickness and glued in a cedar spline. He's done this before and it's worked. For ten years the splined seams of an identical boat have remained invisible—even though that boat's topsides were dark blue instead of white. However—and this surely has to be considered—neither of these boats are allowed to dry out much while they're ashore. They're housed inside damp sheds where there's no sun and wind to excessively shrink the planking.
This spring when I visited Eric's shop and saw LOAFER's starboard side so nicely splined, sanded, and ready for paint and the port side about to receive the same treatment, I grabbed the opportunity to share his procedure with OCH members feeling that it might be a solution for some of their boat's topsides.
This is LOAFER with her splined starboard topside already for painting.
Eric's first move after stripping the planking of paint is to nail on a batten to guide the router. He positions it so the router bit will bisect the seam.
The router is a small one and the bit depth is adjusted to about half the plank thickness, or in this case around 1/4" deep for the half inch-thick cedar planking. The router removed all of the putty but most of the cotton caulking remains.
Here's the router bit. It cuts a 3/16"-wide groove and this single bit remained sharp enough for the entire project.
Cedar splines about three feet long are milled out to just shy of 3/16" thick and about 1/2" wide and are temporarily pushed into the routed seams. Then, one section of spline at a time is pulled out and the routed area spread with thickened epoxy using a so-called acid brush as Steve Betts is doing here.
Simultaneously, the spline itself gets dunked into a trough where it soaks up the same mix of epoxy.
With all surfaces well coated with epoxy, Eric and Steve push the wet spline back into the routed seam where staples will soon hold it.
Staples (and nailed-on keepers at the sheer strake) do their job while the epoxy cures, but are removed afterwards.
Now, with the staples gone, Steve can plane the splines flush with the planking.
Sanding follows the planing, first with a dual-action disc sander using 80-grit...
... and finally with a longboard and progressively finer grits.
After sanding and fairing, filling takes place. Here, where many years of sanding had thinned the soft cedar plank that lies next to the harder oak of the sheer strake, epoxy resin and Microlite (WEST #410) brought the two surfaces flush.
The white topsides have been filled, sanded and primed and are ready for the finish coat. This year, LOAFER should go through the season without her seams showing.
Murray Peterson’s Designs: SUSAN a Lovely Little Cruising Schooner
After he and his crew completed three classic Peterson-designed, coaster-type schooners (SILVER HEELS, NORTH STAR and SERENITY) at Camden Shipbuilding in the early part of the sixties, the yard closed, and Malcolm Brewer started building boats by himself across the harbor in a brand-new shop. SUSAN was the first yacht built there, started as a spec boat but ending up as Sue and Murray Peterson's personal schooner, launched in the fall of 1969.
She's a grand little craft as you'll learn from the stories and illustrations that follow. Until Murray died four years later, the Petersons used her often, mostly for day sails for which she proved ideal, being easy to get underway and simple to sail once free of the mooring.
Her charm has attracted duplicates, the first being KRENIE that Malcolm built right after SUSAN. More followed and we hope the trend will continue. Here's her story from the designer's son followed by another yarn by longtime family friend, Art Brendze.
BEGIN AS YOU CAN HOLD OUT
As a younger man, I could see no logic in the concept of a ménage a trois. Then I came to know the schooner SUSAN and the role she played in the exceptional marriage of my parents. My view on what contributes to successful relationships had evolved, in part, because this special boat, lovingly named, became the setting where Murray and Sue Peterson spent many of their happiest and final days together.
SUSAN was among the last dozen of Murray’s designs and he created it on “spec,” speculating that the right buyer would come forward before the first boat was completed. He hoped more would be built afterwards by his friend, master builder Malcolm Hoyt Brewer of Camden, Maine. After the closing of Camden Shipbuilding, where he had been foreman, Malcolm moved into the new shop he built on Bayview Street that Murray had designed. That shop was where Malcolm and Murray accomplished their final collaborations. They were “cut from the same cloth” and appreciated each other’s considerable talents, perspectives and integrity.
Malcolm, like Murray, was of Scottish descent and highly regarded by customers, yard managers and his own crew without exception. He had worked in shipyards in Boothbay, Bath and Camden. He was born in East Boothbay in 1899 and married Ruth Poole of South Bristol in 1922 when she was 20 and he was 23. They were married for 58 years until he passed in 1980. Throughout his career, he worked in khakis, a fedora and wore wire rim glasses that matched his wiry frame.
Malcolm built his first boat in the loft of his father’s barn and I have heard the story from multiple sources that the boat was too big to be removed without taking portions of the building apart, much to his father’s chagrin. True or not, Malcolm’s impressive accomplishments suggest that this may have been his only miscalculation. He would remark that “there are boatbuilders and there are people who build boats.” The boatbuilders understand that time is money, a shop must always be clean and organized, the tools must be sharp and well cared for, and every worker must be fully and efficiently engaged throughout the day. The time sheets, material lists and invoices Malcolm created while building SUSAN and other Peterson designs showed he was a master boatbuilder. He described related projects that kept him busy when a steam box was heating up or paint was drying as “knitting work,” and this included building hatches or making hardware patterns—stuff that could be done on a bench. I never saw clutter anywhere.
The shop had two levels so that tools, equipment, and supplies could be moved where needed as work progressed upward to deck and joinery. Material came into the shop one way and waste, if not burned for warmth, went out another. East facing windows made sense for Malcolm because he was at work before sunrise. He kept the noise to a minimum because his shop was in the middle of town; it helped that he used mostly hand tools. He spoke quietly as well, and he cursed with words like “My gracious!” After Malcolm and Murray signed the contract to build SUSAN, the remaining drawings followed quickly. Murray would frequently deliver them himself and go over the details on a bench or in the boat. They were often taped to a bulkhead or laid next to a bench, used much like “Post it" notes are today.
Malcolm used his lofting throughout the building process and drew up many details full size, cutting pieces from their resulting dimensions, shapes and bevels. This speeded the building and setting up of the backbone, cutting and installing floor timbers, steaming and bending frames against ribbands and moulds, and lining out and fitting the planking. Visiting a boatyard with this kind of progress is exciting for an owner and keeps pressure on the designer if there are questions to be answered. Malcolm liked to fit and build everything he could into a boat before it was closed in with planking or decking.
As construction progressed, two potential owners negotiated with Murray to purchase SUSAN. But when the launching date drew near, both had to back out. So Murray decided that he and Sue would keep the boat and enjoy her, at least for a season. That season became four and were the among the happiest sailing years of their lives together.
When Murray was designing a boat, he would often seem lost in his thoughts. He loved progression of tasks as a young man, and that passion did not diminish with age. If anything, it got stronger. He had wanted to be a naval architect from his boyhood days, inspired by watching cargo carrying schooners sail past Cape Elizabeth or by roaming the Portland working waterfront. Designing, building and sailing SUSAN, for Murray, was more like the final lines of a poem than the end of a career.
Between commissions, and even during them, he drew small cruising boats just for the fun of it—ones that appealed to him and embodied the characteristics he thought would please a niche market of sailors who wanted to cruise as a couple or as a small family. The designs were intended to be efficient, speedy, stable, straight forward in construction, and beautiful to the eye. They would celebrate a commonsense workboat heritage that he admired and perhaps get more people on the water safely.
These concepts and his reasonings were often part of his “Happy Hour” discussions with Sue, and if drawings were to be shared with her, they had the boat’s name lettered in as SUSAN This further piqued her interest even though he kidded that the name might also apply to their daughter Suzy. In the early 1960s, these “spec” designs centered on a small schooner with modest overhanging hull ends and rig. She would have firm bilges, easy motion and a schooner rig that could be singlehanded. She would also meet the needs of a man who was six feet tall and a woman who was 5’2". In 1966, his ideas were refined and the final SUSAN was born.
This schooner did not have a clipper bow, but did sport a bowsprit with roller chock for the anchors and to keep the mooring pennant clear of the hull. Hawse holes in the bulwarks provide other options for leading the anchor chain where chaffing might be a problem. The bowsprit accentuated the sheer and extended the foretriangle while helping to keep the foredeck clean. Many small schooners have a jib club, but SUSAN's jib was loose footed. Alternatively, a genoa could be hanked onto the headstay with the jib lowered, furled, and secured to the Samson post. A heavy fisherman anchor was stowed on deck and a lighter anchor hung from the bowsprit's roller chock, at the ready.
SUSAN has 36 custom bronze hardware castings and a cast iron ballast keel for which Malcolm made the patterns. He was expert at carving the complex and varied shapes with shrinkage allowance. Castings are important for the boat to look right and perform well, and several were especially critical to cast and install properly.
One special piece of hardware is the gammon iron that secures the bowsprit to the stem and accommodates the shape, angles and forces where the deck, bulwarks, rail cap, stem and bowsprit come together. On SUSAN, the gammon iron is subtle, but exceptionally strong. Further aft on deck at the mast partners, two collars were cast with tapers so the mast wedges to bear evenly and be easily installed or removed. The wedges were driven slightly below the top of the collar allowing for a thin layer of glazing compound to seal against leaks for a season without the usual boot or canvas covering. Every casting, from deadeye chainplates to mast and boom bands, seems perfectly sized for their location and function.
The main and foremasts are the same diameter at the partners and goosenecks. The cast bronze gooseneck flanges were curved to match the masts so as not to weaken them. Each gooseneck supported a strong, articulating pin that connected to the radiused straps on each side of the boom, providing protection as well as load bearing.
Another important casting is the rudder palm which connects the upper end of the rudder blade to the rudder stock. Murray designed a palm that spans the rudder blade and has a rounded leading edge machined with a taper, keyway and its end threaded and drilled for a nut and clevis pin. It is the same concept as the propeller shaft over which a propeller would be housed. The casting makes for a strong and remmovable rudder connection. Like all SUSAN's castings and hardware, the rudder palm blends into the form and function while creating harmony and strength.
SUSAN’s hull is painted Malarkey green which Murray particularly favored after years of owning and building mostly white boats. The green topsides are visually lowered by a white boottop and bulwarks that, in turn, blend with white house sides. This combination with varnished trim and spars seems especially well suited to anchorages along the Maine coast. When the sun sets and a shadow moves up the trees and rocks, it seems to pause and glint on that green hull and gold cove stripe. Even if the afternoon onshore breeze brought Murray and Sue home too quickly, they also lingered on the boat to catch the day’s last light
The traditional builder and author, Pete Culler, delivered DELIVERANCE, one of Murray’s larger designs, and upon arrival reported enthusiastically to the new owner that “This is one horse of a boat!” I have thought often about this comparison as my family and I have owned and cared for horses for over 40 years. More than any other boat I have sailed, SUSAN reminds me of riding one of our strong and responsive Morgans. She accelerates quickly and gracefully. Her motions are similarly easy, and control is minimal and delicate when the sails are set properly in their different combinations. SUSAN powers through seas and ghosts along in a calm. Like a well trained horse, she seems to anticipate change.
A favorite memory of mine is our daughter, Sarah, sitting tall is her saddle, riding as one with her gelding, Leader. A special image of my father and mother is them sailing together in SUSAN’s cockpit. He is sitting on the port side with finger tips barely touching the wheel and his left hand cupping the leeward rail. His blue eyes look forward towards the horizon taking in all that makes a boat sail as designed. Sue has her back against the aft house, hands clasped in her lap, brown eyes looking abeam at all that passes with the wake. They seem to see, hear, smell, and feel all that can be experienced on the water. An accomplished life together, an enduring love and a boat that helped them put those in perspective. One of Murray’s favorite expressions was “begin as you can hold out,” They began their voyage together in the 1930s sailing a beautiful schooner and held out well to end in the very same way.
They sailed or cruised an average of 40 times each summer from 1969 through the 1973 season. Murray stored the boat in a shed he built by the water with his brother, Roger. He stepped and unstepped the spars with a makeshift boom he built, and he did all the painting, brightwork and rigging. Throughout his ritual caring for SUSAN, I served in Vietnam.
In February 1974, I flew back home to reach my father the night before he passed in a Portland hospital. To this day, it gives me great joy to think about my parents’ time on SUSAN as an experience that made complete sense during a time that in the rest of the world often did not. That seems almost too much to ask of a boat, but this little schooner did it and did it well.
Throughout my adulthood, I have wondered how others might think about or accomplish a task I am about to undertake. I recently realized that the people I think about most often for an idea or a solution are the three involved in the ménage a trois that created SUSAN.
Other boats were built to this same design. Malcolm Brewer built KRENIE right after SUSAN for Red and Krenie Norton, and two more wonderful examples came from Arden Scott of Long Island, NY and Karl Bischoff of Seattle, WA. Arden is a sculptor influenced by the sea, and building ANNIE was her largest hands-on creation. She fulfilled her personal dream by sailing out of Greenport where her boat was a fixture along the waterfront. Karl Bischoff also built his BISH using traditional methods, but he documented much of the construction in a blog that is almost as impressive as his woodworking. He documents his thoughts and efforts over several years while facing both professional and personal challenges. I think Murray, Sue and Malcolm would be enthralled at how all owners who have SUSANs used a boatbuilding project and subsequent time on the water as a compass in their complex lives.
She looked like a handsomely crafted scale-model of a classic New England schooner, one seen strategically placed in a meticulously detailed diorama of an old-time Maine cove, complete with farm and fishhouse, all instructively displayed at a worthy maritime museum. But here she was, a recently launched living vessel, lying gracefully to her mooring in a real Maine cove near the mouth of the Damariscotta River. I was barely able to take my eyes off her long enough to make the nearby guest mooring that I was now maneuvering to pick up with my own boat. The name on her transom was SUSAN; the hail, Jones Cove.
Jones Cove, located just up-river from the village of South Bristol, Maine, was the home of Murray and Sue Peterson. Murray, a native Mainer, had grown up on Cape Elizabeth near Portland in the twilight years of the Age of Sail. His playground was what remained of the East Coast coasting schooner fleet, vessels built locally to sail local waters and beyond. In many ways they had served their era just as today’s 18-wheelers and freight trains serve ours. Yet these vessels of bygone days had spirits that lived on, and a young Murray Peterson was intoxicated by these coasters. It was this spirit that would call him to become the highly respected and sought after designer and builder of traditionally inspired vessels of all kinds. These are the designs for which he is now so well remembered.
I often heard Murray say, “You’ve got to believe in something.” One thing he believed in was an obligation to see that his designs were not only drawn and built with a high degree of integrity but that the finished product would also serve as an inspiration to both user and beholder. He believed this to be an architect’s professional and civic duty.
The vessel that held what Murray believed in is often called “Yankee Work Ethic.” This vessel held Murray’s ability to successfully integrate the rugged confidence of his workboat-heritage designs with the gracious nature of the New England-Yankee esthetic. This vessel, in turn, was held by the vessel called "American Culture,” the fundamental particulars of which are laid out in our country's founding documents. These are the vessels that lent order to the creative chaos of Murray’s unusually numerous and varied, native abilities. The results were designs that are handsome, capable, sea-kindly and inspiring.
With my attention now turning away from SUSAN and back to things at hand, I did manage to pick up the Peterson guest mooring without embarrassing myself. About the time we had my own vessel squared away, Murray and Sue came rowing out to invite us aboard SUSAN and go for a sail, to be followed by drinks and dinner.
Would there be room for all that aboard the Susan, I remember thinking to myself as my eyes drifted back over to the handsome, little yacht? She was small for her type …or …was she?
As I stared at her, the little schooner did, indeed, exude a confidence out-of-proportion to her size. She was not only at home here in Jones Cove, but succeeded at complimenting the natural beauty of this quintessential Maine cove. In that moment, it struck me as shameful that most costlier hi-tech designs would do just the opposite.
Later, we rowed over and were heartily welcomed aboard. The moment I set foot onto SUSAN’s deck, all sense of smallness vanished. I stood, amazed, on a traditionally-laid-out schooner’s deck that was roomy enough to walk around on, comfortably, just like on a larger vessel.
Before I knew it, Murray and Sue had SUSAN underway with an effortless and well practiced ritual.
I was particularly impressed by how comfortable and capable Sue Peterson herself seemed as she readied her namesake for sailing. Sue had only recently retired after 24 years of teaching school, but yet seemed totally at home as she straddled the SUSAN’s short bowsprit to loosen sail stops, cleared away halyards for raising sail, and readied gear to cast off the mooring. I saw that sailing SUSAN was about Sue and Murray sharing their retirement, and I was both impressed by and delighted for them. Among his many talents and desires, Murray had a long history of creating appropriate yachts for satisfied customers, many of whom became lifelong friends. In SUSAN, he had done this for himself and his wife. SUSAN would hold Murray and Sue's loving attention until Murray’s way-to-early passing at the age of 66.
The four of us were soon deep in conversation as SUSAN sailed on, full and by, under all plain sail. The schooner seemed to enjoy her jaunt to weather in the brisk smoky southwester afternoon breeze. The village of South Bristol, landmarked by the Gamage shipyard's shed, was soon astern, and we headed for Christmas Cove.
We approached its narrow entrance on the starboard tack., and once through the ledges Murray, at the helm, relaxed, grinned, and threaded the happy vessel through the crowded anchorage, now filling, now luffing, to keep SUSAN moving and provide steerageway through the moored fleet. A well-executed gybe over onto the port tack put us on a course that would show us the rest of the cove, and eventually allow for an easy passage back out through the narrow entrance.
This pleasant tour was accomplished with little effort, talk, or movement, while the sight of us brought forth approving looks and admiring hails.
Once clear of the cove, Murray put SUSAN before the wind and headed back up river from whence we had come. Unlike most modern craft, SUSAN needed no lapping jibs nor unruly spinnakers to move along with a bone in her teeth on this point of sail.
I found that SUSAN not only delivered that much-sought-after sensation of sailing that afternoon, but did so while her crew was relaxed enough to fully enjoy it. What a contrast to the physically challenging demands of a high-tech rig, with its tense standing rigging, dangerously loaded running rigging, and nervous motion. It is the ability to deliver this kind of relaxed, aesthetically pleasing and sea-kindly time on the water that keep Murray’s designs eternally, and practically, classic.
SUSAN continued up river with a purpose, this time it was a tour along East Boothbay’s historic shipbuilding waterfront. As we approached this crescent shaped harbor, Murray began to tell us about his 40-year relationship to the place. We were transported back in time to the bustling shipyards of Rice Brothers, Goudy and Stevens, and Hodgdon Brothers. The shore was then crowded with pilings, docks, floats, and railways. In our minds’ eyes we saw a congestion of working craft and yachts of all description on moorings, swinging to the river current and the mill pond's outflow, as well as to the capricious breezes.
Murray was no stranger here. His career, family, and numerous boat projects were closely linked to East Boothbay. His first custom yacht design (a schooner named COASTER for himself) was built here in 1931, followed by dozens more over the four decades that followed. Murray’s many drawings of sail and power yachts, draggers and minesweepers, had helped sustained this village and we could still hear his deep appreciation for this special community of builders, joiners, riggers and their families, even now, several decades past the final blast of the shipyard horn that once signaled an end to each work day. Murray then brought us back to the present as he mentioned that SUSAN's spars were stepped and rigged here, and the planking of her newly launched hull swelled up in this seawater to become watertight. Murray had a knack for making history relevant.
Once back at Jones Cove, Murray and Sue made Susan’s mooring effortlessly under sail. There was never a need for shouting, hurt fingers or hard feelings. The vessel had an engine and it was housed commodiously in her after cabin. I never heard it run though, even in subsequent sails. SUSAN was soon squared away as quickly as she had been gotten under way. I now understood that, unlike many larger schooners, she made an excellent daysailer.
Dusk found us below and seated in SUSAN’s cozy and comfortable forward cabin. I was not only impressed by the sense of space experienced in her accommodations but was also aware that Murray had masterfully continued his belief in the need for inspiring aesthetics in the below-deck cabin details. We seemed surrounded by a warm and relaxing glow. He had achieved this by the careful pairing a warmly painted, off-white interior with the dark richness of his signature walnut trim, finished bright. I was reminded of a saying taught to me by one of the much-valued Old Salts who I had been blessed to know and learn from in my life: "In days of yore, the craftsman wrought, with greatest care each detail, seen and not…for his God saw everywhere."
By the end of the evening, I came to understand that SUSAN was not only a handy day-sailer but also an inspiring cruising vessel. With four berths and a private head, she was capable of providing sea-change life-experiences for those lucky enough to be shipmates with her.
Conversation over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, now turned to news of folks we all knew or had known, such as John Alden, Fenwick Williams, Aage Nielsen, Francis and Nat Herreshoff, Pete and Kay Vosburgh, all of who flowed off our tongues and made them invisible guests among us. Many of the yachts associated with their names seemed moored close aboard as well, even though only in our minds.
Eventually, a beautifully varnished walnut tabletop seemed to appear out of nowhere. Here was a classic example of Murray Peterson's use of space. It had hidden hinges that allowed its two leaves to unfold and become a dining table that could be quickly set up securely right in the middle of the cabin. What, only moments before, had served as SUSAN’s main saloon, now became her comfortable dining area. We broke bread together, recalling a fine afternoon’s sail with friends aboard this very unique little vessel that so appropriately represented the culmination of Murray’s career and the characteristics that gave his designs their unmistakable and timeless allure.
As we rowed back to our own vessel that night, SUSAN’s silhouette outlined in the warm and fragrant summertime darkness of the cove; phosphorescence dripped from the blades of my oars, and I was reminded of what low-tech/high-touch sailors of the coast of Maine have in common, and for what we are so grateful. It isn’t just communing in good boats with the natural beauty of Maine’s spruce-and-granite-clad bays and islands that attracts us and binds us together as a tribe. There is also an important and perennial reminder to be had here, if one is quiet and respectful enough to receive it.
We are reminded each year of our inheritance of the Earth’s timeless wisdom, classic truths that vessels like Murray Peterson’s hold safe through the creative chaos of space and time and inspire us to pass on to future generations.
Plans and photos courtesy Bill Peterson unless noted otherwise. To purchase full scale drawings or for permission to build this boat email firstname.lastname@example.org
What About CONSUELO? by Maynard Bray & N.G. Herreshoff
Note about the following writeup: Italics indicate quotes from N.G. Herreshoff. (Plain type is mine.)
This little cat yawl that was N.G. Herreshoff's initial foray into the design of cruising sailboats has always intrigued me as she's such a complete departure from his earlier work. Launched for himself in 1883, she's the very first sailing craft considered substantial enough to be entered into the construction list of the Herreshoff Mfg. Co. (HMCo) since its founding five years before. She carried hull number 400, kicking off the thousand-plus that would follow over the next 63 years. (Numbers 1 to 399 were intended for power craft.) Drawings back in those early days were few and none specifically created for CONSUELO were known to exist. Until recently, that is, when a rough construction plan came to light—drawn in pencil by Nathanael Herreshoff (NGH) himself. Discovered at the same time were several of his studies leading up to this boat. With these documents at hand, a better idea of what CONSUELO was like is possible.
Catamarans were NGH's personal watercraft before 1882 and in later life he claimed to have enjoyed sailing them more than any other type. Indeed, they were wicked fast and gave a full measure of spirited sailing, but offered no shelter save for a tent pitched on the floor of their shallow oval cockpits for sleeping. Now that NGH had reached 34 years of age, he may have had enough of this kind of sailing. He may even have been thinking of marriage and a more suitable watercraft in which to take his bride. In any event, for reasons we can only presume, he decided to go in for more comfort and sacrifice a good bit of speed when designing his new boat—a 32-foot, full-keel cat yawl that he christened CONSUELO. For whom she was named remains a mystery.
To C.H.W. Foster, in 1932, NGH wrote: "... in 1882, I wanted something to cruise in comfortably, and decided to build a cruising boat. Hearing of the English yachts being fitted with outside lead, I decided to try it on my cruiser, and designed CONSUELO, cat yawl rigged. She was 32' overall, 29' waterline, 8'8" beam, and 5'6" draft, and had full headroom under a flush deck. All ballast was of lead, and outside. I went the limit for a cruising boat, the first time. She had very comfortable accommodations and proved very fast, compared to boats of her day. She was even fast in light winds with a small sail spread of only 665 square feet, which she would carry when the average craft would come down to two or three reefs. In underwater type she was the forerunner of GLORIANA but not as to above water. ... CONSUELO's particular fault was 'hobby horsing' in a seaway. ..."
In Recollections, in 1934, he recorded:"Wanting to try a low ballasted, heavy type of cruising boat, I designed, in the fall of 1882, the cat-yawl CONSUELO. This boat was thirty-two feet overall, about twenty-nine feet waterline, eight foot eight inches beam, and five feet two inches draft and had about six and one-half tons lead ballast, all outside. She was a very unusual boat in many ways, having many features that were new and designed [e]specially for this boat, some of which were: the rig, the steering gear, the windlass, companionway doors, skylight fittings, the swinging hood shelter over [the] cockpit, outside lead straps to hold lead directly to timbers, and many others. The hull was quite light, but never complained of weakness.
"The planking and deck were double planked [and] cemented with white lead or shellac (I don't remember which) and the outer deck layer was mahogany. Internally, there was a full set of hanging knees between deck beam[s] and timbers, and below these, she was completely ceiled. All cabin and deck trimmings were of mahogany. She was deep and high sided enough to give head room. She had two berths over [the] settees by [with] swinging backs forward, and two berths under [the] aft deck at [the] sides of [the] cockpit [and] a water tank and ice chest under [the] cockpit. [There was a] toilet room, and forward of that a quite roomy galley. The rig was a novelty to these waters. The main mast was stepped quite near the bow and without stays, and consequently heavy. The mast carried a gaff sail, like a catboat, with shortened boom, but it had a pole end aloft and this allowed for carrying a quite efficient topsail. Abaft the main boom was a mizzen mast that was stepped aft of the rudder stock. This was supported by stays and it carried a mizzen sail of one-half dimension of the mainsail and consequently one-fourth its [the mainsail's] area. As I recollect, the main boom was twenty-seven feet and [the] sail about seven hundred and thirty [sic; 610] square feet. The topsail had about eighty-five square feet, so for ordinary summer sailing, there was about nine hundred and ten [sic; 853] square feet. Besides these sails, there was a spinnaker with [a] twenty-seven foot boom, and a trysail for heavy weather.
"The yacht was fitted with two sets of davits, and I always carried two boats and never had to swing them over the deck, for the high sides and heavy ballast never allowed the lee rail to approach the water. This boat proved really fast, even in light airs. In fresh or strong breezes, she would work out to windward of all bay craft anywhere near her size. I always sailed her single-handed, even with topsail and spinnaker set. Her only fault was "hobby-horsing" in a steep sea, and this, of course, endangered her heavy, unstayed mast.
"This yacht was sold to Louis [sic; Pierre] Lorillard of Newport, in 1887. I did not intend selling her, but was urged to name a price, which was grabbed at."
NGH designed this boat in his usual way—by carving a half model (two study models in this case before he settled on the third and final one), and measuring its shape which then got scaled up for the full-sized boat. He made the model in the fall of 1882, measured it that October, and the new cruiser was launched the following April. He and Clara DeWolf were wedded the day after Christmas, some eight months later.
According to Forest & Stream of 12/6/1888, "Mr. Herreshoff used her a great deal for singlehand cruising about Bristol and Newport, sailing her alone, but taking his wife and family with him, the boat being very roomy and well arranged below."
After regretfully selling CONSUELO, NGH moved immediately to create his next, slightly larger cruiser named CLARA after his wife. Sadly, CONSUELO is long gone, but CLARA survives in the Herreshoff Marine Museum's collection.
ABOUT THE HULL SHAPE
Hulls of this shape were becoming common during the 1880s, so CONSUELO's shape was not exactly the breakthrough that NGH's GLORIANA's turned out to be a decade later. In the 1880s, premier designers such as Edward Burgess and A. Cary Smith, as well as C.P. Kunhardt, the opinionated yachting editor of the bi-monthly magazine Forest & Stream (F&S), were turning out keel cruisers of this size and type regularly. F&S, in fact, mounted a campaign advocating this type of wholesome cruiser while at the same time ridiculing the shallow sandbagger types of New York as being easily capsized "death traps." Boats like CONSUELO combined the virtues of the narrow "plank on edge" non-capsizable English cutters with the wider keel boats native to Massachusetts Bay and points farther east. She was high at the bow, low at the stern and almost straight in between. Her underwater profile ran in a continuous convex curve from her nearly plumb stem all the way aft where, still as a fair line, it looped completely around the rudder.
That smiley shape of the underwater profile, rounding upward as it does toward the rudder, was typical of 1880s keel yachts and may have been the result of adding a cast lead ballast keel as an appendage to a traditional straight-keeled hull—an evolutionary stage in transitioning from an inside ballasted hull built up from a long and straight timber keel to an underwater shape more influenced by performance than by ease of construction. In any event, CONSUELO's keel and its floor timbers were deep enough for NGH to stand fully upright under the deck beams. Her beam was moderate: a little over a quarter of the overall length.
ABOUT THE HALF MODEL
NGH carved two half models of the same general size and shape before settling on the third and final one which became CONSUELO. Both of the study models had longer forward overhangs, and he gave one of them a gammon knee and bowsprit, intending her to be rigged as a cutter having a single mast well back from the stem. For this one, he drew a rough arrangement and three sectional views. In the end, however, he opted for a nearly plumb stem that married better with the cat yawl rig he'd chosen for his new cruising boat. For all three half models, NGH drew their profiles, their sections, laid out their curve of areas, and calculated their displacement. For measuring underwater areas, it's not surprising he had a planimeter at hand since that device was in common use in evaluating steam engines.
CONSUELO's half model (and the other two before it) is completely fair to its extremities, as was the hull that resulted from it, and this is true of almost all of NGH's sailing craft. Doing so not only creates a lovely, sculpted shape without the creases from rabbet lines and slab-sided backbones, but also reduces the wetted surface. This makes for faster boats in light airs when skin friction amounts to most of the resistance as an object moves through the water. Creating a fair hull all the way out to its profile is the easy and logical way to carve a half model, but in building the full-size boat it means hollowing out deadwood and ballast keels—extra labor that many boatbuilders were unwilling to expend.
ABOUT THE OFFSETS
A study of the offset book for CONSUELO reveals that NGH had some means, even this early, of accurately measuring half breadths at every frame, and at evenly-spaced waterlines that were generally a foot apart except where tight curves called for closer spacing for accuracy. Half breadths and other measurements were expressed in feet, inches, and eighths—the accepted standard subsequently used by almost every yacht designer and naval architect. Whatever this early model-measuring device consisted of, it was replaced a few years after CONSUELO by the device that's now in the model room of the Herreshoff Marine Museum.
Noted within the booklet that contains CONSUELO's offsets, is that her transom was set up about 2-1/2" farther aft than was intended. For this change, NGH drew a dashed outline and wrote down measurements, doubtless taken from the hull itself for the record since no such change shows in the model.
ABOUT THE RIG
The cat yawl rig was what made CONSUELO unique among her peers, and by using it, it's clear that NGH planned on handling her without any help. Other yachts of this type carried full cutter rigs that needed a crew, even on a yacht as small as 32 feet. The idea of the cat yawl rig might have come from the sailing canoes then being featured in F&S. But the catboats NGH had grown up with and which his brother John (JBH) had produced so many of were a natural, and adding a mizzen for weathercocking the boat was, therefore, only a small step from the Herreshoffs' then-favored cat rig.
Both masts carried gaff sails, and as a cat yawl the heavy unstayed mainmast stood way forward near the stem and the mizzen mast stepped almost at the transom. A strut kept its boom from lifting, and so greatly eased the sheet tension that there was no need for a boomkin. The mainmast which scales from the drawing at about 9-1/2" in diameter had but a single forestay since the mast was too far forward for shrouds to be effective. Its upper end where the peak halyard gets its support was noticeably tapered. Both photos clearly indicate bending, meaning that the forestay, without a strut, wasn't doing much. Had carbon fiber been available in 1883, building CONSUELO's mast from that material would have made it lighter and stiffer, reducing both the boat's hobbyhorsing and the bending of its masthead.
"As I recollect Consuelo's mast was under 10" dia with a mainsail about 675 [sic; 610] (square)' and 6 tons lead outside! Clara's mast about 10 1/2", having sail over 750 (square)'. The latter was sprung and showed weakness the 3rd year and replaced. Consuelo's was not broken till about 20 years old. These masts were entirely unstayed, but of course care was taken in rough weather. ..." NGH to his son L. Francis 5/9/1936
For its day, CONSUELO's 768 square feet of working sail was thought scant—at least by NGH. The mainsail carried most of the area, the mizzen spreading only a quarter of that amount. (NGH, ever the mathematician, designed the sails to be proportional to each other, with the four sides of the mizzen exactly half those of the main.) The sails, judging from the two surviving photos, were beautifully made, with narrow panels parallel to the leech. No battens are visible, yet there's no significant leech curl.
Instead of traditional wooden mast hoops, NGH used metal ones, and rather than traditional wooden gaff jaws, the photos show a metal saddle. No lacing can be seen on either the gaff or boom, so the sail track and slides that NGH invented could have been used as early 1883.
Forest & Stream remarked favorably about NGH's cat yawl rig: "One of the most practical and serviceable rigs for singlehand sailing is the 'main and mizzen,' or as it is usually called in America, the 'cat yawl' rig, the same that is generally used in canoes. Though common enough on small craft in England, it is comparatively a novelty here, its introduction about five years ago being due to Mr. N. G. Herreshoff, of Bristol, R. I., at least he was the first to test the rig thoroughly and put it into working shape.
"Though fitted with partners for cutter rig she was tried with a large mast in the bows and a small one on the counter, the sails both being boom and gaff. Under this rig she handled admirably, as the many yachtsmen who have seen her picking her way through a dense fleet of yachts in Newport Harbor can testify, and the change to cutter rig was never made." from F&S 12/6/1888.
NGH not only considered a cutter rig for CONSUELO and made a preliminary drawing for it, but he also sketched her with fully-battened, bat-wing sails like those he actually tried on CLARA. As with the cat-yawl rig itself, it appears to me that the bat-wing idea came from the sailing canoes that showed up so often in Forest & Stream. Despite speculating on other ways to rig CONSUELO, it seems that she remained a cat yawl thoughout NGH's ownership. After his success with that rig on CONSUELO, NGH also rigged the designs that followed her as cat yawls—namely COQUINA, CLARA, WRAITH, ROMP, ALICE II, PELICAN, and GANNET. Beginning with GLORIANNA in 1891, however, NGH's emphasis shifted to racing, and for that, yachts with headsails proved more successful
ABOUT THE LAYOUT
"[She] had full headroom under a flush deck...She had very comfortable accommodations...She had two berths over [the] settees [with] swinging backs forward, and two berths under [the] aft deck at [the] sides of [the] cockpit [and] a water tank and ice chest under [the] cockpit. [There was a] toilet room, and forward of that a quite roomy galley."
She was virtually flush decked with only a low and narrow trolley-car type trunk cabin like a miniature of those of the later New York 30s, with five windows and one raised panel each side. At a width of only 30" it barely extended beyond the companionway hatch, and because it was so narrow there was nearly three feet of deck on each side to accommodate CONSUELO's two tenders.
"I wanted something to cruise in comfortably." It almost seems as if NGH designed this cruiser from the inside out and decided to live with whatever the boat's outward appearance came to be. The cabin sole rested directly on the floor timbers—just as low as it possibly could—and thanks to the rising sheerline, full headroom carried forward into the galley despite the sole there being slanted uphill. Her symmetrical, side-to-side layout set the stage for many of NGH's designs that followed, consisting of facing settees with swing-down berths above them bordered by a chest of drawers or a cabinet, and with a paneled bulkhead separating that space from the galley and head area forward. Aft of the "living space," and aft of the companionway ladder, was a "flat" that could be used for stowage or for extra sleeping. Where today you'd find an engine, an icebox and water tank sat—underneath the aforesaid "flat" and aft of the ladder. Stairway, actually, would be a better description than ladder since there were risers and handrails and fancy Newell posts that accented the cabin's Victorian ambiance.
The yachting press thought well of CONSUELO: "Her interior is finished in the most elegant manner." according to the Bristol Phoenix on launching day April 14, 1883. "Below her accommodations are surprising, as the room is not cut up by bulkheads. The finish is very fine, being all in mahogany. She has good headroom, a light and roomy forecastle, wide lockers in cabin, and above them folding berths on the Pullman plan. Under the deck, at after end of cabin is a large platform used for stowage, with room for a couple of beds." so said F&S 4/16/1885.
ABOUT THE BALLAST
"Hearing of the English yachts being fitted with outside lead, I decided to try it on my cruiser... I went the limit for a cruising boat, the first time." The limit indeed! NGH's 12,283-pound cast lead ballast keel gave this 21,400-pound boat a remarkable ballast ratio of close to 60%. There was only trimming inside ballast, and thus began his practice of using 100% outside ballast in all subsequent designs. For them to float as they should on their designed waterlines, this meant elaborate calculations for weights—an exercise that many designers didn't bother with; instead using lighter ballast keels, and after launching, bringing the boat down to her lines with bilge ballast. The difference is stability. Herreshoff boats with their lower centers of gravity could carry more sail before reefing. I'm pretty certain that CONSUELO's hull weighed less than other boats of her size, but since no weight calculations are known to exist, this can't at this time be quantified. It seems there was a slipup somewhere along the way because NGH noted on one of his drawings that a half-ton chunk lead had to be cut off the aft end of her ballast keel so that she'd not trim by the stern. As time went on, NGH's weight estimates improved, so this kind of post-launching adjustment for him became rare. CONSUELO's lead ballast was simple, and similar to the keels of her contemporaries—level and flat on top with straight, flaring sides. The sophisticated ballast keel castings that Herreshoffs are so well known for came later.
NGH secured the heavy lead keel to the hull not only with the usual bolts but with outside straps of bronze let in flush on each side—another feature that would continue to show up on his later designs and which he emphasized the need for in his Rules for Wooden Yacht Construction.
ABOUT THE STEERING AND RUDDER
CONSUELO's rudder stock was wooden, not bronze as you might expect. And she steered with a horizontal wheel, not a tiller. For watertightness, the stock operated inside a metal sleeve that was flanged onto the keel timber. Both stock and sleeve came well above the waterline, with the stock continuing on upward through the cockpit sole where it was six-sided and capped by a quadrant with gear teeth cut into it that engaged the pinion of the vertical steering wheel shaft. (CLARA has the same setup.) F&S picked up on this system: "The steering gear is peculiar, an invention of the owner. The head of the rudder stock is fitted with a brass segment, lying horizontally under the cockpit floor, in which gears a brass pinion on a vertical shaft supported by a standard. The steering wheel, on the upper end of this shaft, may be locked by a slight motion, so as to secure the helm in any position, while it may be as easily released, a great feature in singlehanded sailing." F&S 4/16/1885
ABOUT HULL CONSTRUCTION
"The hull was quite light, but never complained of weakness. The planking and deck were double planked [and] cemented with white lead or shellac (I don't remember which) and the outer deck layer was mahogany. Internally, there was a full set of hanging knees between deck beam and timbers, and below these, she was completely ceiled."
Planking, according to NGH's notes, varied in thickness, becoming thinner as it rose up the hull from the keel to the deck, another effort to keep the weight down low. The garboards, it appears, were 1-1/8" thick, the broadstrakes above them were 1", and the total thickness of the double planking from there to the sheer was 7/8" likely consisting of a 3/8" inner and a 1/2" outer layer. (Tapered frames came later.) At the deck edge, the roughed-out 'midship sectional sketch shows an early version of the Herreshoff's bulging sheerstrake that gives more secure fastening of the covering board to the hull.
It's lean picking for finished drawings of these early boats (no file clerk and no blueprint machine yet) so we don't know as much about how CONSUELO was built or fitted out as we'd like. She was preceded by dozens of catboats modeled and built (but never depicted on plans) by JBH in the 1860s and '70s before NGH became his partner, and some of those construction details surely show up in CONSUELO—in the way in which the mainmast was supported, for example. ALICE, too, built shortly after CONSUELO and on display as a relic at Herreshoff Marine Museum, sheds light on this. Given how heavy their solid masts were and how big their rigs, the step and partners for both boats look to my eye as if they should be stouter. But those are just the kinds of structures whose proportions had proven to work—and one can't argue with success.
Instead of a full-length sheer clamp each side connecting the hull with the deck, in the middle of this boat NGH used a hanging knee at each of the frame/deck beam intersection where those members were butted instead of lapped. He used the same in CLARA, so I presume CONSUELO's hanging knees were also of cast bronze. Sheer clamps were employed on both boats forward and aft of the hanging knees.
NGH never lost his attraction to flush-decked hulls, drawing them up as proposals late in life, urging his son L. Francis to consider them, and two years before he died, recommending that Linton Rigg so revise his proposed yacht despite the resulting appearance:
"You mention in the former letter you appreciate artistic beauty and see no excuse for ugly things. In which I agree and beside a[sic] fully agree the old saying that 'handsome is that handsome does'.
"I should by all means make the boat a 'flushdecker' and place the sheer line about as I have shown. This will give very nearly standing height in cabin, and so very much head room and air over sleeping transoms, makes the construction simpler and stronger and better in most every way you can think of excepting being ugly to what you are accustomed to look at. - But handsome is that handsome does. Fit hanging knees under each deck beam and no clamp, but the waterway substantial enough to give a bind and desired fore & aft strength. With both waterway & fender strake being substantial the planking in topside can be lighter." letter NGH to Linton Rigg 3/18/1937 responding to Rigg's proposed design.
ABOUT THE WINDLASS
As one of the features he mentions as having been especially designed for CONSUELO, NGH includes the anchor windlass, a duplicate of which survives on the foredeck of CLARA. By sliding the upper shaft to port, its gear teeth engages the rope drum, and by sliding it the other way, the anchor chain's wildcat comes into play. A removeable crank handle fitted into each end of the upper shaft, allows either one- or two-person operation.
NGH's pride in his own ingenuity, along with sharp criticism for his son's, shows in his (unanswered) letter to L. Francis when commenting on the latter's windlass design for the power cruiser WALRUS: "Do you remember the windlass I designed for 'Consuelo', in 1882-3, and used on several small craft afterward? I have just been counting up mentally the total number of pieces it contained, and I make it 20. Yours has 130 or more, and Consuelo's windlass had two features that yours has not. 1st the chain could be hauled when there was a rope fast to gypsie head, - 2nd, had two cranks and therefore could be worked by two men." from a portion of letter to LFH of 4/15/1930
ABOUT THE DAVITS
"The yacht was fitted with two sets of davits, and I always carried two boats and never had to swing them over the deck, for the high sides and heavy ballast never allowed the lee rail to approach the water."
Yes indeed, CONSUELO carried a pair of lovely lapstrake round-bottomed rowboats on davits—a most unusual setup even in those days for so small a mother ship. No CONSUELO-specific davit drawings have survived, but in general HMCo's small-boat davits were forged from 1-1/16" round bar tapered to 7/8" at the outboard end before being flattened to take the hoisting block. They stepped inside a length of pipe that was hidden and secured below deck. These davits, like the mainmast, could benefit from using today's carbon fiber construction.
ABOUT THE DODGER
Instead of calling them dodgers, the collapsible bow-supported shelters were known as melon tops or tarpaulin hoods, and CONSUELO had such a device that spanned cockpit's full width and included the companionway.
"... A valuable feature of all the Herreshoff launches is the hood or buggy top of oiled drill, stretched over bent wood frames hinged so as to be swung into any position. The cover can be raised sufficiently on either side to break the wind while leaving the boat open; it can be raised to cover half or more of the cockpit for protection from rain while running, or it can be swung entirely over the cockpit, making a complete roof by night. The same idea is adaptable to sailing craft, but so far as we know it has only been fitted to one, the cat-yawl CONSUELO, owned and sailed by Mr. N. G. Herreshoff. In this yacht the steering is done by a horizontal bar on an upright standard in place of a tiller or wheel, and over the after [sic; forward] part of cockpit a hood is fitted so as to protect the steersman from the weather. ..." F&S June 2, 1887.
It appears that CONSUELO first used the pick-me-up companionway dropboards that became common on subsequent Herreshoff yachts. They're not depicted clearly on her penciled construction drawing, but you can see them on CLARA's rendering. They're a slick idea in that they're always there and on standby instead of rattling around in a locker; you grab the aftermost (upper) board, lift it until it engages the lower one (which runs in separate grooves in the doorway) after which both boards rise together until they close off the opening.
ABOUT THE METAL BLOCKS
NGH says he designed the closed-shell bronze blocks for CONSUELO that, afterwards, became the standard for yachts of many sizes and are still being made today by J.M. Reineck & Son. Their smooth, convex shell castings that contain the sheave axle can be polished until they look like jewels, and with a variety of end attachments, can fit about any situation.
ABOUT THE HOLLOW CLEATS
Another hardware item that, according to NGH, made its first appearance on CONSUELO were the four-bolt, cast bronze, hollow cleats with space enough between their legs to serve as a fairlead or chock. There's also enough spread between fastenings to resist a sideways pull. It's not surprising that this design has become so widely copied. They, too, are available from Reineck and elsewhere.
ABOUT THE BULWARK
Surrounding the deck edge in place of a toerail, NGH fitted a 5" or 6" high plank-on-edge bulwark topped by a small cap that gave it a finished look. Herreshoff "signature" bow chocks were set into the bulwark near the stem while, aft, at the quarters, the bulwark curved continuously, making for a very graceful stern, despite the transom itself being completely flat. As was probably true of the cabin trunk and deck, the bulwark was doubtless varnished.
ABOUT THE TENDERS
As mentioned above, CONSUELO carried two lapstrake, round bottomed Whitehall-type rowboats as tenders and hoisted them clear of the water on low davits, one pair on each side, when not in use. They were between 10 and 12 feet long and built with the usual HMCo delicacy: thin cedar planks over steamed oak frames, and riveted. Examples of such elegant little boats can be seen and examined at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. One of CONSUELO's tenders had a sail as evidenced by a surviving roughed-out sail plan.
I have had no idea of putting the Consuelo on the market but it has occurred to me that I might offer her for a limited time, which would give me time to replace her before the yachting season. I will therefore offer her until the 15th of March, 1887 at $2,500 net to me, delivered here afloat in perfect order. She is 32-1/2 ft overall, 28-1/2 ft waterline, 8’8” beam 5’9” draft of water, has 6-1/4 tons of lead on her keel, and 1/4 ton lead inside. Is built about as well as a boat can be and should last a lifetime if properly used. There is no iron fastening, all being copper and bronze, double planking, double deck, outside being of mahogany, is perfectly tight in every part. There is 5’11” headroom under the deck beams, has a fine skylight and cockpit, bronze steering gear & windlass. Completely furnished and everything is in as good condition as new. Sails new last summer. 2 small boats & davits &c.
Rig is peculiar and has given me perfect satisfaction. She has never been beaten by any craft of her size that sail with stationary ballast and she has proved a hard customer for our racing boats. She is under cover and a customer can see her by applying to me. NGH to broker M. Hubbe & Co., 2/9/1887
Dear Mr. Herreshoff,
I realize I'm over a century late in responding to your appealing advertisement for your cat yawl CONSUELO, and I expect she's no longer available. If, by chance, she is, I'd be more than willing to meet your asking price of $2,500. I've long admired this boat and can imagine myself at her steering wheel (or steering bar, if that's how she'd fitted) beating to windward without having to tend jib sheets or running backstays. From what I've observed, I should be able to see over her tenders when they are hoisted on their davits. I am curious as to what kind of finish her deck has on it, given that it is of mahogany. Would it be varnished, oiled, or just left to weather?
In sailing, it would help to get a few pointers from you on how to set and handle the spinnaker and its long pole. Single-handed, which I understand you do often, using the spinnaker must take considerable skill and forethought. The topsail I'm unsure of as well, so instruction as to how best to raise and lower it would also be appreciated.
I apologize for burdening you with these questions, but my goal is to learn to sail CONSUELO as well as you do, or at least make the attempt. And I'm very sorry for not writing this letter 134 years ago.
Note: I'm very grateful for the assistance and access to his grandfather's records, drawings and correspondence that's been provided to me over many years by Halsey Herreshoff. I'm equally indebted to the staff of the Herreshoff Marine Museum and especially to my friend Claas van der Linde and his Herreshoff Catalogue Raisonné. Without those resources, this article (first published in 2021 by HMM in its ongoing Code Flag Lima series) could never have been written. —MB
Murray Peterson’s Designs: A Proposed Pinky
The New England pinky schooner, so ubiquitous in the 19th Century, might have become extinct had it not been for its rich history and exotic profile. One does not often associate Yankee New England with things exotic, but in the pinky’s case, workboat function meshed with architectural norms of the times to earn the pinky a solid place in the 1830-1870 American Romantic Period.
But the pinky’s work-a-day world was anything but romantic. Back in their day, pinkies fished for cod and haddock while anchored on Georges or Grand Banks using baited handlines over the rail. High winds against the fast-moving current over these shallow waters built up furious seas at times; then there was fog, making this kind of engineless, pre-electronics fishing unusually dangerous. Pinkies were slow, heavy, but very reliable double-enders with bluff bows and narrow sterns, thought to be of Dutch heritage and traditionally referred to as “cod-head and mackerel-tail” in New England. Their high, full-length bulwarks swept up aft with a flair, lending an exotic twist to the design’s already pronounced sheer. Functionally, this protected the rudder-head and provided secure seating for a lashed-down main boom, a great advantage when anchored in heavy weather. It also served as a secure and somewhat private spot for other basic human needs, at the opposite end of the vessel from the more traditional “head” near the bow.
The crew lived up forward under a slightly raised foredeck and, while fishing, the men spread out all along the rail while the current carried their handlines to leeward and a heavy lead weight took their hooks down to where the fish lived. As the fish were landed, cleaned and salted, the catch got dumped down into the fishhold which occupied the middle part of the vessel. Steering was by tiller, so there was a small cockpit aft of the fishhold near the stern. These stout working watercraft served the needs of New England very well, until advances in technology and the changing nature of the fishery made them obsolete.
Pinky romance came later. Romance, according to L. Francis Herreshoff in his book The Compleat Cruiser, is when a thing is out of the usual and pleasing to contemplate. When an object is nicely proportioned and has retained some well-proven, ancient quality, it is romantic looking. To a sailor, a romantic vessel is one that looks like a good sea boat; one that has a good sheer and nicely proportioned ends. In short, a vessel that he falls in love with at first sight.
Thus, compelled by the romance of working watercraft and especially by pinkies, American historians, artists and yacht designers like Howard Chapelle, John Leavitt and Murray Peterson came to the rescue.
In the first half of the 20th Century, artist-sailor John Leavitt would begin to depict pinkies on canvas, and designer-sailors such as Murray Peterson would draw up plans of survivors, and, ultimately, come up with modified, recreational versions. The symbiosis between these two close-and-talented friends brought forth the wonderful works of art and design that follow—interpreted further here by a couple of essays: one by Murray's son Bill and another by longtime Peterson family friend Art Brendze.
The inspiring 30-foot pinky of Murray’s design, unfortunately, was never built. So an opportunity awaits the passion and support of a client and the talent and skill of a builder. The boating world would surely be improved if this handsome little craft were built. For more on such an idea, contact Murray G. Peterson Associates, 48 Jones Point Road, South Bristol, Maine, 04568. Website is and email is email@example.com.
IN THE PINK
At Christmas, my wife Maggie gave me a heartwarming collection of letters between writers E.B. White and Edmund Ware Smith. They contained no references to boats, but inspired me to think differently about historic marine design and special friendships.
Whitey and Smithy, as they addressed each other, became close friends over decades of residing in Maine during the 1950’s and 60’s when Smithy lived near me and wrote about people and places that I knew firsthand. He was born in Plantsville, CT, and White was born a year earlier (1899), in Mt. Vernon, NY. They both moved to Maine and became more like Mainers and each other as the years progressed. This compilation of letters was titled, “Chickens, GIN and a Maine Friendship”.
Their special relationship and letters reminded me of my father Murray Gignoux Peterson and his close friend John Faunce Leavitt who were also Mainers at heart. John (born in Boston, MA, in 1905) and Murray born in Cape Elizabeth, ME, in 1908) lived and breathed the coastline and its boats. They met in Marblehead, MA, where both lived in the early 1930s, commuting to Boston during the week and sailing together on weekends. During these years they realized that their passion for Maine’s working watercraft would be lifelong. If I were to compile their forty years of entertaining correspondence, I would name it “Cats, WHISKEY and a Maine Pinky."
John worked as a coastal schooner hand, fisherman, steeple jack, newspaper reporter, and yacht broker; but his legacy was painting New England working watercraft and writing about their history and demise. His storytelling and paintings were precise, charismatic and often based on vessels like the pinky schooner that fished by the hundreds during the 19th century. While his naval architect friend Murray Peterson was busy evolving other types of working vessels into a new breed of recreational craft, John pushed and prodded him into imagining the pinky as a wholesome cruising vessel that they could sail in together. For Christmas 1935, John gave Murray a beautiful oil painting of the pinky TRUE LOVE sailing into Rockland Harbor at sunset with a young man at the helm and his lovely ladyfriend at the rail. This gift, predicting Murray’s marriage in 1938 and his eventual return to Maine, depicted their shared view that no other type of small fishing vessel was more accomplished, nostalgic or emblematic of New England's heritage than the pinky schooner.
The pinky was well documented during the early 20th century by writer-delineators such as Martin C. Erismann and Howard I. Chapelle. Their consensus was that the pinky evolved from the smaller, square-sterned Chebacco boat, or dogbody, which was more common in the 18th century along the Massachusetts coast. (One of those dogbodies is believed to have brought the settlers to our Jones Cove property from Essex, MA, and ever since 1800 laid, preserved, in the mud there. Pieces of that vessel are now in the Smithsonian Institution, having been gathered by Chapelle.)
The pinky grew in size and capability and possessed a finer, more balanced hull and rig than its dogbody predecessor. Its peeked-up stern created a natural crotch for the long main boom and the high bulwarks helped keep the deck dry. Pinkies had an easy motion in a seaway and their seaworthiness was legendary. The pronounced curve of the sheer resembled an upside-down rainbow, and one pinky was so named. Other well known pinky names besides RAINBOW and TRUE LOVE included SUSAN, EAGLE, MARY, METAMORE, TIGER, HOPE, GEORGE AND SUSAN, JULIA ANN, GEORGE, POLLY, TRUMPET, and SURPRISE. And Murray and John documented scores more.
Sadly, by the 1930s, there were very few pinkies left and none were suitable for John’s restoration schemes. John, however, did find Murray three other traditional boats to rebuild over the next thirty years. John would enjoy watching their progress on his yearly vacations to our fishhouse on the shore where he lived and painted. But John persisted, and would often write to Murray about new research, along with humorous salutations as in the following example:
“Dear Pinky P,
Since you have undertaken the monumental task of becoming the world’s foremost authority on pinkies, I thought I might help you along the way with the enclosed material.
Checking through the Castine ship registers this morning at the museum for some other information, I noted a number of pinks and started to make a list. This is the result. They were documented in Castine, but actually hailed from all the other harbors within the district - Deer Isle, Swan’s Island, Vinalhaven, Sedgwick, etc. Most of them were apparently measured under the old tonnage rule as the dimensions are given in feet and inches, while a few are measured in feet and tenths, as they do now. Many of the documents were issued back in the “fifties, but the records run well through the ‘nineties [1890s] for the MILDRED MAY was included.
In any case, it’ll give you some measurements to compare and a few schooners to add to your list. If this can’t keep you busy this winter running through the registers, nothing will.
I haven’t done much of anything since I came home but sweat-and write or rewrite few more pages of my opus no.1. I hope I can get at the project of trying the TRUMPET in Isle au Haut Thoroughfare. [Opus no. 1 was Leavitt’s iconic book “Wake of the Coasters” published in 1970]
I’m still quite harmless, but if all goes well, another couple of weeks may find me back in the ranks of those whose bite is worse than their bark.
I’ll probably see you sometime after Labor Day - almost certainly October 12, if not before.
Regards to all. JFL “
Even though Murray's final pinky design was never built, this collaboration was especially instructive in the meticulous way that Murray came to understand and document every detail of a working vessel so that he could later adapt it for commercial or recreational purposes. Other inspirations included lobsterboats, Friendship sloops, Nomansland boats, Gloucester, Scottish and Danish fishermen, Maine coastal schooners, tugboats, catboats, draggers, passenger ferries, pilot boats, lifeboats, dinghies, dories and double-enders. He developed a unique style that included grace, beauty, utility, and proportions that seemed more refined and homogenous than their antecedents. Murray did not make changes for sake of it as he preferred to honor what had been proven and stood the test of time and sea.
The details of pinkies (often referred to as pinkeys, pinkys or pinks) have been drafted by several researchers including C.B. Douglas in 1922, (“Maine Pinky of about 1825”) and Martin C. Erismann in 1907 (“Pinky EAGLE of 1820”) that was later traced by C.G. Davis. Murray’s friend Howard I. Chapelle documented the pinky in his 1951 book, “American Small Sailing Craft” and actually had the modified pinky GLAD TIDINGS built in Milbridge, Maine, in 1937—the first new construction in over 50 years.
Murray’s final pinky design shadowed the look and character of ancestors like EAGLE, but he gave the rig a higher aspect ratio and the hull was more balanced and refined. He also substituted an outside iron or lead keel for the previous all-inside ballast. The arrangement plan shows a sensible interior—an inviting option from having no fish hold. When John Leavitt saw these plans he was inspired and wrote “Approved by JFL” near the title block.
A PAIR OF PINKY SCHOONER DEVOTEES
Anyone familiar with Marblehead, Massachusetts, knows that this world-famous yachting center has been home to some of the best-known yacht designers of all time.
Names like B.B. Crowninshield, W. Starling Burgess, L. Francis Herreshoff, K. Aage Nielsen, Murray G. Peterson, Fenwick C. Williams, C. Raymond Hunt and Carl Alberg come to mind.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Boston & Maine morning train into Boston was the reliable place to overhear enthusiastic discourses on boats, yachts and yachting between Marblehead commuters Nielsen, Williams, Peterson and their ex-coasterman-turned- yacht-broker friend, John F. Leavitt. After arriving at North Station, this group of young men would walk together through Boston’s still lively, and as-yet-ungentrified, Hay and Quincy Markets, past the Old State House, and finally, to the 148 State Street offices of John G. Alden and Eldridge- McInnis, where they were all employed as designer-draftsmen and/or yacht brokers.
Over the years and even during the Great Depression, these men worked together and independently to turn out some of the most beautiful, seakindly and spiritually inspiring yachts and workboats of their era, many of which are lovingly maintained and sailed to this day.
Back home in Marblehead, Murray, Aage, Fenwick, and John, along with their wives and families were often found sailing together aboard one of Murray’s now legendary schooner-yachts named COASTER or aboard Pete and Kay Vosburgh's 42' ketch ALBACORE that L. Francis Herreshoff had designed—the Vosburghs rounding out this group of close lifelong friends.
Later, after WWII, Murray, his wife Sue, and their children moved back to Murray’s native Maine, this time on an idyllic, salt-water farm, complete with wharf and classic, shingled fishhouse. It was here, in the fishhouse, with its sweeping views of picturesque Jones Cove near the mouth of the Damariscotta River that John and his wife Gin would come to spend summers. A variety of old friends would gather here to be regaled by Leavitt’s story-telling. He returned often to his first-hand experiences in crewing aboard New England’s working watercraft. And he knew them well.
John’s consistently colorful and often bawdy stories were told with gusto and were always a pleasure to listen to. Likewise, his paintings were always lively and captivating, especially if one were familiar with New England’s rich maritime history. John, unlike many marine artists, knew countless vessels he painted first-hand, having among others shipped out as a boy aboard the now legendary coasting schooner, ALICE S. WENTWORTH, with owner/skipper Arthur Stevens and mate Sant Lloyd.
The boy kept his eyes and ears wide-open. Today, those in the know appreciate John’s works for their meticulously correct details, not just for their pleasing esthetics. In later years, John wrote about his coasting schooner days in the book "Wake of the Coasters."
A favorite and recurring theme of John’s was the downeast pinky schooner. His love of that type, both in story and painting, was alluring and infectious. I was smitten. My chronic symptoms are recurring wintertime armchair cruises. They begin in one of my favorite John Leavitt paintings: aboard a plucky little pinky as she tugs at her mooring fairly shouting, “ Come on! Let’s go! This is my kind of breeze! Adventure and profit await those not faint of heart!"
Murray Peterson had succumbed to the same infectious love and lore of John’s incurable pinky syndrome. But Murray’s symptoms resulted in one of his signature designs that are unfailingly a celebration of classic Yankee form, function and spirit.
Other Pinky devotees also went on to immortalize the once-ubiquitous pinky, either depicted in two dimensions or constructed for real in three. Howard Chapelle, Bob Baker, L. Francis Herreshoff, Sam Manning, Earle Barlow, Fitz Henry Lane, Tom Hoyne, and Bill Garden come to mind as examples of the former, while the latter are represented by Ed Porter's ELLEN, Tom Siskie's PROPHET, Bill Brown's SUMMERTIME, and Lance Lee's PERSEVERENCE. Levi Reed's early 19th-century half model was the basis for the pinky MAINE, built by Will Ansel in 1984 at the Maine Maritime Museum. The Chebacco boat LEWIS H. STORY and the pinky ARDELLE came from Harold Burnham's deep understanding of the type, Harold having grown up in Essex, MA, where pinkies and Chebacco boats originated, and having previously owned the museum-built MAINE. Besides the recent full-sized pinkies, model builders like Erik Ronnberg and John Leavitt's father, Walter, fashioned exquisite pinky models.
Old photos and early half models helped fuel the building of full-sized pinky replicas and variants as well as models. The following photos are from Murray Peterson's collection.
Enhancing a Cape Cod Marlin
The fiberglass-hulled Marlin design came about in the late 1950s when Cape Cod Shipbuilding asked Sidney Herreshoff to modify his father's Fish class design for fiberglass construction and at the same time give her an aluminum-sparred masthead rig and a counter stern with inboard rudder. Rounded trunk cabins were part of the deal and came in two sizes, one for cruising and another, smaller one that allowed a larger cockpit for daysailing.
Entranced by the Marlin's size and shape after considering a number of others, OCH member Jim Sargent found and bought one, and over the course of four years deepened her cockpit for comfort and revised her trunk cabin for appearance. At first glance, you'd be convinced she's all wood—perhaps a genuine Fish Boat or one of the Alerion replicas. But she's one-of-a-kind; a real head turner! Jim shared photos of the project, so here's how things went:
Murray Peterson’s Designs: CURLEW, a Cowhorn
In this episode of The Murray Peterson Story, Bill Peterson tells us how his father designed the attractive little ketch CURLEW. Murray based her on old-time Block Island boats, often called cowhorns, which were two-masted double-enders with strong sheers, unusually flaring topsides, and of legendary seaworthiness.
CURLEW's particulars are: LOA = 25'11", LWL = 22'11", Beam = 8'11", Draft = 4'0", Sail Area = 350 sq ft. Ballast Keel = 1,365 pounds. She was built by Sumner McFarland, Christmas Cove, ME 1956.
HAVING A BOAT AND AN EDUCATION TOO by William M. Peterson
ROARING BESSIE was a 34’ cowhorn-type ketch built by Lawley in 1911 to drawings by Martin Erismann based on one of the original Block Island boats used there for fishing and transportation to the mainland. Cowhorns were well known all along the New England coast, so named for their double-ended hulls and strongly sweeping sheerlines that provided buoyancy and dryness. They are believed to have had a Dutch ancestry.
Charles Lyman, Sr. bought ROARING BESSIE shortly after she was built for $1,800 and this proved a seminal event for his son, Charles Frederick (Fred) Lyman II, who not only loved sailing but also became very interested in naval architecture. He and his wife Elizabeth (Lib) bought a summer home near Murray Peterson and the two families became friends. Over one of several dinners together Fred detailed his dream to Murray of building a smaller and more modern and version of ROARING BESSIE that would celebrate his father's boat. As sailing was more Fred’s passion than Lib's, he wanted a boat that he could single hand easily and one in which he could occasionally cruise. Most of all, he wanted a project now that the renovations of their Bear Cove house were nearing completion. The house's new windows overlooked the protected anchorage and just waited for a new boat to moor there.
The Lyman/Peterson friendship was tested in April 1951 when, at 2:00 am, Murray fired off his signal cannon to commemorate the return of General Douglas MacArthur to US soil. With impish humor, Murray remarked to his son John, “that will drive Fred under his bed." But Fred recovered and went on to commission the design of his sailboat, which he named CURLEW.
Fred Lyman reviewed every detail and calculation with interest often commenting by letter to Murray. He was obsessed with tradeoffs and getting the best quality at an affordable price. He would read boating magazines and Consumer Reports from cover to cover each month and report his findings. His education continued with the construction which took place in 1955 and '56 at the small yard of Sumner McFarland near South Bristol. Sumner was from a boatbuilding family and had built several of Murray's designs over the years from dinghies to lobsterboats and daysailers. Sumner’s son Bill built CURLEW's spars and Murray spent considerable time in the shop helping Sumner with various other aspects.
Fred revelled in everything from the selection of an engine to the choice of hardware, to the naming of his boat. CURLEW was named after the leggy and lively migratory seabirds with long beaks that are curved like miniature cowhorns. They dart in and out of breaking waves catching small creatures left by retreating water. It was a name as equally apt as ROARING BESSIE had been to her larger forbearer since CURLEW proved a lively sailer very much at home around ledges and coves. Murray enjoyed sailing her and also looking after her during Fred's lond absences.
CURLEW captures the essence of a Block Island boat in a smaller and more modern package and her construction plan shows how her structure is proportioned for strength and efficiency while not being massive. The gentle turn of the bilge and hollows forward and aft make for easy bending of her oak frames and easy hanging of her cedar planking. A outside ballast keel provides stability and strength—an improvement from the all-inside ballast of her ancestors. There is good access to the engine from either the cockpit or cabin. A bridge deck provides strength and a partner for the mizzen mast and a base for the main sheet. The side decks are wide enough for passage to the foredeck for anchoring, reefing, and furling sails.
The arrangement below is minimal for cruising. There are two berths with provision aft of them for an ice box and storage. The head is forward where a curtain can be rigged for privacy. An awning over the main boom provides additional bad-weather space. All in all, the sensible boat of which Fred had dreamed.
The Design Process:
Through CURLEW's design process, Murray taught Fred the fundamentals of naval architecture. It also served to inspire me in the early years of my own career. I appreciated how my father’s eye could pick out enduring elements of a traditional design and incorporate them while still being mindful of his own standards for performance and aesthetics.
After sketching out his thoughts on paper and getting the owner's comments, Murray drew preliminary lines and arrangement plans in a small scale where 3/8” equals 1’ 0”. The final sail plan, drawn to the same scale, allowed the rigging to be finalized while the final lines plan was being doubled in size for more accuracy. Working alone, Murray would have several drawings going at the same time. He drew the final lines on a thick, cream colored, paper that had the right texture and surface to take a sharp pencil and be erased without damage. This heavier stock also had an excellent surface for accurate planimeter readings and ultimately served as foundation over which transparent linen drafting cloth would lay for the final ink tracing of the boat's lines. Very seldom were changes made on the linen since the paper was used for that purpose and would be covered with notes and erasures while the lines were being faired and finalized. The final lines tracing then became the underlayment for the arrangement and construction drawings—all of them to 3/4" equals one foot scale, or double that of the preliminary drawings and the sail plan.
Murray also devoted considerable time to drawing custom hardware which help define the shape of the surfaces around them, infusing traditional hardware with a sense of strength and proportion.
There have been a number of CURLEW sisterships and two that stand out for me are WILD DUCK built professionally by Camden Shipbuilding in 1959 for the well-known folk singer Gordon Bok, and KERMIT constructed by the amateur builder Paul Farrell of Bronx, NY, and launched in 1989. Both boats were beautifully built and serve their owners well. With Gordon Bok, sailing would become a recurring theme for many of his songs, and in Farrell’s case, his construction of every piece including the hardware and rigging blocks proved as rewarding as the sailing that followed. He wrote, “...it took 3 1/2 years. I worked alone on it, took my time, and really enjoyed the work. If I had the money, I'd start another.” He painted his hull green, and instead of naming the boat for a bird, opted for an equally lively and lovable creature made famous in the Muppets.
Most remarkable about this design is that all owners report how well their boat sails. Gordon Bok described WILD DUCK by saying, “I have found so many fine qualities and so much confidence in her that I feel that even if I should want to go around the world (heaven forbid) she is the one to get me home again”. Paul wrote, “she handles very nicely, the helm feels good, and there is not much to do with the sails once they are set.”
After leaving Fred Lyman's care, CURLEW had several owners before being purchased in 1985 by the Boehlings of Coconut Grove, Florida. This young couple researched the design and even met with Fred to hear of his great affection for the boat. The Boehlings went on to refurbish the hull and re-rig her as a sloop with a raked mast and tanbark sails.
Murray Peterson’s Designs: A Lick and A Promise – The Story of EASTWARD
In this fourth installment of the Murray Peterson design series, Bill Peterson recalls the creation of the 32' Friendship Sloop EASTWARD that his father designed for Roger and Mary Duncan. By necessity a low budget project where the owners did much of the building themselves, EASTWARD earned her way after launching by carrying paying passengers around the Boothbay region of Maine. She also took the Duncans farther afield as they cruised, anchored, and described those areas for The Cruising Guide to The New England Coast—the book originally co-authored by his father which Roger kept constantly updating.
Beginning with her 1956 launching and over the next half century, EASTWARD proved herself fast, handy, and in the annual races of the Friendship Sloop Society, the boat to beat.
Murray's drawings resulted in a wonderful boat, for sure, but by themselves are as lovely to look at as is the boat herself. You'll see them here along with Bill Peterson's detailed account of how a dream became a legend.
EASTWARD's particulars are: LOA = 32'2", LWL = 27'0", Beam = 10'6", Draft = 5'4", Sail Area = 666 sq. ft., Ballast keel = 2,500 pounds.
A LICK AND A PROMISE by William M. Peterson
People often get so busy it becomes difficult to complete each task at hand to their own satisfaction. Murray Peterson was no different, and his life was full of “temporary” fixes and projects waiting for the final touches. Whether it was the backstairs to his office or the haircuts for his three boys, he would frequently say that “we'll give it a lick and a promise” which meant, in his case, that he'd fully complete the work at a later date. With the haircuts there were plenty of opportunities for this approach since none of his sons got professional ones until college. And he finished the back stairs just before he passed away. Of all his wonderful clients, friends, and associates, none fit this aphorism better than Roger and Mary Duncan who wintered in West Concord, Massachusetts, and summered in East Boothbay on Linekin Bay in Maine. The Duncans did not believe the adage about sailboats being only for the rich nor that you tie them to a mooring and throw in money. What they did believe was that a good sailboat could take your mind and body on a lifetime of wonderful journeys, and do so affordably, if you were creative and willing to work hard. It was a mountain of work they wanted to climb.
When Roger arrived at Murray's door on Columbus Day 1954, he had been directed there by boatbuilder Winthrop McFarland of Christmas Cove after Roger had asked him if he knew where a set of lines for a Friendship Sloop might be acquired. Winthrop responded, “Fella named Peterson up on the South Road does that kind of work.” Roger had no idea who this Peterson was until he ascended the stairs and entered a pine paneled office overlooking a large cove that was overflowing with half models and photographs of Murray's designs. Roger was intimidated and worried that he was taking the time of a professional whose services he could never afford. He was operating then on the budget of a schoolteacher with twin boys, age 12, and a third son, age 9, to raise.
Duncan learned to love sailing from his father, Robert, who had a round-bowed sloop named DOROTHY that had been built for him by Goudy & Stevens in 1928. In her, between 1938 and 1953 when his dad sold the boat, Roger had taken groups of youngsters each summer for two-week cruises along the Maine coast. These cruises convinced him that sailing would also be beneficial for his sons. Roger and his wife, Mary, were teachers at heart, formally educated, and were considered pillars of the independent Belmont High School where both had taught for decades. Roger also concluded that he could carry up to ten passengers on day trips out of Boothbay Harbor, because at the time no other “dayboats” were running. He had acquired a worn-out Morse-built sloop named ISLANDA to cannibalize for spars, sails and rigging as well as hardware. The equipment included an engine, head, steering gear and removable ballast. But she leaked so copiously and incurably that the minister he bought her from made him promise never to put her in the water, fearing that the Duncans would drown.
Besides the pieces salvaged from ISLANDA, Roger intended to complete some of the accommodations himself after the new boat was sailing. On a teacher's salary, with their summers free, and with a growing family, Roger and Mary were committed to funding at least some of their dream with paying passengers who would share their love of sailing around the beautiful islands and coastline of mid-coast Maine. A topmast might be added later, but for now there'd be just the basics with no fancy brightwork, although the boat had to be safe, a good sailer, and beautiful to the eye. Like Murray, Roger wanted a boat that he could not resist looking back at as he rowed away from her.
The closest he could come to expressing his preference was the traditional Friendship Sloop, many of which originated from nearby Muscongus Bay to the east, and were noted for maneuvering around the ledges while catching fish and lobsters during the second half of the 19th century. Because the Duncan family dream was to cruise “DownEast” as much as possible, the boat would be named EASTWARD.
Roger and Murray concluded that a boat about 32 feet in length would do, with the cockpit large enough for ten people, and a small cabin, or cuddy, for a toilet, galley and accommodations for two. She had to be stiff enough to sail on her bottom and not scare inexperienced passengers. The cockpit would have to be deep enough to feel secure when the boat heeled, and there must be a coaming surrounding it for comfort and to grab ahold of when necessary. She must be dry and not soak the guests with spray, and be “handy” around the docks and narrow passages. She was to be sailed by a skipper with a boy as mate so the gear could not be excessively heavy nor the sails too large. But her rig must be large enough to move the boat in light air. Roger demanded she be good looking and especially attractive to potential passengers while being lured aboard for their first sail on the ocean.
After Roger detailed his vision, Murray began developing sketches that Roger and Mary loved at first sight. Murray had been enamored of Friendship Sloops since his early days with John Alden and had later, on his own, designed a shallow draft version that was built in the Caribbean in 1934. Now, twenty years later, he had a second opportunity—one that would help popularize these sloops as family cruisers, most of them registered with the soon-to-be-established Friendship Sloop Society. Murray was well prepared, having long studied old Friendship Sloops and taken the lines from an old builder's half model.
The hull that Murray designed for EASTWARD, however, had evolved since the 1930s. The transom was reminiscent of Gloucester fishing schooners and the rig was larger and compensated for by a cast iron ballast keel. Murray filled out the bow advising Roger that when the traditional hollow bow met the beamier aft sections an undesirable "shoulder" was formed. He created a hull that not only sailed well upright but, when healed over in heavier winds, remained sufficiently balanced to have less weather helm. Murray stressed the need for significant beam, a self-bailing cockpit, proper leads for a variety of sail combinations and a hull form that was agile yet virtually self-steering. After the initial discussions, Roger later wrote, “Some weeks later, I received in the mail a breathtaking blueprint of the vessel that was to become EASTWARD. We agreed in short order to build her. Then Murray began quietly to make changes in my original concept, every one of which turned out to be wise, if adding somewhat to the cost."
As Winthrop McFarland was by then working for the Harvey Gamage shipyard, EASTWARD would be constructed elsewhere—in the yard of James Chadwick at Pemaquid Beach near where the early Europeans established a settlement in the 1600s and built a fort for protection. Like many of Maine’s boatbuilders, Chadwick had also been a fisherman so he knew the toll the ocean can take on a boat and her crew.
But Jimmy Chadwick had bid low to win the job and when cash became tight, he felt forced to work with a housebuilder during the winter because the agreed upon payment schedule was not feeding his family. When Murray discovered this during a routine visit, he got Roger to agree on accelerated payments while he himself gave up half his design commission. In essence, he was providing a full set of plans for half price and providing supervision for free. Both Jimmy and Roger benefited from this arrangement, but Chadwick’s financial challenges continued to haunt him. In the spring of 1956, he called Murray and Roger to say that the bank was about to repossess his property and that the boat needed to be taken away before that happened. In haste, the unfinished boat was launched in May and towed across the harbor to be rigged and outfitted while safely in Roger's hands.
By June, the masts were stepped at a pier below the fort; sails were bent on and rigging tuned to the point where the Duncan’s could cast off for Linekin Bay. Roger later wrote, “I knew at once by the feel of her that the new boat was a real vessel. She moved in a businesslike way, not heavy, but with decision. She shouldered small stuff aside and lifted buoyantly to big seas... she is faster than many modern boats and most Friendships Sloops, although of course, she will not go to windward with the fastest of modern yachts. She is so handy that as long as you keep a breath of air in the sails, you can thread a needle with her. She moves like a ghost in light air and stands up nobly to her work in a breeze. And she is delightfully handsome. Murray proved himself both the skillful engineer and a talented artist, qualities but seldom found in the same man, and with that, he was a good friend and a delightful companion.”
EASTWARD's sailing agility with Roger at the helm and Mary tending sheets became legendary. Winning the Friendship Sloop Society's race after race, she became so heavily handicapped that admirers would remark that Roger was required to pull up to the shore and dig a hod of clams before resuming the race. The Duncans devoted their summers to taking parties out of Boothbay Harbor as well as, each year, taking a cruise “Downeast” to update The Cruising Guide to the New England Coast, the "cruiser's bible" initially co-authored by his father. They used EASTWARD in 1975 as the bicentennial flagship for reenacting Benedict Arnold's expedition to Quebec—this role being among the many adventures the Duncans shared as a family.
The three young Duncan boys who learned to sail as “hands” on the boat went on to sail as adults. After Robert got his U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license, he became the second owner of EASTWARD, with his own son, Alec, as his deckhand. Alec then went on to get his own license, continuing to run parties out of Boothbay, sometimes as captain with Bob as mate and sometimes switching roles with his dad. In 2012 EASTWARD finally left the Duncan hands—but only after three generations of Duncans learned sailing and explored the coast of Maine and had shown that part of the world countless numbers of passengers, many of whom came back year after year.
Murray went on to design other Friendship-type sloops including the Maine-built ELICIA, ETTA MAY, and HERITAGE. Roger and Mary got their “licks” in on EASTWARD for the 50 years of their ownership asserting that they had the finest design Murray ever created. The years of completing projects and adventures on the sloop are recorded in Roger’s book Eastward, A Maine Cruise in a Friendship Sloop (International Marine, 1976). In later years after Murray's passing, Roger had Ralph Stanley build him a 28' schooner reminiscent of EASTWARD and the Peterson schooner SUSAN. Roger wrote about his favorite sailboat type in his book Friendship Sloops (International Marine, 1985) and then told the story of his final boat in his book Dorothy Elizabeth (W.W Norton, 2000). His first book, Cruising Guide to the New England Coast, was a family affair and remains a sailor's bible, updated by son Robert in 2000. Roger passed away in May of 2010 and Mary in July of 2012 on the very day that EASTWARD sailed for the last time from Boothbay Harbor, in the hands of her new owner.
It is difficult to envision a couple more dedicated or successful in getting others to understand and enjoy the essence of sailing on the Maine coast. It was the mission Roger outlined to Murray back in 1954, hoping that Murray would agree to develop the drawings for EASTWARD.
EASTWARD departed Maine in 2013 for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum where she is being restored for a new local owner named Doug Riley.
To purchase larger or full-scale versions of any of the above plans or photos, to order a full set of plans, or to discuss building a replica, contact Murray G. Peterson Associates, 48 Jones Point Road, South Bristol, Maine, 04568. Website is <www.PetersonAssocLLC.com> and email is <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Murray Peterson’s Designs: The JOSEPH H. STUART Story
This is the third episode of the Murray Peterson series and it's about a lovely tug-inspired power cruiser originally named JOSEPH H. STUART that was built in 1952 Her particulars are LOA = 40', LWL = 36'8", Beam = 12', and draft = 4'9"
Whatever You Do, Do It With Enthusiasm
by William M. Peterson
This story is more about the "ideal client" who comes to a Naval Architect and commissions a design than it is about the "ideal boat." My father enjoyed many great clients throughout his career and never gave any indication that he preferred one over another. But from my perspective, William and Barbara Brown, from Camden, Maine, would have been near or at the top.
Murray was greatly influenced by enthusiasm. He drew in friends and customers partly because he was an optimistic person and very much a product of his own father's positive personality. Murray would declare emphatically, "whatever you do, do it with enthusiasm." Bill and Barb Brown certainly fit this mantra. From the time they met Murray in Marblehead and commissioned him to design the unique and beautiful gaff ketch LILLE DANSKER, until they moved to Maine and had him design houses, barns and more boats, Bill and Barb felt they were working with a kindred spirit. Murray and his wife Susan came to form a wonderful friendship with these two since they also believed in doing things the right way and working as a team. The Browns were also frugal and would provide "hand me down" clothing to the Peterson children with the name Brown stenciled in. My brother John groused to our mother that if ever he had an emergency, it would be Mrs. Brown who would be contacted instead of her. The families sailed, dined and laughed together often.
Both Barb and Bill had infection laughs and were great fun to be with. Bill chuckled with an ever-present pipe clenched his mouth while Barb gave a deep-throated laugh and talked with a husky, Lauren Bacall-like voice. Both dressed impeccably, and it was not surprising that Barb later owned and operated a woman's clothing store. Bill and Barb both loved projects and would undertake them with great energy and organization. Bill, in particular, was detail-oriented and this had stood him well as president of L.E. Zurbach Steel of Swampscott, MA. It also helped him appreciate all the work that Murray put into his designing and the supervising of skilled craftsmen that he would assemble for whatever project Bill proposed.
Bill invested much more into these creations than money. He made his own sketches, ordered materials, communicated directly with the workers and suppliers, and inspected progress regularly. Often, he seemed more like a member of Murray's office staff than the owner who was making it all possible. His involvement was appreciated by the craftsmen who, together with him and Murray, produced products of exceptional quality and interest.
After leaving South Bristol in 1951 and moving to the Camden area to run his Knox Lumber Company, Bill asked Murray to design a working tugboat that he and Barb could also cruise in with their four children: Beth, Kathy, Susan and Peter. Bill wanted to honor his grandfather, Joseph H. Stuart, by naming the boat after him. Mr. Stuart had surveyed much of the Penobscot River region in the 1880s and his maps were still in use by Bill's logging operations. The STUART would be based on the 19th century logging tugs that towed log booms down Maine rivers to the mills where they'd be processed for lumber or as pulp for paper.
The Builder and Boat
Despite being flooded with other work, Murray produced sketches that captured Bill and Barb's dream perfectly and they all agreed that Camden Shipbuilding should be the yard to build this boat.
Camden Shipbuilding and Marine Railway Co. was a natural fit since some of its crew had worked on U.S. Navy's APCs and ATRs during World War II. The STUART would be Murray's first association with the post-war operation and its primary figures: yard manager Pete Peterson, and master builder Malcolm Brewer. Pete never forgot how exacting and careful Murray was and remembered that the first set of drawings arrived with a legend "MLTDP". When Pete asked what that abbreviation meant, Murray responded "Make like the damn plan!" This is exactly what Camden Shipbuilding accomplished.
The STUART and other yachts were constructed inside a large Quonset Hut that had been built during the war. With its high overhead it was ideal for assembling a vessel from its cradle to its superstructure, and was less prone to fire than most of Maine's wood-framed boat shops that were full of stored lumber and debris. Quonset Huts were, however, very cold in the winter!
The STUART proved unique in her blend of old and new, commercial and pleasure. Like working tugs, her pilot house was about a third of the way aft from the bow with the engine below it, followed by an interior gathering area aft. There was space for line handling on the fore and after decks and a large stack amidships for the engine exhaust. The scantlings for backbone, framing and planking were heavy and there was an additional oak plank, or guard, that ran the length of waterline to protect the hull from logs or ice. Like her predecessors, the STUART was slender, with a hull shaped more like a double-ended sailboat than a full-transom workboat. These proportions permitted her to maneuver easily and run economically.
But the STUART is much more than a workboat. She was a great enclosure for children with a spacious dining and sleeping area that opened to the cockpit which was also covered. She had a large head (or toilet room) and a galley with good light and access. The engine was a 1916 three-cylinder, 27 horsepower Standard salvaged by Murray's brother Roland from a Kennebec River freight carrier and restored by the Camden mechanics. All its brass fittings were polished, and quite often its tabletop cover was removed and set aside so the 400rpm beauty could be viewed. This engine proved reliable for Bill's dual uses and would drive the boat at 7 knots for cruising with top speed of 9 1/2. With her 30 x 32 three-blade propeller she could tow as well.
The stack doubled as a stovepipe for the woodburning Franklin fireplace in the main living area as well as the engine exhaust. The pilothouse had both space and visibility for maneuvering around log jams or docks. With her easy motion, ample space, bulwarks and rails, and open galley, the STUART was justifiably loved by all members of the Brown family. Peterson details abounded, including the square skylight that could be rotated to let in light and air, but not smoke from the stove or exhaust.
As is often the case with good projects built from enthusiastic teamwork, the appreciation did not stop when the boat changed hands. A subsequent owner, architect Ambrose Cramer, wrote to Murray, "My wife and I never cease to enjoy “him,” and I am sure that it would delight you personally to know what universal praise the design is given, whenever we go cruising into other waters... and remains the 'cynosure of neighboring eyes' wherever we go."
Over the years, new owners haven given the boat new names. At first, all men's, from CAPTAIN BLAKELY to CAPTAIN WOODBURY to PAUL D. CRAVATH. Her latest and present name is ELSIE.
Peter Brown may remember the boat best, however, as the STUART. She was his perfect Penobscot Bay playground where he could bring friends and pretend they were everything from explorers to pirates to logging men, all part of that region's rich history. The enthusiasm that Peter expressed to me sixty years after the boat was launched would have been greatly appreciated by my father, Murray Peterson.
To purchase larger or full-scale versions of any of the above plans or photos, to order a full set of plans, or to discuss building a replica, contact Murray G. Peterson Associates, 48 Jones Point Road, South Bristol, Maine, 04568. Website is <www.PetersonAssocLLC.com> and email is <email@example.com>.
Murray Peterson’s Designs: The STORMY Story
In this, the second of the Murray Peterson series, we feature a lovely little schooner named STORMY, who throughout her 56 years has also carried the names RAVEN, MAGIC and CONCERTINA. When I asked some of her former owners to share with us what it was like being her custodian, some heartfelt words came in that I've added to Bill Peterson's essay which follows.
It's obvious that not only were his boats, including STORMY, much loved, but so was the man himself, as evidenced by what former owner and friend Art Brendze had to say.
From Art Brendze: "I was in my Marblehead shop in 1974 when my friend Kay Vosburgh came through the door. She beckoned me over and quietly said, 'I have bad news. Murray’s gone. I know how much he meant to you, so I thought I’d better come down and let you hear it from me.'
"Kay was part a group of older friends who I had been close to for many years. They were my parents’ age and I adored them. I listened carefully to every word they said. I learned a lot: about their boats, their designs and their lives. They’re gone now, but what I learned from them has always been an anchor-to-weather through life’s inevitable blows.
"Murray had been one of the youngest of this group, and since Murray had been about my father’s age, I had simply assumed that he would be around at least for some years yet. Yet, here was Kay telling me otherwise. We sat for a while, remembering this much-valued friend, this good-hearted, gifted, creative, responsible man who was a classic example of American genius and integrity. At some point we smiled at each other, hugged, and Kay left. I went back to fastening the Swampscott dory’s prodigiously wide and cantankerous garboard strake, recalling that there’s “… nothing half so worth doing as messing about in boats.”
"As a boy, Murray had been intoxicated by traditional, New England working watercraft and he excelled at, “…messing about in boats.” As a grownup, he became a first-class designer of yachts that utilized what he’d learned, creating designs that were culturally based American time-capsules. They remind to us of the transcendent standards once nurtured in the pursuit of excellence, as opposed to today’s degrading standards of mediocre convenience."
THE STORMY STORY
By William M. Peterson
Owning a boat can provide some of life's more rewarding experiences which is why so many people search for that special vessel to fit their individual or family desires. Large portions of their time is planned around launching and outfitting as well as choosing a name for their craft, if newly acquired, to summarize this unique and personal relationship.
Some owners actually get to experience the design and construction of a new custom boat that then becomes an integral accomplishment alongside their home and work. Being part of a successful "dream come true" can create an enduring bond between the owner, designer and builder, especially when complications are kept to a minimum. That was my father’s stated goal in 1961 during the design and construction of what he considered his smallest and most basic, clipper-bowed schooner. Despite its small size and his noble aim it turned out to be one of his more complicated projects; thus she was to be christened STORMY.
As a teenager in the 1960s, I remember that our family dinner conversations seemed more about people and world events than music or boats. The loud invasion of British rock bands was contained in our basement of concrete floors, cisterns and brick walls while my father created precise drawings in his quiet, second floor, pine-paneled office. During the day, we were often as far apart as the house would allow, him drafting precisely with ink pens on linen and me randomly riffling on my alto saxophone without sheet music. But after leaving home, I discovered that we had much in common, his math being in my music.
Perhaps this is why I remember the dinner discussions where Murray expressed deep frustration about a boat he designed that was currently under construction. It was a rare occurrence, as he usually spoke with enthusiasm about his many projects and customers. He was clearly discouraged by a builder with whom he had had considerable success and owners who had seemed so conscientious. I could sense this being a teaching moment since the conversation was directed more towards me than my mother. My father had a saying, learned from his father, that set the precedence for what followed: "Listen (or watch) and you might learn something."
Ironically, this is how I often heard the saxophone in my rock music. It would introduce the song in the beginning like my favorite 70s classic, "Baker Street," or solo partway through to amplify the tune like in the '60s, Classics IV standard "Stormy". They, like my father's admonition, set the songs apart for me to this day. Also standing the test of sixty years is the lovely little schooner STORMY, although she was to have several name changes.
STORMY’s owners, Russ and Betty Williamson, were both established doctors determined to take their growing family to sea. They felt that a schooner would allow them to cruise the coast of Maine as well as undertake longer voyages where they could home school their children at sea. As doctors, they were detail oriented and devoted considerable time during construction to making adjustments to what showed on the drawings. Murray had created a design to their written requirements, but those needs and wishes evolved as the hull took shape. This resulted in changes and onsite directions that were not in the design package, and some of them went beyond what Murray believed to be prudent or which he felt would adversely affect performance.
The builder, Elmer Collemore, had already built several of Murray's designs and knew that he expected attention to detail as well as quality craftsmanship. Elmer’s father and uncle had been shipbuilders and his grandfather a ship captain. He had had considerable experience building traditional wooden vessels before setting up his own shop at the base of Mt. Battie. The size of his boats was not limited by his skills, but rather by what would fit in his shop and be trucked through Camden to the harbor. He had signed a contract to build Murray’s design for $12,000.00 in 1961 (about $104,000.00 in 2020 with an average inflation rate of 3.66%). It would be very difficult to build a wooden sailboat of this type in 2020 for twice that price, so clearly Elmer’s skill and efficiency were key. When the Williamsons decided on changes during the construction, Elmer could get some cost adjustments, but the additional labor made it difficult to keep up with his other boatbuilding commitments.
One change that was egregious to Murray was the lengthening of the cast iron ballast keel from the middle of the hull all the way aft to help support the rudder. The Williamsons thought this would be practical and provide additional grounding protection. For this, Murray had specified a dense, hardwood shoe that could be removed or repaired if needed. Most significantly, however, the change moved the center of gravity aft enough to upset the boat’s trim. On top of this, because the Williamsons wanted more headroom, they instructed Elmer to lower the cabin sole by several inches.
These two seemingly separate decisions were linked because with the bilges reduced by the lower cabin sole, there was less room for inside ballast with which to correct the trim—also less space for air circulation.
As the number of changes increased, so did Murray’s frustration. He had signed the Design Contract on May 26, 1961, but on April 24, 1963, he had concluded in a letter of concern that he was offering his resignation as architect and that he could not just serve as a “draftsman attending a builder and owner,” depicting ideas that he thought were not well founded. He described it “like having a patient tell you just exactly how to perform an operation.” A few days later, Russ Williamson responded, accepting his decision and noting his great pleasure with the design and her beauty.
A lesson for me was the gentlemanly way that all parties behaved towards each other and towards the boat that they had created together. Murray continued to visit Elmer’s shop and answer his questions, unpaid, and when STORMY was down on her lines aft, he recalculated all weights and moments at Russ’s request, detailing how to offset differences from the original design. At no time was there an “I told you so” or any indication of actions other than doing what was right for the boat. During construction, Elmer asked Murray to design similar boats for two more customers, but Murray was too busy to accept, having had Russ’s brother-in-law commission a larger schooner.
The Williamsons enjoyed and cared for STORMY for a number of years before selling her to the Frank and Jinx Roosevelt who is also came to love the boat. They, in turn, sold her to our friend Art Brendze who maintained her at his yard, Brendze and Wester, in Kennebunkport. Art was an ardent sailor as well as builder who had owned one of L. Francis Herreshoff ‘s Rozinantes. After Art sold STORMY to Peter Camplin, a cabinet maker in York Village, Peter commissioned me to design a topmast which Brendze built while his yard continued to maintain the boat. Peter renamed her RAVEN and added additional sails. He loved his boat, but his career changed, having been in the forefront of bringing craft beer brewing to Maine.
The boat was then purchased by Matthew Perry Cooper, an American teacher in Japan, who dreamed of sailing her along the Japanese coast just as his namesake Commodore Matthew Perry had done in 1853 while opening a previously-isolated Japan to the world. Farrin’s Boatshop of Walpole did an extensive restoration of the boat, now named MAGIC, in preparation for shipping her to Japan. But sadly for Matthew, the costs and shipping complications grew far beyond his original estimates and he was forced to sell her. His loss became a wonderful gain for another teacher named Ed Porter and his wife Lainie of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
From former owner Frank Roosevelt: "On a visit to Maine in August 1969, I was talking one day with Joel White in Center Harbor when Joel gestured toward STORMY and told me that she was for sale. I fell immediately in love with the boat, bought her -- and with my wife Jinx and our four-year-old daughter Phoebe were soon off on a week-long cruise. A fifth bunk was installed back by the engine for son Nick, and for the next decade, we and our three children and their golden retriever took many happy summer cruises on the boat up and down mid-coast Maine. By 1978 when Nick got too big for his bunk, it was time to get a bigger boat, so we passed on STORMY to Art Brendze through broker, Bill Page."
From former owner Art Brendze: "It was all Bill Page’s fault, of course, that STORMY came to me when she did. Bill had just sold my Rozinante for me, and I was not looking for another boat at the time. I was busy at my boatyard in Kennebunkport. But Bill clearly knew what he was doing when he sent along STORMY’s new listing. There it was, a chance to become a steward of one of Murray’s designs and just the right size, too. I missed Murray, and here was a chance to have a piece of him back in my life. It felt good. It felt right …I was hooked.
"It was fall, a beautifully colorful, crisp October day. I found myself at Joel White’s yard in Brooklin, where Joel, my friend Art Wester and I were busy finishing up some last-minute details on STORMY before taking off for a sail up to the Westward and, eventually, to STORMY’s new mooring on the Kennebunk River. We were to have fine, clear, cool weather, and I was about to learn just how much STORMY loved the stronger breezes of fall along the coast of Maine.
"Returning from a cruise up to the Westward, it came off nasty from the east. But STORMY took it in stride as we ran for cover into Boston’s inner harbor. We moored securely under the guns of “Old Ironsides”. A day or so later, it came off clear from the Nor’west and blew hard. At first light, we set off down harbor and headed east for home. STORMY came alive in this breeze with a sense of competence that belied her size. Old familiar places reeled by with astonishing speed …Point Shirley, Nahant, Halfway Rock …Cape Ann, abeam before the breakfast dishes were washed and stowed …the Isles of Shoals off to port, Boon Island soon astern …and STORMY all-the-while delivering an exhilarating sensation of sailing …and that accompanied by a kind of relaxed comfort usually only to be had on a much larger vessel.
"At the helm that day, I became lost in a reverie. I was standing now in the past, at the wheel of a much larger vessel, the ALICE S. WENTWORTH, one of the handsomest of the 19th Century coasting-schooner fleet that had so intoxicated Murray and my gang of older friends when they were young. They were there with me that day aboard the WENTWORTH, and they were young and full of it! …Murray (Peterson), Kay and Pete (Vosburgh), Fenwick (Williams), John (Leavitt), and Aage (Nielsen). We had had a spanking, fair-chance-along from Boston, and we were about to run the breakwater through the beach into the Webhannet River at Wells. John had gotten us all fired up about going ashore that night to some shindig he knew about at the old Nason farm …
"And then, suddenly, I was wrenched back into reality by my rudely luffing jib.
"But there was no disappointment. No, I was not at the helm of the WENTWORTH, but I was at the helm of one of Murray’s time machines named STORMY.
"One winter I lived aboard STORMY at the boatyard. She was small but oh-so-big in spirit. Her cozy main cabin was a perfect place for dreams, contemplations and companionship; and that in any weather. She simply warmed the body and spirit, both by her wood stove, as well as by the ever-present thrill to be had whenever proportions and excellence combine to meet the eye. I can still feel the pleasure of being below, snug in my berth, good book in hand, secure from the blasts of winter above while STORMY hunkered down like a gull in a blow, waiting for Spring."
From former owner Ed Porter: "For seventeen years between 2000 and 2017 I was fortunate enough to take over the stewardship of the Murray Peterson-designed schooner that we renamed CONCERTINA. Based where we live, near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, she proved to be a great pleasure for us to sail in and to cruise the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia. We were able to haul and store her for the winters in a plastic covered arch framework shelter at the head of our beach.
"On three separate summer cruises she brought us to the South Coast of Newfoundland which proved to be the highlight of our times aboard this able sailing craft as we explored the many nooks and coves of the shore between Isle au Mort and Fortune. She kept us warm and relatively dry in fair wind or foul along that coast of bold headlands and small communities, many now abandoned. It was a coast of dreams and memories that this schooner allowed us to experience firsthand."
Ed not only sailed CONCERTINA extensively, cruising and winning races, but he also hauled her out on his property himself and did all her maintenance. It was with a heavy heart when he called me and asked me to find a new owner.
When I placed an ad with the Porter's photograph of her sailing, inquiries came in from many parts of the world, but Steve Fox, from California, really captured my attention. Over the phone, his passion for a proven, wooden schooner was ardent. He had owned several sailboats in which he had cruised the West Coast and he now wanted to come east. He had retired from a successful career and was winding down his business. This would be a dramatic change for both Steve and his wife Carol.
Steve purchased CONCERTINA and the Porters delivered her to South Bristol where they gave Steve an indoctrination sail. They, like I, had come to realize that Steve was dealing with a debilitating disease known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), a genetic polyneuropathy, that limited his movements, and had gone through multiple operations over the years to maintain his mobility. One of the kindest and most sincere people we have ever met, my family and I are blessed to have become part of Steve’s and Carol’s seasons in Maine where they rent a secluded cottage and devote their days to outfitting and sailing the boat that they returned to her original name, STORMY.
Gamage Shipyard upgraded, maintained and stored STORMY while Steve added hardware and rigging to help him get around the boat safely. He added ladders, a bowsprit pulpit and handholds. STORMY already had a number of features like wide decks, boom gallows, dual lifelines, well positioned shrouds and cabintops which were the right height for sitting or bracing against. Steve’s upper body strength helped him especially in a seaway, climbing the boarding ladder, or rolling on and off the dinghy alongside a float. Where others might be unnecessarily self-conscious, Steve would call this maneuver his “Fox Flop” like the “Fosbury Flop" that revolutionized high jumping in the 1968 Olympics. He did not wait for perfect weather to sail his dream; he made whatever was in the forecast work for him—and did it with grace and dignity. It was as if STORMY had been designed and built for him, and his time had come to own her.
Approaching her seventh decade, STORMY has sailed seven families through more “fair weather and following seas” than her name implies. She has proven the merits of the Williamsons’ original dream and Murray Peterson’s determination to not give up on her even though she would not be perfect when launched. She has brought friends and experiences to me that could not be imagined in 1963 when I stepped from one foot to the other in Elmer’s freezing cold shop listening and learning as my father and Elmer talked for seemingly hours about the way things should be done.
To purchase larger or full-scale versions of any of the above plans or photos, to order a full set of plans, or to discuss building a replica, contact Murray G. Peterson Associates, 48 Jones Point Road, South Bristol, Maine, 04568. Website is <www.PetersonAssocLLC.com> and email is <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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