April 23, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: April 23

Spring commissioning brings much activity to the Bristol waterfront, a torpedo boat is overhauled, and a lady shows her heels

April 23, 1895

This time of year is the height of spring commissioning - getting boats ready for re-launch after being out of the water all winter - which means that the April 23, 1895 edition of The Phoenix is buzzing with the name "Herreshoff." The Phoenix also reports the “PAPPOOSE” a “practice torpedo boat for the Massachusetts Naval Reserve,” has arrived at Herreshoff pier for overhaul and installation of torpedo tubes. Massachusetts established the first naval militia after several attempts to establish a federal naval militia failed.[1] States received federal funding and obsolete naval vessels to be used for training. By 1895 HMCo. had built several torpedo boats in addition to retrofitting a torpedo tube on the steam yacht STILETTO (HMCo. #118). Torpedo testing was conducted nearby in Newport, RI.

We also hear about Captain Nat's involvement with a boating accident and subsequent rescue, the arrival of a specialist from Bath, Maine to begin the work of making the latest Cup Defender (DEFENDER, HMCo. #452) watertight, an order for a new 2 1/2-rater, and much general activity as boatyards around Bristol ready vessels for spring commissioning. There is also mention of a storm last winter that caused ice to come into one of the shops on the waterfront, causing some damage to boats in storage.

April 23, 1902

ELECTRA (HMCo. #582), photographed off the HMCo. waterfront likely during her trials in the spring of 1902; image from the HMM historic photo collection
Plan courtesy the MIT Museum Haffenreffer-Herreshoff collection - click here to see the plan at high resolution

The sloop ELECTRA [II] (HMCo. #582) was launched on this day 118 years ago. The October 1902 issue of Forest and Stream reported that during ELECTRA's trials she memorably "showed her heels to Quakeress II. [#565s], one of the Buzzard's Bay thirties, in an impromptu scrap..." ELECTRA's construction drawings reveal details like the turned oak stanchions on the unusual open-sided cabin and drop-canvas curtains to be deployed in bad weather on the cabin top sides. It's worth a closer look on the MIT Museum website (The drawing will appear when you press the "full-screen" or "zoom" buttons! Don't be discouraged by the initially dark screen...)

Note sneaky system for hiding the lifting mechanism for the centerboard trunk; plan detail courtesy the MIT Museum Haffenreffer-Herreshoff collection - click here to see the plan at full resolution

[1] Proceedings, US Naval Institute, Vol. 141/3/1345. “A century of service” VADM Robin Braun