March 11, 2021

This Week in Herreshoff History: March 11

Construction begins on a little sailing dinghy, several torpedo boats are on their way to the Navy, and an H23 is launched

March 11, 1889

COQUINA (HMCo. #404) being towed behind KILDEE (HMCo. #460), another family boat; Agnes M. Herreshoff photo, HMM archive

On this day 132 years ago, the molds for the original COQUINA (HMCo. #404) were set up at the HMCo. shops in Bristol. COQUINA was a 16'8" LOA catyawl rigged sailing dinghy that N.G.H. had built for his own personal use. It remained with the family until it was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938, just after N.G.H.'s death. 30 small tenders were built in total to that particular half model. Captain Nat described COQUINA in "Recollections" as follows:

"In 1889, I had built COQUINA (to take the place of RIVIERA), a boat to be kept housed over davits and be ready for use at any moment, summer or winter. She is a beautiful little boat built by our very clever workman Charles Davis, who really was an artist in his work. She had two sizes of main and mizzen sail rigs, but I used the larger very little. It had sails of 122 and 61 square feet. The favorite rig had 83 and 48 square feet. In both RIVIERA and COQUINA, I prided myself in having convenient rigs and I could push off from a lee shore with [an] oar, then set sail and be off before drifting in to shore. In about 1902, I was much troubled with rheumatism that interfered with small boat sailing, so I gave COQUINA to Sidney and she is still in good condition, but not used..."

COQUINA (HMCo. #404) pictured with CLARA (HMCo. #402) anchored in the background; HMM archive

March 11, 1898

The Bristol Phoenix reports that "The Navy Department has accepted the torpedo boats Gwyn [sic] and Talbot, built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of this town, and which were given successful official trial trips here last week..." they go on to report that "the engines for No. 14 were put on board at the boat works yesterday and the work of finishing the boat is being hurried as fast as possible..." GWIN (HMCo. #192) and TALBOT (HMCo. #191) were built to the same half model carved by N.G.H. in 1898. No. 14 refers to MORRIS (HMCo. #190), a much larger torpedo boat also built by HMCo. that winter. MORRIS measured 139' LOA to GWIN and TALBOT's 100', and displaced 105 tons to GWIN and TALBOT's 46 tons each. During the bidding process, both GWIN and TALBOT were frequently referred to as "20-knot torpedo boats" but all three vessels made better than their stipulated contract speeds.

MORRIS (HMCo. #190), possibly on trial; N.G.H.'s profile is visible onboard just aft of the pilothouse; HMM archive

March 8, 1939

KATY-DID (HMCo. #1214), PADICK (#1217), NORN (#1219), and MARIETTE (#1216) photographed by Tom Brightman, May 1932, as they were being readied for delivery to their new owners. A fifth unidentified H23 can be seen behind the sheerlegs of the HMCo. yard scow; HMM archive

HMCo. #1505 CONTEST was launched on this day 82 years ago. CONTEST was a Fishers Island 23, a class also known as the H23 class. These 23' waterline, 34' overall racing sloops were first designed in 1931, and gradually replaced the larger Fishers Island 31 racing class on Long Island Sound during the Depression years. The H23s were single planked in mahogany, and the planks were edge-fit with no caulking. As a result, the H23s were more prone to frame breakage than other HMCo. classes constructed with the typical Herreshoff double-planking. But they were elegant and slippery boats, and distinctive in their looks. Yachting historian John Rousmaniere wrote of the H23s, "Sidney Herreshoff borrowed the Scandinavian Square Meter concept of a long, narrow, relatively light-displacement boat with a small sail plan... Besides their sleek beauty, the H-23s were distinguished by their rainbow colors. At a time when most boats were painted white, black, or dark blue, the H-23s were boats of many hues." 17 vessels in total were built to this model, including a shallow-draft centerboard version named CRUSADER (HMCo. #1225). CONTEST, later named HORNET, resides today in HMM's own Hall of Boats as a part of the museum's vessel collection. Though originally designed for racing and daysailing, HORNET was also used for camp cruising for some years. Six of the original 17 H23's still exist today.