Reminiscences

Submitted by David Tew from West Boothbay Harbor

Most of my sailing life has been in New England, first on Cape Cod waters and now in Maine. When I was young my family had a series of cruising sloops that we cruised out of Osterville’s West Bay on Cape Cod. When I was about eight years old, moored next to us was a boat named “Queequeg”. It was a lovely, unusual boat and the old man aboard it was friendly and knowledgeable although he mostly seemed to enjoy just sitting in the cockpit and reading. One day I rowed over to ask him about the name of the boat. He told me about ‘Moby Dick’ and with a chuckle said he picked the name because ‘It’s about as double-ended as my little ketch itself’. I was a comic book fiend during those summers and found a Classic Comics version of ‘Moby Dick’ and became enthralled with the story. Subsequently I named various boats of mine in a similar vein: ‘Pip’ was a pram I built with my dad, ‘Pequod’ a Beetle cat I grew into and ‘Scrimshaw’ a Boston Whaler I ran ragged in my early teens.

The way out of West Bay into Nantucket Sound is through the Wianno Cut, a narrow, jettied breach in a sandy barrier island. The outgoing current runs strong and when the southwest wind builds it can be a rough passage with square waves and turbulent eddies. One day we were setting off on a family cruise powering out through the Cut, hobby-horsing under bare poles when alongside and past us came “Queequeg” close -hauled under sail slicing through the chop as sharp as you please. It was the first time I’d seen the old man take her out . My dad waved to the skipper and called out “L. Francis knew what he was doing with that design!” I asked him what that meant and he told me that the boat was a Rozinante ketch and that he’d show me his book about it.

“The Compleat Cruiser’” by L. Francis Herreshoff was my dad’s bible for teaching us how to master the skills of being on the water, enjoy cruising, appreciate the history and grasp the traditions of New England coastal cruising. It’s chock-a-block full of interesting boats, stories of companionship afloat, useful explanations of gear and how each is best used. I learned how to make half-models from the chapter in it. The first half model I built lead me to meet Mr. Halsey Herreshoff. I’d visited MIT’s Hart Nautical Museum as a teen and admired a model of N. G. Herreshoff’s compromise sloop “Shadow”. I made one by eye and some years later during a college internship program found out that Halsey had an apartment in Boston. Wanting to meet someone knowledgeable about careers in marine fields a call was put in to see if he’d meet with me. He did so and as an ice-breaker I showed him the model (which he graciously approved of). We had a wide-ranging discussion about careers over the next month or so and he even gave me a set of offsets to see if I would enjoy drafting lines. The lines were of a swift sloop Halsey later had built by Eric Goetz. As far as I know he still owns “Streaker” based upon a model carved by his father Sidney, #316 here: https://herreshoff.info/Docs/Model_0316.htm He introduced me to Eric who was just starting out building boats at the time. After college, during my early married life and then much later I’ve worked at an assortment of New England boatyards, building and repairing.

The few times I’ve been lucky to sail aboard Herreshoff designs have been delightful. I first saw 12 1/2s in Quissett harbor. We stopped there during one of our early family cruises and the sight of kids in their little gaffers pirouetting through the mooring field was something to see. In my twenties I helped restore one and when she was launched sailed her through some of the most dangerous waters on the Maine coast, the Upper and Lower Hell Gates of the Sasanoa River. She handled the rushing currents with aplomb and predictability.

One of the boats now in the Museum’s collection is ‘Indian’ a Bar Harbor 31. The George Lockwood family owned her and lived aboard her in Boothbay Harbor, Maine during the summers. My wife’s family were friends of theirs and one day we were all invited along to sail out around Monhegan Island some twelve miles distant. Mr. Lockwood let me take the helm for a good part of the day and I’ve never been aboard such a swift vessel so easy on the helm. I’ll never forget it.

Years later the Fisher Island 31 ‘Kestrel’ was one of the Museum’s fleet campaigned in regattas up and down the coast. I had the pleasure of being invited to sail aboard her from Osterville to Nantucket prior to the Opera House Cup. What a beautiful day’s sail we had and what a powerful boat!

There are many more stories and connections to Herreshoff boats that run throughout my life (double paddle canoes, crew coaching launches, powerboats by A. S. DeW. Herreshoff and more) but that’s enough for now.

Congratulations to the Museum on the 50th Anniversary… and Hold Fast!

NY 40 MARILEE

P Class JOYANT

Buzzards Bay 18 UNCAS

LFH’s FREELANCE

LFH’s Buzzards Bay Fourteen Footer

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