Sunday, May 9, 2021

Minimalist cruising part six: Sisters? Sopranino & Thunderbird

Top: Myth of Malham
Minim, after Sporanino
Sopranino plans
Thunderbird plans
Thunderbitd  full view
Thunderbird at the apex of the Chesapeake
Question: Did Laurent Giles' Sopranino and Myth of Malham give birth to Ben Seaborn's Sierra and then the Thunderbird? I think it's possible,at least in part. Look closely.  Especially at the drawings.
Steve Bunnell, who wrote about Seaborn in WoodenBoat #148 and the Thunderbird in #149, cites Myth, designed by the revered British designer J. Laurent Giles in collaboration with John Illingworth, as a major influence on Seattle based Seaborn's thinking postwar. New materials and techniques  developed during the war years were to allow new thinking and led to the development of light displacement racing cruising boats, "big  dinghies" with a cabin.
That was also the thinking of Patrick Ellam, sailing out of Brightlingsea, when he approached Laurent Giles to design a craft to criteria he'd arrived at through  experimental voyages in his Theta, essentially a decked over sailing canoe with enough room for two which he sailed across the English channel at least four times.. He was quite surprised at Giles immediate acceptance of the project. The result was Sopranino, a name derived from a musical term for woodwinds indicating a smaller instrument achieving a higher octave ....Sopranino was really small, 19'6, with a bulb keel and reverse sheer and she definitely sounded a higher octave. Huge innovations cooked up by Ellam, Laurent Giles and John Illingworth, who consulted on the plans as drawn by Giles and is credited with being the father of modern ocean racing.  On september 6, 1951 Patrick set out to cross the Atlantic in her , with Colin Mudie, an employee of Laurent Giles and who had actually penned the plans for Sopranino, as crew. Sixteen months and 10,000 miles later they arrived in NY., effectively proving Patrick's theoretical musings. The voyage and experiment also resulted a must read little book, deserving of a niche in modern yacht evolution, appropriately titled Sopranino.
 By 1957 Ben Seaborn had absorbed the knowledge of light displacement experiments around the world yachting community and had several such designs under his belt. In that year he received a letter announcing a competition sponsored by the Douglas Fir Plywood Association. To be built in plywood, the design parameters for the competition were that it should be usable both for racing and cruising, it should sleep four, be capable of being built by reasonably skilled amateurs, be powered by an outboard  and outperform other boats in its class! Quite a list for an unfamiliar, new technology.  Initially Seaborn scoffed at this "challenge", as did most other designers receiving the notice letter.  Eventually, however, he took the bait and  consulted Ed Hoppen, a local boatbuilder intrigued with plywood construction. Their collaboration began and the result was the Thunderbird,which evolved from a previous design, the Sierra, a two person cruising boat. Needless to say the T'bird won the competition, and when completed surpassed all expectations in cruising ability, racing prowess and building techniques. Today a  universally applauded design, Seaborn and Hoppen had hit upon a building method in which the molds became permanent bulkheads. Seaborn himself was awed by his creation, never expecting the stability and speed he'd found in this  hard chine design. And she is accessible to the home builder. She was a hit. The class association reports that this is his most built design, with over1200 some odd registered boats. Plans are available for $50. from the Class Association! Reportedly this is a very fast racing yacht. Their PHRC rating has continued to move into more difficult ranges  over the years and they have been known to sail upwind with their spinnaker set and survive  60 to 70 mph winds, winning races when others had to retire. A Japanese woman cruised one across the Pacific, east to west, an inexperienced sailor sailed one from Puget Sound to Hawaii, one owner has made several voyages to Alaska. Typically, this Ben Seaborn design,like many of his  boats, has a very low windage cabin top and still manages to have an astounding amount of light in the interior. Sadly, neither of these designers is still with us. Jack Laurent Giles was laid to rest in1969 and tragically, Ben Seaborn took his own life in January of 1960 at the age of 45, in part it's believed, because he felt himself a failure as a yacht designer. Jack passed away in 1969 after a long and successful career and his legacy lives on in his designs and in the design firm which bears his name. Ben's untimely death cut short a career which had already achieved greatness.
Both of these men were instrumental in planting the seeds which  have born much fruit in the evoluition of yacht design and ultimately leading to the light displacement racing yachts of today, from the exquisite little Mini Transat 650's to the "Open' series of maxi yachts which dominate transatlantic and around the world racing. They also had a hand in enabling small boat cruising sailors such as Roger Taylor and many others to trust  a light displacement boat to carry them safely across large oceans. All small boat sailors contemplating or making lengthy cruises owe them a debt of gratitude.
I have recently been very taken with the Thunderbird, for her speed, her seaworthiness , cruising ability and history. Found one, too, if I can figure out how to get her here.  I enquired on the junk rig yahoo goup about the feasability of rigging her junk and Arne Kverneland replied that she's an excellent candidate, but would suffer a slight loss of performance. OK!. Anyone who would like to help me get this boat from Rhode Island to PA, either by land or sea, write to me.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

CW Morgan readies for her 38th Voyage!

from 1962

all photos courtesy Muffy Aldrich

The CW Morgan left Mystic Seaport yesterday, May 17, for the first time since 1941. She was towed to City Pier in New London for her final fitting out. Here are a few photos of her preparations from about a month ago, when her spars were lifted in. These photos were taken by Muffy Aldrich and first appeared on her very cool blog 'The Daily Prep'. Thanks, Muffy.
Today I have been gathering pics of the Morgan's departure yesterday and should get them up in a day or two...stay tuned.

Here's a bit from Mystic on the Morgan's captain Kip Files for the 38th Voyage:
     As the owner and captain of the 132-foot, three-masted schooner Victory Chimes out of Rockland, Files is no stranger to sailing large ships without an engine. He is also the primary captain of the 207-foot barque Elissa, owned and operated by the Galveston Historical Foundation and Texas Seaport Museum. Files holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master Ocean License for Inspected Passenger Vessels of up to 1,600 Gross Tons. He has been a master of traditional sailing vessels since 1978. He also served on the boards of Tall Ships America (formerly the American Sail Training Association) and the Ocean Classroom Foundation.

    “There are very few people in the world with the knowledge and experience of traditional square-rigged sailing necessary to do this job. Kip is one of those people and we are confident we have found the right person to lead the ship on her 38th Voyage,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport.

copyright Thomas Armstrong

Saturday, October 19, 2013

2nd Annual Olde City Seaport Festival at the Independence Seaport Museum

In the basin, Schooner 'Hindu' and the 'AJ Meerwarld'

'Schooner Hindu'

'Hindu' sails out of Key West and is available for charter.

She dates from 1925, a William Hand design built by Hodgdon Brothers in East Boothbay, ME.

John Schwarzenbach soaking up the 'Hindu' ambience.

A pair of pirate wenches

Paul Grey and Josh Rowan. Josh is the skipper of 'Hindu' and his father Bill the owner.
Paul owns the schooner 'Quintessence' which he charters out of Barnegat Bay.

The AJ Meerwald'

The 'Meerwald is New Jersey's tall ship.

Home port is Bivalve, NJ and like most of the boats (ships) at the festival is an educational venture, under the auspices of The Bayshore Center at Bivalve. 

Jesse A Briggs is captain of the restored 1928 oyster dredging schooner.

Schooner 'Virginia'

This 'Virginia' is a replica launched in 2004.

The original 'Virginia', launched in 1916, was commissioned by the Virginia Pilot's Association  and designed "along the lines of an America's Cup defender! Her history is quite compelling.

John Brady at the helm of one of the ISM's whaleboats on the rather choppy waters of the Delaware River, passing by 'Schooner Virgina's port side.

Barkentine 'Gazella'

Looking aft onboard 'Gazela'

Detail, 'Gazella'

Detail, 'Gazella'

Tug 'Jupiter'. 'Jupiter' and 'Gazella' are maintained and deployed by the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild.

'Pride of Baltimore II'

Gig and RIB amidships

'Pride' flying the colors

'Pride II' and many of the other ships present headed down to Baltimore for The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.

Kalmar Nyckel is the most dramatically decorated boat at the festival.

She's a replica of the Dutch Pinnace built in Amsterdam c. 1625 and sailed to the New World in 1638 to establish a Swedish Colony.

The Colony was dubbed New Sweden, at the head of the Delaware Bay, which is now Wilmington Delaware.

New Sweden was the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. Here is her grand poop deck.

Schooner 'Mystic Whaler' is a charter vessel sailing out of New London CT

The Brady bunch rowing past 'Mystic Whaler'

'Mystic Whaler' was built in 1967 , a reproduction of a late 19thC. coastal cargo schooner.

She even has a brick grill! These folks know how to do it.

One of the smaller boats at the festival was this 14 1/2' Pacific Pelican, built by Allan Hedgers in Greenich, NJ

Owner Floyd Beam reconfigured the mast with this tabernacle system which allows him to continue to sail the boat singlehanded despite some back issues.

The charming H 28 'Gwylan' again returned with owner Roger Pritchard at her helm.

There were a bevy of vendors this year, and I found these guys the most amusing, by a long shot.

The aforementioned John Schwarzenbach's sweet little Comet was beautifully restored at the ISM's workshop.

Framed by the bowsprits of both 'Hindu' and 'Meerwald', the 'Pride of Baltimore II'

copyright Thomas Armstrong

I have to hand it to John Brady, his staff and the volunteers at the Independence Seaport Museum. John had a vision a couple of years ago about how to grow this festival and it's paying off. There were more ships (7),  more visitors and more vendors than ever before, despite dire weather forecasts, which as you can see from my photos, did not hold sway. I went down on Sunday, it was a beautiful day, a bit windy. These ships are amazing, every one of them, and seem to be a big hit with the public. All the schooners present traveled on down to Baltimore after the festival to compete in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
My only disappointment was the paucity of small craft, which I am sure will be rectified in the future.
I have given more attention to ships new to the festival this year. If you'd like more of 'Gazella', 'Meerwald', 'Pride of Baltimore II' and the 'Kalmar Nyckel', see my post from last year.This is a great festival, and growing, make plans to attend next year!