Saturday, June 13, 2020

Who remembers the P. Evanson Boat Company?

While going through boxes of stuff during our virus lock-down, I rediscovered an old brochure I've had since back in the early 1960s when, way back in the pre-internet days, I wrote off for a copy.  Responding to advertisements by hand, licking a stamp and waiting patiently for a reply.  Remember that?

Of course the Moth (a Cates-Florida design) and the Penguin were what piqued my interest.  P. Evanson  produced their own boats but also imported boats both in kit form and ready to sail.  I wonder how many Evanson Penguins and Moths were sold?  On the Penguin front they would have faced stiff competition in the local marketplace against Jack Wright (Penguins) and Blair Fletcher (Moths).

The boat is as long as the car!  I think the car is an Austin A-30.

Surprisingly, Evanson pushed the Blue Jay rather than the Comet which was more commonly seen at south Jersey regattas.  IIRC, Corinthian YC of Cape May was the only club in my neck of the woods that had a fleet of Blue Jays.

The Enterprise, like the dinghy seen on the top of the Austin, was without a doubt an import from the UK.  I don't recall ever seeing one on the water.  Jack Wright had better luck importing the slightly larger GP 14.  The GP caught on while the Enterprise stalled in a fickle marketplace. 
I tried google-searching P. Evanson Boats but turned up very little extra info for the company.  They appear to have existed from the early 1950s to perhaps the mid-1980s.  Suffice to say that like many other providers of small sailing dinghies, they had their moment of commercial success and then faded away.  They live here on the pages of this brochure.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Another mis-labeled postcard?

I spotted another old post card featuring Moth Boats the other day on flea-bay.  This one supposedly taken in Surf City, NJ a beach community on Long Beach Island (or LBI in local speak).  LBI is another barrier island along the New Jersey shore, just north of  Brigantine.  Unlike Brigantine, LBI has several towns, from Holgate at the south end to Barnegat Light at the northern tip.

On the back side, the card is entitled "Taking boats out of the water after a day of racing from the Surf City Yacht Club."  The scene features Comet class boats, (a magnifying glass reveals that the Comet with the red hull and white transom is named Red Devil, if that helps jog someone's memory), as well as a stern view of a Cates-Florida Moth (the white hull with the girl in red standing next to it), and a Dorr Willey Moth seen in the background.  Folks are patiently waiting for their turn at the ramp or hoist, much as one does today.  To the right, on the pier, a crowd of people are gathered around what appears to be a third Moth with a dark blue hull being loaded onto a trailer.  That boat looks like a Shelley or perhaps a Europa Moth. If so, that would move the date of this exposure to the mid-1960s rather than the late 50s/early 60s.  The upside down boat could of course be another Cates design Moth.  It's impossible to tell even with magnification.  The cars in the photo all appear to be from the mid 50s to early 60s which seems about right.  The real sticking point with this postcard for me is the clubhouse! 

As a teenager, I raced my Moth at the Surf City YC's annual fall regatta.  This was a big multi-class two day event held the weekend after Labor Day, (September in the USA) and was a last hurrah of summer for us before having to put the boats away and get semi-serious about school and studying.  The SCYC clubhouse looks nothing like the unpretentious flat topped building seen here.  Surf City's clubhouse was (still is) a large multistory structure which reminds me in a vague sort of way of a large Dutch colonial beach house.

The building in this postcard might be the Brant Beach YC or perhaps an early shot of Spray Beach's clubhouse, but not that of Surf City.  Having said that, the photo still provides a pleasant journey back to a time which no longer exists--at least in terms of casual simplicity or the types of boats being raced--not a Sunfish, Opti, or Laser in sight.  Speaking of casual, it seems that the producers of postcards during this era exercised a lot of poetic license when labeling their products!  Can anyone comment on the actual location?

Friday, May 1, 2020

The 1959 Moth Nationals

Bill Spencer, the US Moth National Champion in 1959 recently contacted me.  We emailed back and forth reminiscing about the time Bill brought his Bill Lee designed moth Cobia up to Brigantine for our annual summer regatta which was prior to the 1963 Nationals at Ocean City YC (New Jersey) and the International Regatta which that year was held at Larchmont YC  (New York).  Bill reminded me that he had won the Nationals in 1959 when they were hosted by the Corinthian YC of Cape May (New Jersey).  That jogged my memory and led me to the pages of an old scrapbook which another Moth Boater, George Spiecker, had given me about a year earlier.  Indeed, inside the pages of George Spiecker's book were news clips detailing the 1959 event.  Bill won, sailing Cobia.  The regatta, initially slated for three days was shortened to just the completed races from Friday and Saturday.  High winds with gusts measured at 50 mph cancelled Sunday's activities for the remaining 83 boat fleet.  What follows is a distillation from George Spiecker's scrap book plus the official results, kindly supplied by Bill Spencer from his Moth archives.  Thanks to both, there will be more Moth history from the the late 1950s period coming to light in the following posts.  Stay tuned.

In those days Moth Boat Regattas were big news!  This photo was taken for the front page (above the fold, thank-you very much) of the August 6th, 1959 issue of the Cape May Star and Wave.  Overall regatta winner Bill Spencer is third from left.  The arrow indicates George Spiecker, who won the Junior Nationals and also finished 3rd in the overall standing.  Second from the left is the Ladies Champion, Mariann Wark.  Back in 1959, a copy of the Star & Wave set the reader back 7 cents.  The newspaper survives to this day but now costs $1.00.

I haven't figured out how to get blogger to incorporate a "click to enlarge" feature for these hard to size news clips.  If anyone knows how to do that please leave a detailed comment.  Meanwhile I will distill the major points of this very thorough article. 

George Spiecker sailing his Cates-
Florida Moth By George, Nr 1620 the the 1959 Nationals at Cape May. George finished as the Junior National Champion  photo courtesy of George Spiecker
The Bill Lee-built Cobia  being sailed by Bill Spencer, the 1959 U.S. National Champion.  Cobia while similar to Bill Lee's earlier boat Mint, Nr 1335 differed by have a keel stepped mast rather than a deck stepped mast and also by having an extra inch of rocker in the keel.  photo courtesy of Bill Spencer.
Bill's surviving copy of the registration list is quite informative.  It lists several Brigantine sailors as well as Tom and Bob Patterson, plus their dad Carl.  Bob and his dad shared a boat since general participants sailed at different times than  the juniors and ladies.  The Pattersons sailed Connecticut design Moths. Tom came in 50th and Bob was 57th out of 60 juniors.  Bill Schill also sailing a Connecticut, raced at this event, coming in 5th in the junior division.  Overall there were 124 skippers and109 boats at this event.  Many of the juniors sailing  this event, such as Frank Adshead, would go on to become major players in the next few years.

The ladies division was 28 competitors deep.  Where are women Moth sailors today?  Mariann Wark swept both of the races sailed.  Sadly, other than the photo at the top of this post, I  have no photo of the Women's Champion sailing her Titan Moth, Nr 1585, Lil Warrior II.  

So, that's a wrap on the '59 Nats.  The Moth Class was at a peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Later the Sunfish and then the Laser would undercut the Moth Boat but in the era reported here, the Moth was perhaps the biggest game in town--at least along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

2020 Classic Moth Boat Mid-Winter Regatta

This event was the 22nd Mid-Winter Regatta in Florida (the first Mid-Winter was billed as the "Meet in St. Pete" back in 1998) and the 15th consecutive Mid-Winters hosted by the Gulfport YC.  Moths tried St. Pete (Tampa Bay is big water for a Moth Boat) and later moved to Davis Island YC for a couple of years, but after discovering the charms of Gulfport YC and Boca Ciega Bay we've never looked back.  This year's turnout was a little disappointing (only six boats came to the event) but the club, friendly as ever, took our small number in stride and the regatta took place featuring 11 races spread out over two days during the weekend of 22nd/23rd February.  The CMBA hopes that this year's turnout was an anomaly brought on by folks catching the flu right before the regatta, final exams falling at the wrong time in one case and unmovable family commitments in other cases.

Of the six boats to come, we had one Mousetrap (Jeff Linton), two Mistrals (John Z and Mike Parsons), one modified Magnum Mk II (Joe Bousquet; low aspect rig, no wings and other mods to make the hull comply with Gen II rules) and two Europes (me and Larry Suter).

The folks that showed up were some of the top competitors in the class, plus your poor ol' diarist.  I knew I wasn't going to stay on the same page with the faster Gen II boats, and my competition in Gen I was Larry Suter, a former America's Cup crew member during the 12 meter era and currently a coach for elite level sailors.  My goals for the regatta were quickly reduced to the following two:  (1). not to flip, and (2). not to trail so distantly as to make the other boats wait an overly long time for me to finish before the next start sequence could commence.  In this rarefied group of competitors, if I beat a boat it would be because of a mechanical breakdown or a big swim on the part of the other skipper. On top of that, the weekend started off distinctly chilly and breezy for Florida.  I was glad I bought an insulated spandex Farmer John but regretted the fact that I'd told myself that my wet suit would be overkill for sunny Florida!  Friday afternoon the wind whistled ominously through the telephone wires as we rigged our boats.  Additionally, nobody splashed their boat for a practice sail.  The NE wind persisted well after sunset as we walked to Pia's for our group dinner.  It was distinctly chilly--but not as bad as one Mid-Winter in St. Pete when we woke up to 27 degree temperatures and the race committee postponed racing until the air temp got above 50 degrees F! 

The winds were in the manageable mid-teens with gusts a click or two higher at the start of racing on Saturday.

Joe Bousquet (sail Nr 48) inboard of your old diarist at a mark.  This picture shows how narrow the Magnum is compared to my Europe.

Jeff Linton in Mousetrap.

John Zseleczky sailing his Mistral design.

Larry Suter with his controversial sail with the scalloped leach.  We've measured this sail twice and while it looks odd, it does measure in using the ERS wording and diagrams.  Whether this enhances performance beyond a normal leach remains to be seen.  Larry is fast with a conventional sail.

Mike Parsons leads Joe Bousquet.

With both the breeze and chop up on Saturday, Joe added a Tyvek and duct tape fore deck to the Magnum to keep the foot well in the cockpit from filling.

Your diarist in Femme Fatale.

The small bump on the Magnum's starboard bow is a sealed off tube for launching an asymmetric spinnaker which was at one point permitted in Scott Sandell's "Modern Moth" group.  It would still make a great bottle rocket launcher to fend off jet skiers--just sayin'...

Keeping Joe Bousquet company.  Joe, one of the top competitors when sailing his Mistral, is very brave to continue sailing this tricky, narrow boat knowing that she is still a work in progress.  Even with alight weight carbon rig replacing the aluminum Needlespars, this boat is a handful without hiking racks.  Having said that, Joe has made great strides forward since he first raced this boat at Brigantine, last June.  This boat is now faster than a Mistral on reaches.  With a bit more development the Magnum might become a Mistral beater--at least in some conditions.

I could hang briefly with the Mistrals going up wind.

But going downwind, the Mistrals would accelerate on the first puff and that was that.  Jeff at the front, me at the back.

Jeff brought his A game.  We had 11 races and so got to discard our worse score.  His discard was a first place finish. 

Jeff and Mike jockeying for position at the start.

Larry, unlike me, was competitive with the Gen II boats. But although he could finish ahead of one every now and then, he couldn't dominate them.  As the wind went soft on Sunday Larry struggled to stay in contact.

Sparkly water.  Me trailing Joe B's Magnum.

Low boom?  No, I think John Z is just looking for a sandwich.

For Sunday's races Joe dispensed with the Tyvek fore deck.  The water was less lumpy and the wind dropped as the day went on.

Speaking of wind, we had a fair breeze until the final race, when the sea breeze started to battle with the existing front and the two opposing breezes cancelled each other out.  It took forever for me to make the finish line.  Luckily nobody was keeping time and the RC still had beer and sandwiches.

Boat 151 gets the final air horn toot of the regatta.  At the beginning of the race, this was an upwind finish.

I'd probably still be out there trying to make it back to shore but Amy L. took pity on me and offered a tow back to the club.  At this point the air temp finally decided to go north of 70 degrees F--the signal that it's time to pack up and go home!

The trophies went three deep for each division.  Since there were only two boats in Gen I, one "trophy" was reallocated to the Gen II fleet.  With only six boats in attendance everybody got one.  One of the traditions with this regatta is that the lowest trophy winner gets first choice.  I picked the bottle of Black Magic.  Never heard of it.  It turns out to be a product from some far away tropical paradise called "Canada"!  Since returning home I've sampled it.  It's quite tasty with a warming burn in the back of the throat and a lingering molasses after note.  Not at all like the Newfie Screech of my youth!
So above are the results, read them and weep.  Overall I came in DFL, but a solid second (out of two) in the Gen I division.  As per my pre-race prediction, the only times that I beat other boats was when they experienced gear malfunctions or flipped.  But--I got a bottle of rum!  Everybody's a winner at Gulfport!  Final notes:  all who attended this year's Mid-Winters enjoyed the event; and as per usual, I'm indebted to Lennie Parker and Amy Linton for the photos which make up the lion's share of this post.  Here's hoping that 2021 edition of this regatta is better supported.  The date has already been firmed up with the club: next year the Mid-Winters will fall on the 20th/21st of February.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The 1938 Governor's Cup Race

Once again Flea-bay has produced a piece of Moth Boat history.  This time in the form of an old newspaper photograph dated the 17th of October, 1938.  I was particularly drawn to this photo because William Duffield and I have been slowly restoring the 1938 National Champion, Imp Too, Nr 449. 

Imp Too was designed, built and raced by Edwin Channing, a naval aviator.  At the beginning of hostilities, Channing asked Dorr Willey to store his boat for the duration.  Channing did not survive the war and Dorr had this boat in storage along with one of his own Moths until a local Elizabeth City man, Gordon Fearing, asked if he could buy them.  Dorr agreed.  One of the interesting features of Imp Too is that she has "soft" or rounded chines.  This feature is very difficult to build but Dorr, obviously influenced by Channing's boat, built four or perhaps five examples of his own design, incorporating this feature rather than the normal "hard" chines which are featured on not only on his stock design but many other Moths as well.  The other Moth which Dorr held onto after the passage of time was one of his own soft chined Moths, Miss Inez, Nr 808.
The Governor's Cup was one of a number of races held during the National Regatta.  There were also separate races for Junior sailors, Ladies, etc.  This permitted some boats to be shared and gave those skippers competing in the heats that constituted the Nationals a chance to tune their boats and sharpen their boat handling skills prior to the main event.

The back side of the photo.  Many old press photos have a note like this one which provides a limited  description.  Sadly, there is no mention of which newspaper this photo was published.  However the note provides the location (Elizabeth City) and the name of the winner of this race (Harry Andrews).  Harry Andrews won the inaugural National Moth Boat Regatta five years earlier in 1933.
A close up of the photograph.  One sail number, partially obscured, appears to end in 49.  Could this be Nr 449?   If so, is that Edwin Channing at the tiller?
One might ask what I mean when I speak of hard vs soft chines.  A few pictures might clear that up.  First, here are a couple of pix of my "stock" Dorr Willey- build Moth which has hard chines:

Note the sharp chine edge of the blue side board.
Another pix showing Blondie on her lines in the water.

Compare that with these photos of Imp Too, currently under restoration:

In contrast, Imp too (and a very limited number of Dorr Willey's Moths) do not have a chine edge, but rather the planking "wraps around" the hard turn of the bilge.  Imp Too was quite revolutionary in the late 1930s and by accounts from the old timers I've talked with was considered very tricky to sail.  Indeed, when I acquired this boat she came with a dagger board with the leading, trailing and bottom edges covered with heavy bronze strapping.  I haven't weighed this board but it's heavy; the bronze was fitted no doubt to add ballast to an otherwise very tender boat.
Another view of the "soft" chine.
The next two photos show the shape of the frames.
We have to make wood planks, at the turn of the bilge, conform to the shape of those ribs!  There are three ways we could do that. 1. we could take a thicker than required plank and "back it out" on the inside to fit the shape of the frames; 2. we could steam planks of the actual required thickness and hopefully not have them split once they cooled; 3. we could resort to using thin cedar strips with bead and cove edges as is commonly done during the construction of wooden canoes.  The first choice produces a heavy plank and requires a special plane.  The second approach is probably the one Channing and Willey used.  The third option, while the easiest is unauthentic and in my mind not suitable for this restoration.  William and I have built a steam box twelve feet long and will no doubt waste some good cedar before we master the technique.  Since this photo was taken, we have removed all of the original planking in order to repair the keel and framing.  The boat was heavily damaged after being hit by a car while on the way home from a regatta.
So, getting back to the picture which started this post, while I may have a rare photo of the 1938 U.S. National champion on the water, the resolution is too poor to learn anything new about the boat or her skipper.  I will keep trolling Flea-bay in the hopes that a better photograph will eventually surface.

Monday, January 20, 2020

An old Moth in Lewes, Delaware

Several years ago Bill Boyle drove over to Lewes, Delaware to look at an old Moth Boat which had been donated to the local Historical Society.  I've been trying to see this boat for the past two years without any luck (the Museum was closed on one occasion, the "right" person was out of town on another).  We happened to be in Lewes for a few days before New Year's Eve, and the way the calendar fell, we were in town on a day which the Historical Society's buildings were supposedly open.  So with great anticipation I went to the Society's main building.  That building was locked but a nearby workshop was open.  I asked a man who was working on an oyster boat if he knew anything about an old Moth Boat.  He listened to my story and we looked all through the shop (including the overhead loft) without success.  Little did we know how close we were to the actual boat--more on that later.

After a bit of head scratching I was told to go to another building about a mile away where that the little boat in question was sure to be found.  Trouble was, that building was not open until the next day.  The next day I drove over with great anticipation.  I went inside and asked the volunteer on duty if I could see the Moth Boat.  He said "the what boat?" and then directed me to various small boats on display.  One was a dug out canoe, another turned out to be a fiberglass Sunfish, but no Moth.  He started to give me the impression that I was either crazy or misinformed or both (I get that a lot).  I indicated that I indeed was of sound mind and asked him if I could see his iPad for a  moment.  He did so just to humor me and I  quickly showed him the Historical Society's page concerning the Moth:

As seen on the internet. "The Lewes Moth Sails Home."

 With the existence of some sort of Moth Boat now established, my stock went up a couple of points and the volunteer started to call various Historical Society members.  I was told to return to the shop building where I'd meet one of the society directors.  And so I did.  The director took me on a hike through several other storage buildings.  We admired several interesting and no doubt historical boats, but no Moth Boat.  I could tell that the director was getting a little embarrassed that he had no clue as to the whereabouts of this boat which had been, ten years earlier, donated to the Society, but he told me that I had piqued his curiosity and that he would find the boat in question and give me a call.  We left things at that.  New Year's eve came and went. 
Lewis is an interesting old town with other things to do and see besides suss out a misplaced Moth Boat.  

The town of Lewes is adjacent to the Cape Henlopen State Park which features many fine hiking and biking paths close to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.  My wife and I were well into a long walk when my cell phone rang.  It was the director.  He said he knew where the Moth had been stored and if I could return to the work shop before closing time (4:30 pm) I could see the boat.  I looked at my watch and told him I would try my best to make it but it would be close.

 I did make it.  The boat was "hiding in plain sight" behind a bunch of lumber and tools, tipped up on one side, leaning against a wall.  A day earlier we had walked right by it!

Can you see the Moth?
Here's a better look after pulling some stuff out of the way.
She is plank on frame and has a pivoting centerboard, which are marks of an early Moth.
The strips of filament tape are to keep the centerboard from sliding out of the trunk while in storage.
A view of the rudder.

Note the clinched nails holding the pintles in place rather than rivets or nuts and screws.
The next three photos were taken by Bill Boyle several years ago when he visited Lewes and the boat was more accessible.

The splash boards look like a recent addition and seem too modern for the rest of the boat.

This photo suggests that for the purpose of a static display little is needed beyond a general clean up.  below is a letter which accompanied the boat when she was donated.  The build date is obviously suspect--indeed if this is a Moth, in as much as Joel Van Sant's Jumping Juniper which is taken to be Moth Boat Nr 1, wasn't constructed until 1929.

 After viewing the boat, I told the director one way to raise money, if the society wanted to fully restore the boat would be to start a crowd funding site on the internet.  He liked the idea, and I said if that happens I'd help spread the word. 

This little story of a local Historical Society and a Moth Boat brings several points to mind:

- Most museums and historical societies are artifact rich but cash poor.  Ideally, they want donations which can immediately be placed on display with no or minimal work/expense involved. Basically it's easier to donate than it is to receive, house, and maintain something.  Indeed many donations occur because the donor can no longer store or provide upkeep for the item in question.

- A donation requiring that money, skill and energy be invested before being displayable must be very significant to the locale which the museum or society is attempting to promote.

- Donations requiring inputs of time, skill and money tend to be "stored", and if not compelling to the museum's mission, can sometimes be "lost" in storage until someone (like your old diarist) makes a concerted effort to see them.

Bottom line: if  you plan to donate a boat, she should (a) go to an appropriate museum, (b) be restored before being donated and (c) if possible, an endowment of funds earmarked for the boat's upkeep should be part of the donation.

I will follow up on this particular Moth in the hopes that she eventually does go on display and that more info about the correct build date, who the builder was and so on can be explored.