Wednesday, December 7, 2011

MAYBE II, Moth Nr 853

Note:  this is a very early post that was displaced to the top of the heap while I was attempting to add labels to all the accumulated posts to make them easier to find.  Since I've forgotten the exact date I published it I'm going to leave it here--so you can all read it again!  Many thanks to Tweezerman for his tuition on labeling--your hmble & obt diarist.

When I posted the photo of the Browns Mills YC trophy presentation I mentioned that I knew two of the individuals. One was Bea Kratz the other is Bob Kalmbach.  The posting of that photo caused William Duffield to send me some photo's of the boat Bob built after Bea and Marion got their Dorr Willey-built Moths.  Bob named his boat MAYBE II.  Bob sent us his recollections of the early days of sailing on Mirror Lake, site of the Browns Mills YC.  Among other things, this letter reveals a connection between Browns Mills and Greenwich (where William lives) as well as one with Brigantine (where I grew up):

Mirror Lake in Browns Mills, NJ, is about two miles long with a cove off to the North side. There is about a mile of good sailing water. The width varies, but is usually about 100 yds. With the prevailing wind blowing the length, a race was usually a windward beat and a downwind run. It was about a mile between marks. We sailed one or two laps depending on the wind. There are some stumps in the shallows that can bring an unsuspecting skipper to a screeching halt. This was one of the reasons for the popularity of pivoted centerboards that will pop up when an obstruction was encountered. Centerboards are also more prone to shed weeds that also could be found in the lake. At times, there were nasty little gusts coming off the trees that would frequently flip some of the light skippers. The four light Ventnors on the lake were particularly vulnerable.

George Sloan of the Greenwich-Cohansey River Sloans was the mover and shaker of our club. He arranged for the acquisition of three Moths from the Cohansey fleet around 1940. There were also several non Moths on the lake at that time. George had built what I was told was a scaled down Snipe, and John Dotter had built a monstrous flat scow with more than enough sail to cause frequent capsizes and swampings. It seemed that he often had a covey of sweet young things on board when it turned over. In retrospect, one could wonder if John's frequent abandon ship drills were the forerunner of the wet tee shirt bit. But, be that as it may, during that period there was no club and no formal races. Then came WWII and things went on hold. The war ended in mid August of 1945, and by Labor Day about eight miscellaneous sailboats had come out of Moth balls (pun intended). George organized a race with prizes donated by the Improvement Association, and away we sailed. It became obvious that because of the size of the lake, the Moth was the perfect boat. The following season we organized the club, joined IMCA, and started Sunday point races.

Our first opportunity for outside competition came the year Lloyd Morrey won the Antonio at Brigantine. Norm Parker, our first place sailor, took his very heavy "Stinker” one of the original Cohansey Moths, to the regatta resting on a mattress on top of the family Dodge. It became obvious that our old Moths were no match for the new generation of boats since Norm finished near the back of the fleet.

The following year I took four of our boats, two trips each way, stacked two high, on a borrowed pick up truck, to the first Governors Cup Regatta at Riverton, NJ. Once again, a rude awakening, TIDE!! I well remember being passed by about ten boats as if I were standing still, the only difference was they were standing still and I was going backwards fast! The tide at Riverton runs at about 3 or 4 MPH. One of our members had to be towed back from a point about half way down to the Ben Franklin Bridge. The next day you can bet we all found anchors so we could keep up with the rest of the fleet when the wind dropped.

Each year a few more Moths would be built or bought to add to our fleet that had grown to about sixteen active members at the starting line. At one time or another I counted almost three dozen Moths on the lake.

Then in 1949 it happened. As you know, while at the Evening Star Y.C. regatta in Brigantine, our Dr. Bea Kratz happened to be by Dorr Willey when he came in from a race in a well steamed mood because of a collision on the course that broke his traveler. In a fit of pique he asked if anybody wanted to buy “Termite” #807 (NB:  #807 is my boat, currently named BLONDIE). Bea jumped at the chance to get the Cadillac of Moth Boats. Being in charge of transportation, it became my job to bring this prize back to Browns Mills. As mentioned in our phone conversation, I had taken four boats down in a borrowed 12' stake truck, two on the bottom and two on top of the stakes. The only way I could bring five Moths back was to place three on top of the stakes 11' across the road. The 60 mile trip back to Browns Mills with an 11' wide load was some fun, but we got “Termite” back to her new home without incident. Then that October while at the Nationals in Elizabeth City, we found that Charley Higgins wanted to sell “Punkie” #948. Knowing that the Glovers wanted a Dorr Willey for daughter Marion who was away at college, we arranged for the sale and brought “Punkie” back to Browns Mills.

Now with two Willeys on the lake the handwriting was on the wall and it was obvious that many of our old Moths including mine, would be left in the wake of the Cadillacs of Moth Boats. What else to do but to go back to the drawing board and build a better Moth. In the dark of night that Fall (actually on a Saturday afternoon), I took the measurements of both “Termite” and “Punkie” and developed a table of offsets for each. Since “Termite” had a 48" beam and “Punkey” was 2" wider, I decided to build a clone of Termite that was to be known as “Maybe II” #853. “Maybe II” was launched in time for the 1950 season. The main difference was that she was planked with 1/4" Spanish cedar (at the time, I couldn't find any white cedar), and the front of the dagger board trunk was sloped for two reasons. It allowed the center of lateral planes to be slightly adjusted aft, and it permitted the dagger board to give if an obstruction was encountered. Also, unable to get a solid block of mahogany for the nose block, I made it from 2 or 3 pieces of 6/4 stock. To this day, I don't know how Dorr did it and kept the nose block from checking.

Greetings from Uncle Sam washed out my sailing in 1951, but I was able to sail in 1952 since I was fortunate to miss that slow boat to Korea and got stationed at Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook, NJ. I guess ‘52 was my best year and unfortunately the last year for our favorite regatta when the old Evening Star bagged it's sails for the last time. That year “Maybe II” won the Atlantic City Tuna Club Challenge Race and was part of the winning four boat team. I think John Clark in “Touché” our third Dorr Willey, was on our team. During that period, Marion Glover in “Punkie” was going head to head with Jane Bateman of Margate and Peggy Kammerman for the ladies honors.

In 1954 the wedding bells and employment transfers started taking a toll on the old regulars of the club. We ran free sailing classes that had some success, but it was obvious that we were getting burned out. In October of 1958, following the conclusion of our Central Jersey Championship, Dick Dell and I pulled the marks for the last time and we sailed off into the sunset.

From 1958 until 1971, “Maybe II” rested in her old winter home under the family summer cottage in Browns Mills, and then I moved her to our corn crib in Morrestown when the cottage was sold. In 2000 we moved to Tabernacle where we had a nice heated three car garage. Being a sentimental old fool, the old cracked up girl came along and sat outside under cover for the first winter. In the spring, from the conversations I had with Nancy and you, I learned that there was still interest in Moths so I decided to restore her. Her bottom and deck were badly cracked up, and the boom had rotted away, but the basic structure looked OK. Through the Tuckerton Seaport Boat Shop, I located a source for Jersey white cedar, and the restoration was under way. First a new bottom and then a new deck of 5/16" white cedar fastened with new stainless steel screws and the greatest glue called "Gorilla Glue”, a new boom, new rudder pin (the old one was worn about half way through) and finally the multi coats of marine spar varnish and new lettering and “Maybe II” looks better than new. Wrapping the mast with fiberglass cloth is all that remains. It will need a warm day above 60 degrees since the process produces odors that do not belong in the house. I plan to take her for a sail for old time’s sake and then sell her to somebody that can enjoy her as much as I did. Unfortunately, I don't think my aging body is up to the rigors of Mothing anymore, and Tabernacle is a long way from sailing water. I really enjoyed the rebuilding project for it brought back many pleasant memories of my youth, and the aromatic smell of white cedar drifting through the house was most delightful.

Bob wrote this letter in 2002 when he was in his seventies.  Maybe II currently is on display at a museum in Pemberton, Pennsylvania.  As the photos which follow reveal, Bob did a splendid job of restoring his old racer.

Bob Kalmbach takes the newly restored MAYBE II for a sail.
The bow of MAYBE II.  Note the symmetrical pattern of the plank fasteners and the mahogany bow block.
A close up of MAYBE II's bow block (the small piece of wood with the eye bolt was for supporting the boat while being car-top carried).  Dorr Willey carved his bow blocks from solid wood.  Bob couldn't figure out how he did this but didn't have problems with the wood cracking and checking.  William Duffield told me that the secret resides in the choice of material; Dorr's bow blocks where made from the notch of a tree limb.  By selecting a notch Dorr was using a piece of wood which had grain running in different directions within the same chunk of wood, hence check-resistant.  Bob made his bow block by laminating many small blocks of mahogany together and then shaping the block to fit the bow of the boat.  Both approaches are VERY labor intensive!
The lettering on the bow of the boat. Many Moth Boats of this era carried their name and hull number on the bow.   John Clark, another Browns Mills Moth Boat sailor, reveals the following:  "On Bob's original MAYBE, he asked me to do the boat name lettering.  I was just a young teenager and thought I could do as well as the sign painter who did Dorr's boats...not even close!.  The lettering that I have seen on Maybe II looks identical to that which I did on the original...  Well John, it looks good to your diarist!


  1. In many ways these moths remind me of the Duck Boats of Barnegat Bay, although the Moths vary in design and the Ducks do not. Still really neat!

  2. Yes, early Moth Boats and Sneakboxes share many similarities. The south Jersey clubs sailed Moths in the 50s and 60s while the LBI clubs sailed both Moths and 12 foot Sneakboxes. There's a fellow up near Port Republic who organizes an annual Sneakbox regatta on the Mullica River. I hope to attend one year if it doesn't overlap with the CMBA Nationals.