Monday, July 9, 2012

F.L. Abbott Sailboats

Francis L. Abbott, better known as Fran to his many friends and customers, established a boat building and repair shop at 200 West Avenue in Ocean City, New Jersey after being discharged from the Coast Guard at the end of the second world war.  In the early 1950s Fran built perhaps two dozen well built Moth Boats from his own design.  The boat which Bill Boyle has recently restored is one of those.   Fran passed away several years ago but his widow Ester, helped by their daughters Kay and Caroline have kept the business going offering a reduced range of services and hardware.  Sadly, the time to sell off this long standing oasis for small boat sailors has come.  We knew that sooner or later this day would arrive but that doesn't diminish the loss of F. L. Abbott for the south Jersey sailing community.

As a teen-ager I bought my first boat from Fran, a nail sick old Ventnor Moth for the lofty sum of $172.00 (I still have the receipt).  The price included delivery from Ocean City to the Brigantine Yacht Club, installation of a sea cock in the transom, a new traveler bridle and a new "life" cushion--nobody actually wore life vests or jackets in those days, in fact most of us used the cushions as a convenient place to lash the 2 1/2 lb Danforth anchor and 50 feet of 1/4" line that all racers had to carry in those days (I placed the anchor on top of the cushion and wrapped the line around both; the cushion was useful in that it kept the anchor from dinging the varnish on the floor boards and also would float and thus prevent the loss of the pricey ($2.50) anchor if the ensemble went over board during a capsize.  No one lost much sleep worrying about the loss of the skipper).  Today's post offers a few photos to mark the passing of an era.


Like your favorite watering hole, this boat shop hasn't changed a bit since I first saw it in 1959.


F. L. Abbott has occupied this address right from the beginning.

Say it ain't so.  The phone number is O. C. 2424 on my old bill of sale for that poor ol' Ventnor Moth.

Fran's old boat (not a Moth) is still suspended in the front room as if waiting for her owner.  The display case used to be crammed full of  Race-Lite fittings, which back in the late '50s were state of the art.  Note the line of Danforths in the window.

This small side court used to be filled with used Moth Boats for sale by consignment.  I used to get up early (5 am) and ride the fifteen miles from Brigantine to Ocean City just to see what was for sale. At the time of the day I'd arrive nobody was around and the shop was closed but that didn't matter.  I'd look at the boats for fifteen minutes and then head for home.  Today if a kid did that he'd probably be arrested for casing the joint.  The reason for the early depart was that bicycles could use the Atlantic City broadwalk until 10 am and so I could avoid most of the city streets if I was quick about my visit.  As a kid I typically dressed rough and my old rusty balloon tire, single speed bike wasn't much to look at either. I still remember when the toll collector on the bridge connecting Longport with Ocean City told me I didn't have to pay the 10 cent toll if I'd be a good lad and throw some broken bottles that drunks had tossed out of their car in the middle of the bridge over the side!  I didn't argue with the man, hell a dime was a dime in those days.

"Cash No Cards".

Among other things, Fran was an early Sailfish and Sunfish distributor.  When Alcort couldn't keep up with the demand for replacement parts Fran made patterns for rudder blades and centerboards and made better ones than what the factory were producing.  This of course pissed off Alcort--typical of a large, short sighted and self absorbed company.  They should have embraced Abbott rather than having their lawyers tell him to knock it off.  So, there it is then.  One can peer in the windows and still see all of Fran's gear, the nicopress tools, the saws, the jars of misc. screws, etc. all where he last left them, but not for long.

5 comments:

  1. Geo: Although you're a few years younger, I hold you in a rarified class of the saltiest MFers, along with my old man (7/15 will be 8 years). We must meet up soon.

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    1. Gosh Baydog, I'm blushing. We should meet! Perhaps in the fall after racing, etc. calms down a notch and the temps cool off a bit. I'll send you a PM tomorrow and we can discuss the when/where part.

      George A.

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  2. Hi George! Thank you so much for this wonderful blog about my grandparents' shop. If anyone reads this and is curious about how things are going at the shore since Hurricane Sandy hit this past week, I'm sure Grandma won't mind if I let you know how the shop fared. As of Tuesday, we know that there was about 4-5 ft. of water inside the building. The family will be going down soon to assess the damage. Hopefully my boat (a Sunfish) fared alright and we can save most of Grandpa's tools. Keep everybody at the shore in your thoughts and prayers, but we lucked out big time with mean old Sandy. I think F.L. was watching over us. :)

    ~ Jenny (Kay's daughter)

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  3. Jenny: Say "Hi" to you Mom for me! I hope everything turns out alright after the water recedes. I haven't been able to go check my house on Brigantine yet but hopefully property owners will be allowed back on the island by the weekend.

    Best,
    George

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  4. Hi George,

    My family and I stayed in Ocean City a couple of weeks back, around the corner from F.L.Abbott Sailboats. I couldn't find out much on the business except from this blog, so thank you. Thought you may like to see my images:

    http://jerseystylephotography.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/by-appointment-or-chance-f-l-abbott/

    Also, I have a question about month boats. Could you email me at jerseystylephotography@gmail.com?

    Thanks,
    Mark

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