Wednesday, May 1, 2013

PEGASUS, Moth Nr 2345

Many of you who come to this blogspot have seen my earlier post about Bill Schill. Interestingly, within less than a week, that post jumped to the top ten all time most viewed posts for this blog. Clearly, many people remember Bill. 

In his will Bill left me with the remains of his 1963 International Moth Class Association World Championship winning boat Pegasus.  The boat has an easily remembered hull/sail number: 2345.  For those of us who raced Moths back in those years, Bill, Pegasus and her distinctive alternating blue and white striped Seidelmann sail are permanently etched in our memory banks.  Last week I went up to the Schill family home in New Jersey to help Bill's brother Dave sort through the accumulation of Moth boats, spars, sails etc. and at that time we loaded Pegasus onto the roof racks of my station wagon for the ride back to Maryland.  Bill had sold the boat in 1964, after an unsuccessful bid to defend his title, in order to generate the funds to buy a new boat.  Pegasus quickly disappeared but was rediscovered years later by Mike Albert's father in a boatyard down on the Sassafras River, a tributary of the upper Chesapeake Bay.  Mike repaired and  raced the boat for several seasons and won the CMBA's National Championship in 1997.  Mike was accepted for Medical school the following year and Bill approached him about reacquiring Pegasus.  Mike agreed and Bill was reunited with his old boat.  By this point Pegasus was getting very long in tooth and although Bill did install a new deck it became clear that she really needed a total restoration.  The boat was put into storage, new ply panels and other materials were ordered but sadly Bill didn't get the opportunity.

For me Pegasus is a very mixed blessing.  I'm happy to have the opportunity to take this important item of Moth boating history under my wing but right now I'm swamped with several other Moth restorations!  Some adjusting of priorities will need to take place but I'm determined to bring Pegasus back to the same condition as my other World Champ Moth Mint.  The photos which follow document Pegasus as she currently stands.  Wish me luck--I'm going to need it!

Pegasus in the early morning light.  She still retains her aggressive keel line.  While not as tricky to sail as a Mistral, many sailors unfamiliar with Moths would still find the Cates-Florida design a trifle unsettling at first blush.

Although from this distance the boat appears to need only minor repairs and paint a closer inspection reveals holes and blisters through out the ply bottom skins.

The hull is riddled with holes, blisters and soft spots.

The plywood panels have perished.  Victims of both the weather and fungal rot.

Clearly this project is not for the faint of heart.
Turning the boat right side up one finds a number of things which make Pegasus unique.  First, is this special builder's tag.  The stock Fletcher Marine Products tag mentions only the firm's name, Fletcher Marine Products, and the town where the shop was located.  Bill told me a story about this tag.  He said that Jimmy Greenfield, a master boat builder who worked for Blair actually built the hull but Blair had this special tag made up to reflect his shop's importance in Bill's growing dominance on the race course during the early 1960s.  Bill indicated that Jimmy was more than just a bit put out when the boss and owner of the business took credit for the boat.  Jimmy Greenfield is still a member of Cooper River YC.  The next time our paths cross I'll have to screw up my courage and ask him about this little story.
The famously pinched transom of the Cates design is perhaps its most dated feature.  While a Cates Moth can plane on the off-wind legs of the course, later Moth designs could also plane while going up-wind.  With a wider transom maybe a Cates could as well.  One of life's unanswered questions.
This photo shows the latest replacement deck.  The original side decks were skimpy open shelves that extended perhaps to about where the inner-most light colored strips are, rather than the roll tanks seen here.  Although those decks made  Pegasus very light they also made the boat very vulnerable to swamping.

Pegasus's dagger board trunk, unlike the stock Cates item is unsupported at the front and instead, gains lateral stiffness courtesy of the center traveler horse.

Like many of the current Moths, Bill could adjust the rake of Pegasus's mast while under way.  The jaw terminal seen here is attached to a piece of stainless stay wire running through the small bit of tubing emerging from the stem fitting.  The jaw attaches to the bow stay on one end and the block and tackle system inside the cockpit in the preceding photograph.

The side stays were also adjustable via highfield levers.  This rigging was quite advanced for a Moth Boat in the early 1960s.
But is this boat really Pegasus?  If so her distinctive hull number "2345" should be stamped in the keel.  The number is obscured by the ratchet block mount and floor boards.  Much like the doubting St. Thomas, I want to see with my own eyes and place my fingers in the indentations.
There it is 2-3-4-5.  Originally this number was assigned, in a block of hull numbers issued by the IMCA, to John Wright a boat builder in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  Blair Fletcher negotiated with Wright and got the number transferred to his shop for this boat.  One wonders what Fletcher offered Wright for that hull number?  I'll probably never know.
Bill's alternating blue and white stripped Seidelmann sail.  Bill's parents bought this sail as a way of telling which boat was their son while spectating at regattas.  Almost everyone else had a plain vanilla sail and in those days it was not uncommon for a Moth regatta to draw 60 to 70 entries.
Bill actually got this sail a year before he took delivery of Pegasus.  He was then still sailing his first Fletcher-Cates, Nr 2081.  If one looks closely, the outline of the zero can just be seen as a darker blue area between the "legs" of the number 3.  In person, one can also make out the needle marks left over from when the original numbers were removed and the 3-4-5 were substituted.  This was well before the days of stick-on numbers and insignia.
The sail still carries the golden circle-M insignia that was awarded to the World Champion in those days to replace the red M within the blue circle.  The National Champion was awarded a silver circle-M.  In 1963 Bill won both but naturally used the gold insignia.
Although the dagger board and original rudder could not be immediately found in Bill's workshop, the original spars survive. Sadly, like the hull, they are in poor condition.  As seen above the boom is cracked all the way through both sides from the stress of the loads imposed by this fiddle block which is part of the original center traveler main sheet system.  Two separate blocks spaced a few inches apart would have spread the load and perhaps prevented this failure.  The mast is similarly cracked at the gooseneck area.  Both spars are useful only as patterns.

Yes, I'm carefully labeling things as I disassemble hardware from the boat. 


  1. Fascinating. Great story. And how wonderful to won a piece of sailing history.

    Jim Greenfield! He built it? I'm sure I crossed tacks a few times with Jim when I raced in NJ. I never knew he was a boat builder.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, Jimmy was/is a highly skilled boat builder. One story I heard years ago is that Blair Fletcher, after building a few all-wood Cates design Moths, pulled a mold off the bottom of one and started offering fiberglass versions either turn-key and ready to race or just the hull freshly popped out of the mold for the customer to take home and build the decks themselves. Jimmy was one of the early customers for just the bare glass hull. After taking delivery Jimmy showed up a few weeks later at a regatta with the finished boat. Blair examined the boat and liked Jimmy's deck layout over what he himself was building and hired Greenfield on the spot! I last saw Jimmy a year ago at the Cooper River fall frost bite series. He is the long standing RC guy for that series.

  3. great story George. We need a famous class in the regattas. LOL

  4. Hmmmmmm.....Jim Greenfield. Where do I know that name from?

  5. Perhaps from Penguins. Fletcher Marine Products also built a few Penguin dinghies along with Comets and Moths. Jimmy also briefly sailed Star Boats.