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.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Greetings from Painesville (Ohio)

Click on picture to enlarge it.

Eagle eyed CMBA member, Chandler Owen spotted this old postcard on flea-bay.  As can be seen, the card greets us from Painesville, Ohio.  However, of the boats which I can identify by sail number, I'm led to believe that the venue isn't from the "buckeye state", but instead somewhere in the Charleston, South Carolina area.  Perhaps Mount Pleasant?

The boat on port tack, closest to the camera, is Randall Swan's Connecticut design Blue Moon II, Nr 1149.  I don't know if Randall is at the tiller or not but the ID of the boat is not in question.  Interestingly, this boat and several others are being sailed two up which tells us that the young skippers were too light to keep their boats flat with the available wind at their disposal.  Now that we're adults this is no longer a requirement!

Randall's father bought this particular boat from a display at the 1949 New York Boat Show, directly from her designer/builder, Skip Etchells.  At the time, Etchells operated a business called "Old Greenwich Boat Works", located in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Connecticut was the rig.  Etchells is probably better know as a Star boat builder and competitor.  As such he was largely responsible for introducing the Moth Class to "bendy" masts.  Randall once told me that the young sailors with Connecticut Moths didn't quite know what they were doing when they sheeted in hard and bent the mast, but they knew that the boats were more controllable and thus faster in a big breeze.

The boat with sail number 1202 is, I believe, Rob Johnson in Gremlin.  I'm fairly sure that this boat and Nr 1103 are Darby-built Ventnor Moths.  The old records in my possession indicate that Nr 1203 was owned by Gordon Darby.  Gordon may well be in this picture.  As is the case with many pictures, the more distant boats defy identification and so their designs and skippers remain a mystery.  A mystery which perhaps some reader can partially elucidate with a comment.

In closing, here we have another interesting old postcard featuring Moth Boats on sunny, sparkling waters to ponder over a chilly winter night--even if I remain unconvinced of the venue.  It's a pity that modern postcards so seldomly feature scenes with boats or yacht clubs or races any more.  That makes ones like this one, which I think dates to about 1952, all the more interesting to find.

Added after posting:  I just rec'd this input from Randall Swan:

You are right about the location of the race being Mt Pleasant.Photo shows Castle Pinckney to the West and the only regatta in that location would have been the Mt. pleasant regatta. I believe the dote is 1951, as that was the last year I needed a crew for ballast in most conditions.
Thanks for the photo. Those were the days!
Thanks Randall!  I was off a year!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The 1957 Moth Nationals

I came across this old announcement from the 1957 Moth Class Nationals while sorting through a box of stuff.  The four day event (two days of racing) was held, just after Labor Day, at the Margate City YC in New Jersey.  To put this in perspective, those born that year are now eligible for social  security:

Sadly, the MCYC no longer exists.  The club petered out about twenty years ago when membership dropped below the level needed to pay the real estate taxes and clubhouse upkeep.  No doubt the site is now either a marina or condominiums.

Racing included separate Championships for the Open, Junior and Women competitors.  One wonders what constituted "proper" identification for the Saturday evening party?  Interestingly, the street address of the club is not provided.  Most of the competitors during this period of the IMCA were local and already knew.

Burt Dowler, the IMCA president from 1942 until 1958, was part of the protest committee.  This event would be one of Mr. Dowler's final acts as Moth Class President.  His health declined and he passed away in October of 1958.  The remaining class officers struggled with the leadership vacuum caused by his death.  One of Burt Dowler's pet projects was the annual Moth Class yearbook which he started in 1950, called Moth Doings.  There is a gap of two years (1958 and 1959) before the class collected itself and finally resumed publication of the yearbook in 1960.  The final issue of Moth Doings was published in 1965 just before the IMCA reorganized itself as a truly international body in which member nations were parts of rather than an organization controlled by just one member nation.

Getting back to the regatta, the winner of the Open division was a young Blair Fletcher sailing a boat of his own design called Dixie Peach.  Blair would go on to become one of the most dominant builders of Moth Boats in the 1960s.  Randall Swan was second and Newt Wattis was third.  In the Junior division, Peter Tuffs won followed by Ricky Shepperd and Danny Mullray.  Didi Adshead prevailed in the Women's division over Paula Holmes and Marianne Wark.  The team award went to the Charleston Moth Fleet over Stone Harbor, Margate and Harbor Sailing. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Another old Post Card

This card features my favorite island and favorite class of small racing dinghy:

The Moths pictured here are quite primitive and appear to date to the very early 1930s. They feature transom bows and probably have heavy, pivoting centerboards rather than "jab" or "dagger" boards which were introduced to the class by the mid-1930s.  Although the card is postmarked August 25, 1938 the card probably was available in drug stores and novelty shops well before that date  Hull shapes changed at a revolutionary pace rather than an evolutionary one during that first decade.  By 1938 the Moth Class had round bilge shapes such as Antares, Stormy, and Imp Too.  I can just make out the name Pluto on the side of the boat closest to the camera.  It was a tradition in the old Evening Star Yacht Club to name Moths after stars, planets, constellations, etc. and so while this race is taking place in Brigantine,  no doubt most of the fleet is from the ESYC in nearby Atlantic City.  The presence of boats with two digit sail numbers is another clue to the correct age of the image.  The boat sporting "LE 3" on the sail is probably a visitor from the Little Egg YC, which like many Barnegat Bay clubs used their own fleet numbering system rather than that of the fledgling National Moth Boat Association.

The ink on the reverse side of the card is faded to the point where I had to resort to the aid of a small magnifying glass to make out the message and address.  The card is addressed to a Mrs. W. Helm at Box 6-5-2, Laurel Springs, NJ.  That's interesting in as much as Laurel Springs is less than 50 miles from Atlantic City.  I purchased the card from a vendor in New Castle, Kentucky.  One wonders how the card traveled so far after it's first trip through the mail?  One also wonders if this card is the sole survivor of this photograph?  Turning to the message, the writer is someone named Priscilla.  Priscilla, a woman of few words, wants Mrs. Helm and family to know that she's having a good time in Atlantic City.  She doesn't add on the well used line of  "wish you were here".  One reads into this that Priscilla, although concerned with the Helm family's well being, didn't particularly want them under foot during her brief spell of R and R by the sea.  Other notables and ponderables  seen on this side of the card include the fact that Brigantine Beach was considered "Atlantic City's smartest suburb".  Really, Brigantine, a separate island, a suburb?  One wonders if Ventnor, Margate and Long Port (towns on the same Absecon island as AC) were also considered suburbs of the "big" town?  Note that postage was just a penny.  The stamp of course predates the self stick variety we know today.  Back then one had to lick the stamp (or otherwise moisten the adhesive) before applying it to the card.  If I wanted to carefully lift the stamp off the card and then solubilize both, perhaps there would be enough extractable DNA from that lick to learn a bit about the mysterious Priscilla, such as her ethnicity, predisposition to a laundry list of chronic diseases and so on.  But, like Mrs. Helm, Priscilla is probably no longer with  us--the card we know from the postmark is 81 years old.  The sender and recipient were perhaps in their late teens to early 20s, so by now would either pushing 100 or beyond that age.  No, I will allow Priscilla to sleep in peace and enjoy the card as it is--a rare surviving window into a world which, like the folks involved, no longer exists.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

30th Classic Moth Boat National Regatta

Hard to believe that 30 years has slipped away since Classic Moths resumed racing down in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.  I've attended all but the very first event, which featured five boats.  This year's event saw twenty three Moths compete.  The age range of skippers was from 12 to 75--one is almost never too young or too old to race a Classic Moth.

Diaristdaughter was once again part of the mark boat crew and what follows are some of the photos she managed to take in between moving course marks.

Both days of racing featured mostly sunny skies, temps in the agreeable side of 80, and light (4 to 6 knot) wind from the SW.
Due to the continued efforts of Greg Duncan (Elizabeth City) and Joe Bousquet (Norfolk), we had a record (for us) of seven junior sailors (U-18).  I recall one Nats wherein our "junior" was the youngest sailor (aged 34), just to give the trophy away.  That was then, this is now.  Above, we see one of the E. City juniors, David Panet sailing Walt Collins' former Europe, now owned by a local sailing club.
Kale Jones sailed the ex-Joe Courter Europe, also owned by the E. City sailing club.

Bodie Blackford, from E. City, sailed Greg Duncan's Europe

Finally, our last E. City junior, Sam Moncla (leading Bodie) sailed John Pugh's Europe.  Sam is a descendant of Wilbur Van Sant, (Moth Boat founder Joel Van Sant's brother).  Sam must have inherited the sailing genes from them.  His winning ways are impressive!

Pretty in pink.  Down from the Norfolk area is Abbie Kiggans, sailing Joe Bousquet's Maser.  In past years Joe has loaned boats to Abbie's older brothers.  We tend to lose junior sailors to college.  Hopefully some of this crew will return.

Another Norfolk area junior, Chase Brittain, sailed Susan Bousquet's modified Shelley.
Rounding out the junior sailors from Norfolk, Severin Lavarius sailed the Swiss Moth which Joe B. sailed to overall victory in last year's National Regatta.
With the juniors accounted for, we will now list the, (cough), older skippers.  In no particular order we have:

Your old diarist sailing his Galetti-built Europe, Femme Fatale.

Diaristson, Erik sailed our Winner-built Europe, Ooh La La.

Bill Boyle sailed his son's cedar strip Europe.

Zack Balluzzo is seen here in Y2K Bug, his Collins-built Mistral.
John Pugh sailed Wingnut his Gen I, Gregory-built Mint design (sail Nr 20).  To leeward is John Zseleczky sailing his vintage division Ventnor Moth, Tweety.  Tweety  was formerly owned and sailed by the first CMBA President, Ekry Gregory.

Walt Collins was back, sailing his Gen I Moth Feather.

Gary Gowans, sailing in Vintage, is seen here in Tennis Bracelet.  This boat was built in Pittsburgh, PA during the late 1940s.  Gary recently rebuilt the boat and with Gary in the hot seat she is deceptively hellishly fast.

Eric Bellows sailed the Merv Wescoat-built Shelley Lookout.

Don Hewitt sailed Legend, a vintage Connecticut Moth.
Bob Patterson sailed Deacon, his McCutcheon-Shelley.

Ed Salva is seen here sailing his Europe Maple Leaf.

Don Janeway rounded out the vintage division fleet with 3-D, a Ventnor Moth which has been in his family since new.

John Z's son Pete took over John's Mistral Y2K2 for this event.

Another Gen II competitor, Mike Parsons, is seen here in Nr 79, Revolution.

Joe Bousquet reverted to his Mistral, Try-Umph, for this event.
Heading out to the starting area on Saturday morning.  Lots of slack in the Cunninghams.

A bit of breeze here.  It didn't last long

Waiting for a start.
More waiting.
Gary had Tennis Bracelet punching way above her weight, as did Walt in Feather.  Both boats were quite often mixing it up with the Gen II Mistrals.

Down wind legs could be frustrating.  After working hard to eek out a lead, one could often be treated to the sound of a gaggle of boats surging up from behind on a "private" puff of wind.
The light air and random puffs tended to cluster the boats leading to moments of "togetherness" during mark roundings.

The camera lens shortens the length of the leg between these two marks.

Abbie about to get pinwheeled off at the mark.  See next pix.

Europe booms are low!

Very patchy wind.

Milling around before a start.

An old geezer in a wooden boat crossing the finish line all alone.  #So Sad!

Just drifting and drifting.  Hey, that reminds me of a song from the Paul Butterfield blues band...
John Z's Ventnor. 

Walt Collins in a Ted Causey-built Moth from the early 1990s.  This boat had been listed for sale on but found no takers at the initial asking price.  The owner, who was in the process of moving house sent me an angst filled email, two days before the move, indicating that if no one wanted the boat (now offered for free), she was going to the dump.  As can be imagined, the significant price drop caused something of a frenzy within the membership.  Joe B. was closest to the boat and saved her from a ride to the dump.  The boat will soon have a new permanent owner--Joe has too many boats!  The former owner asked that if possible, she'd like a photo of the boat assembled and in the water.  Walt, who knew the owner from high school days obliged.  While sail-able as is, the boat will need a bit of tweaking to bring the hull up to current minimum weight and the sail within current measurement rules.

The winners?  Mike Parsons was the overall and Gen II division champ, followed by Joe Bousquet and Pete Zseleczky.  The order in Gen I was Walt Collins, Sam Moncla and Bob Patterson.  The Vintage division winner was Gary Gowans, followed by John Zseleczky and Don Janeway, Walt took the Founder's Award (oldest competitor) and Sam Moncla was the top Junior sailor.  So, that's a wrap on this year's Nats.