Thursday, August 22, 2019

Charlie Fuller's last Moth resurfaces

Long time readers of this blog may recall my mention of Clayton Fuller's older brother Charlie.  Clayton and Charlie grew up in south Florida and knew the well known Moth Boat builder Harry Cates.  Charlie Fuller built several Moths including a Bill Lee Mint design which he built in Harry Cates' backyard, no doubt with Cates supervising the project.  That story is summarized here.

Before he passed away in 2014, Clayton sent me a Moth sail carrying number 1581 and a photo of his brother rigging the Moth in question:

Charlie Fuller rigging his Mint design Moth Boat some time in the mid-1950s.
Clayton was certain that the sail belonged to his brother's last boat, but he couldn't recall what exactly had become of the boat.  Perhaps that one was the one swept away when hurricane Carol battered Cape Cod where the brothers were living at that time.  I looked in the surviving Moth class records and found Charlie's name associated with an earlier boat, Nr 1296.  I assumed that 1296 was not a Mint design since Bill Lee's original boat, (named Mint), is Nr 1335.  Further complicating matters is that I have a period photo showing a completely different Moth sporting a sail with the number 1581.

This Moth, sort of a scaled down Thistle or perhaps International 14 shape is obviously not the same boat as the one in the first photo. Note the open, deck-less hull.

But, somehow, Clayton had a sail with Nr 1581 and a fuzzy recollection of what had happened to his brother's last boat.  At the time I didn't pursue this riddle any further.  But wait, now there's more to this story.

I was contacted by Steven Penny of the Massachusetts Bay Open Water Rowing club.

The MBOW races rowing gigs in open waters.  Steve indicated that his club had recently acquired the boats from a similar ocean rowing club in Connecticut which was disbanding.  A Moth, pictured below, was included along with the ocean rowing gigs:

Compare this and the following photos with the photo of Charlie Fuller rigging his boat, above.

Looks like the same boat to me!

Although missing her mast and boom, the boat came with an old cotton sail with the circle-M insignia but with the number 1296, which was the number of what I thought was an earlier Moth Boat built by Charlie.  

The dagger board also had 1296 carved into the top of the blade.  Both the sail and the blade could have been transferred from his earlier boat.  But how to explain the sail with number 1581?

Here is the boat in the basement where she was stored.  The house is for sale and the rowing club will soon lose storage space.

We had to turn the boat sideways to sneak her up those concrete steps.

Here are a couple of pix to show off her lines.

The main problem for me accepting 1296 as the actual number for this boat is that Bill Lee, the designer of this particular Moth shape was issued Nr 1335 for his Moth, named Mint.  Mint was the very first of this design to be built.  Explanations for this quandary are:  (1). This is actually Moth Nr 1296. The fact that the boat has an earlier number than Mint might be that Charlie bought his number but then delayed in building a boat until after Mint was finished;  (2). an alternative explanation is that this is boat Nr 1581 and that the earlier numbered sail and blade were transferred from his earlier boat and that Charlie later purchased a new sail (the one I received from his brother Clayton) with the correct number.  But, how then do I explain the photo of the "Thistle" shaped Moth carrying a sail with the same 1581?  Did Charlie loan them his sail for the day during which the photo was taken?  Sadly, I may never know since all the folks who knew the right answer are no longer with us.  Additionally, I would tend to dispute Clayton's notion that this boat was swept away in a hurricane.  She's lightly built from 1/8" plywood and is in too good of condition for an event like that to be part of her back story.  Perhaps it was one of Charlie's earlier Moths which met that fate.  Perhaps Nr 1296?  A final unanswered question is what happened to the spars?

Mint's number is carved into her keel.

Another photo of Mint.

Anyway, since returning home from Cape Cod I've been putzing with an old mast in my junque collection to see if I can get this boat back on the water for perhaps the first time in decades.  I also found that an old blue deck cover from an earlier boat more or less fits this one--bonus!
The stays on the old mast were just the right length.  I still need to add sail shape controls, lines and other odds and ends.  Stay tuned.