Category Archives: Classic Boats

We Didn’t Build Bird Houses In Our Shop Classes

Back when I was in high school we were required to take what today would probably be termed “life skill” classes. The girls took “Home Ec.” classes where they learned cooking and sewing. Some of the girls also took secretarial classes where they learned typing and shorthand.

Boys never took those courses though they should have been required to take typing because there was a lot of that to be done when they went away to college. No, instead we took “shop” classes where we were supposed to learn how to use tools and how to build things.

I suppose in most schools young boys learned how to build bird houses.

And if they were really skilled and adventurous they might have tried to tackle something like this…

But we who went to Orleans High School, later to become Nauset Regional High School in my senior year, weren’t content to build bird houses. Instead, we built THIS

The Sea Explorer Ship Nauset, a 42-foot ketch.

The seed of the idea was germinated in 1954 when the Sea Scouts rowed two boats from Orleans to Nantucket.  It was documented by Life Magazine in their May 17th issue:

Supposedly when interviewed about their exploit one of the crew members said the next time they came to Nantucket they wanted to sail there.

Thanks to my brother Jeff for sending me to this story in an old issue of Boy’s Life Magazine from July 1961. The story starts on Page 15 and is continued on Page 46.
Not only did I help build the boat but I was, of course, at the launching and on the maiden voyage. But that wasn’t the last I saw of the valiant SES Nauset. In the fall of 1987 while taking the Christiana, a 47-foot Grebe motor yacht from Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I would wrap up the restoration job I’d undertaken on her, I was wending my way through the Waccamaw cypress swamp on the Intracoastal Waterway  north of Charleston, SC, when I came upon a sailboat headed in the same direction. Her masts were on deck and she was being pushed along by an outboard motor attached to its transom on a bracket. As I drew up astern I saw the name board that read, SES Nauset. I pulled up alongside and throttled back to keep pace with the old lady and said to the young man at the tiller, “You might not believe this, but I helped build your boat.”

She was long past her prime and you could practically smell the rot in her as cruised side by side in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful spots on the whole ICW for ten minutes or so. The young man had big plans of restoring her and going off on grand adventures. But he was simply another of the tens of thousands of dreamers who are living proof that nearly everyone has a dream that won’t pan out. I wished him well, nevertheless and continued on my way. That’s the last I ever saw or heard of the boat again.

The Sea Explorer group is still thriving and has been integrated with the girl’s group known as Mariners back when I was a kid, but you wouldn’t expect any less from kids whose town is only 4-1/2 miles of sand between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay.

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It’s GOOD To Be The Captain

“Walk the plank,” says Pirate Jim.

“But Capt. Jim, I cannot swim.”

“Then you must steer us through the gale.”

“But Capt. Jim, I cannot sail.”

“Then down with the galley slaves you go.”

“But Capt. Jim, I cannot row.”

“Then you must be the pirate’s clerk.”

“But Capt. Jim I cannot work.”

“Then a pirate captain you must be.”

“Thank you, Jim,” says Capt. me.

Shel Silverstein

But it SUCKS to be the crew!

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Dylan Winter Scores Again

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything by the video blogger Dylan Winter. I enjoy his short films about sailing around Britain in a 19′ boat and his shots of classic and working watercraft on his voyage. Also a passion of mine. In this contribution of Dylan’s he gets to ride in a West Mersea Winkle Brig (isn’t that a wonderful name for a class of boat?). This boat is a plasticized version of the old working boats. One of the things I especially like about this is the balanced lug , an old rig I find both beautiful and have done a lot of reading on. My next sailboat will be fitted with one.

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New Dylan Winter Web Site

As readers of this blog know, I have featured quite a few of Dylan Winter’s videos of his trip around England in his 19 foot boat. I have also been fortunate to have been in sporadic email correspondence with Mr. Winter who has not only done his bit on the water, but once bought a couple of horses and trekked across much of the western part of the United States with them.

Recently he sent me an email telling me he had a new web site: and asked me for my opinion on how it worked. Well, as with everything I’ve seen from this gentleman, it’s superb, and well worth the time for any of my readers to spend their time on clicking and viewing his work.

I especially like the videos that feature the different boats found over there. So many of them reflect the long nautical tradition of England and are either restored working craft of boats patterned after long-established designs.

This is a great place to spend a cold wintry afternoon or an evening when those three hundred channels on the telly have absolutely nothing worth watching. Dylan Winter’s videos certainly are worth the time.

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Small Boat Blog

Interested in small boat sailing as I am? Here’s a good site I stumbled upon today:

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Classic Dutch Sailboat

In the City of Dania (recently officially changed to Dania Beach), south of Fort Lauderdale, there is a boat yard tucked away off of the Dania Cutoff Canal. For years the yard was a haven for dozens of abandoned, or nearly abandoned, boats. A couple of months ago I decided to take a trip to the yard to see if there were any bargains I could snap up and was surprised that new management had taken over and all the old trash had been swept away.

While primarily filled with floating Clorox bottles one jewel stands out and would be noticed in any marina or boatyard here in the States.


Named Neeltje, the boat was built in Holland in 1901! According to the yard manager the boat was originally built to haul manure but converted to yacht condition with the addition of the trunk cabin in the 1950s.The manager said that the boat had once been owned by Dan Rowan where he kept it on the Seine, in Paris for 20 years and was his hideaway when Rowan visited France. The boat came to the US in the 80s. The current owners have done a major refit of the boat and it will soon be moved to Key West where it will be offered as a Bed & Breakfast lodging.

Below decks there is a nice galley, a large saloon and two staterooms. Though I was allowed to go below it was all fairly ordinary and I didn’t take any pictures. But it’s the topsides where this boat really shines.


The Massive Rudder


The Tiller Was Truncated When Wheel Steering Was Added


Cabin Companionway

Cabin Entrance

Twin Sheave Block

Twin Sheeve Block

The Leeboards Are Huge


Varnished Mast


Mast Tabernacle


Pin Rail

Pin Rail

Original Hand-Powered Winch


Winch Side

Of course the dinghy for such a fine boat has to follow suit:

Dinghy Bow

Dinghy Stern

Dinghy Builder

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A William Fife Wonder

William Fife (1857-1944) was the third generation of a Scottish family of yacht designers and builders. In his career he built two America’s Cup challengers for Sir Thomas Lipton (yes, that Lipton). Fife’s designs were not only fast racers they were works of functional sculpture. The following video shows how beautiful a Fife boat is from the hands of modern builders. The narration is in French (a people who honestly believe they invented wind and water about a decade before the birth of God) but the visuals are wonderful.

Thanks to Alan Richards that featured the video which came from

Both sites are well worth visiting.

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Gaffers and Smacks

Another wonderful Dylan Winter video of classic working boats in Great Britian.

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Thames Sailing Barge Races

For those of us who love indigenous working craft we have Dylan Winter to thank for this wonderful video of the iconic Thames Sailing Barges racing on the Medway. Great spreads of sail, ultra-long bowsprits, huge transom-mounted rudders. . .ahh.

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Gaffers and Smacks

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted anything of Dylan Winter’s vids of his travels around England in his 19′ sailboat. What I’ve found especially fascinating in his series are the classic and work boats he’s documented. This is his episode 26…

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