SAILBOATS

Soundings - - Contents -

It takes crafts­man­ship and mas­tery to re­pro­duce a clas­sic Nathanael Her­reshoff de­sign. Doris is in David Snediker’s ca­pa­ble hands.

Few ob­jects beg hu­mans to love and pre­serve them as strongly as a wooden boat. Wooden boats built in the tra­di­tional plank-on-frame style are mag­i­cal, in part be­cause the ma­te­ri­als were once alive and seem to im­bue the struc­ture with traces of soul. Plank- on- frame boats breathe, re­spond sig­nif­i­cantly to changes in hu­mid­ity, talk to us when we stress them. They also earn an ex­tended fam­ily of for­mer own­ers, crewmem­bers, boat­yard work­ers and jour­nal­ists.

If a de­crepit wooden boat was de­signed by Nathanael Greene Her­reshoff and built by Her­reshoff Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co. of Bris­tol, Rhode Is­land, the ded­i­ca­tion to her care and feed­ing in­creases by an or­der of mag­ni­tude. Doris is a per­fect ex­am­ple.

Her­reshoff drew this 78-footer in 1904 for S. Reed An­thony, a banker and bro­ker from Bos­ton. An­thony paid $18,000 (about $467,000 to­day). “Capt. Nat” based Doris on lines from the half-model of Pe­trel, hull No. 510, built in 1899. In the HMCo. off­set book for Pe­trel, a note says that Her­reshoff in­creased all of the width mea­sure­ments by a fac­tor of 17/16, us­ing a scale rule that showed 1 foot as be­ing 12 ¾ inches. He also changed the an­gle of the stern­post to stretch the wa­ter­line length a lit­tle. These mod­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired new plans, pat­terns and sta­tion molds. He also gave Doris a top­sail gaff cut­ter rig in­stead of Pe­trel’s gaff yawl.

Doris lived a full life from the time An­thony took de­liv­ery in 1905. Af­ter the ups and downs of her 112 years and 14 own­ers, she’s now in the lov­ing and skill­ful hands of Snediker Yacht Restora­tion in Paw­catuck, Con­necti­cut, and likely will cel­e­brate a re­birth in four or five years.

“I re­mem­ber the day I saw her,” re­calls Doris’ 10th owner, Jac­ques Thiry. “She was a mag­nif­i­cent sight out in the dis­tance. … I saw her from the pier. She was beau­ti­ful, a very strik­ing boat, float­ing high up in the wa­ter.”

At that time, she wore the name Vayu, and her in­te­rior had been re­moved and re­placed with hay — in other words, kin­dling. She was go­ing to be towed to deep wa­ter, set on fire and scut­tled. “I couldn’t imag­ine the loss of such a beau­ti­ful yacht and wanted to save her,” Thiry says. He bought her and at­tempted to or­ga­nize a vol­un­teer ef­fort to re­store her.

Like an un­lucky fos­ter child, Doris couldn’t catch a break. She fell on harder times in 1983. David S. Reve­naugh, her 11th owner, kept her in Deep River, Con­necti­cut, listed her on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 1984 and dreamed of restor­ing her. The 12th owner had the same dream, but af­ter he re­al­ized that the ex­pense and ef­fort of sav­ing Doris were beyond him, he

aban­doned her at Crocker’s Boat­yard in New Lon­don, Con­necti­cut. On the verge of ex­e­cu­tion by chain­saw,

Doris found her cur­rent owner in 2013. The owner ( who wishes to re­main anony­mous) placed her in the lov­ing and skill­ful hands of the Snediker yard’s crafts­men. “Of all the Amer­i­can yachts left to re­store, she’s one of the great­est,” says David Snediker, owner of the boat­yard. “Very ex­cit­ing.”

A project of this mag­ni­tude on a yacht as old as Doris de­mands care­ful re­search and a high level of em­pa­thy with the de­signer’s and builder’s modus operandi. Snediker’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a builder at Mys­tic Sea­port nur­tured his ap­proach. “In the restora­tion world,” he says, “there can never be no boat and there can never be two boats, so you have to re­store the en­ve­lope of space, work within the old fab­ric.” Luck­ily for Snediker, he can draw on reams of doc­u­men­ta­tion at the Fran­cis Rus­sell Hart Nau­ti­cal Mu­seum at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Cam­bridge. He has ac­cess to ev­ery de­tail of the orig­i­nal con­struc­tion, right down to draw­ings of the hinges and latches, all of which the mu­seum num­bered and cat­a­loged.

Snediker’s ded­i­ca­tion to ac­cu­racy shows in the method of loft­ing. Tak­ing lines off the orig­i­nal was im­pos­si­ble be­cause she had so badly de­te­ri­o­rated. A com­mon and rea­son­ably quick way to en­sure that the newly con­structed boat will be fair is to en­ter the lines and off­sets into a com­puter-aided de­sign pro­gram.

“In or­der to fair all the draw­ings,” Snediker says, “those pro­grams work in a cloud of data points ar­ranged in a net.” If the lofts­man wants to move one of those points to cor­rect a line, he must move about a thou­sand. Although he’ll get a very fair shape, it dif­fers from the shape pro­duced by loft­ing in the tra­di­tional ana­log method, with bat­tens and pen­cil on the floor. “We didn’t want to de­part from the in­tended shape,” he says, “so we did it old school.”

Snediker will use all of the ma­te­ri­als that HMCo. used in 1905, sub­sti­tut­ing only when he must. The new Doris will have a sin­gle course of 1¾-inch lon­gleaf yel­low pine plank­ing be­low the wa­ter­line, dou­ble-planked 7/8inch yel­low pine on the ex­te­rior and ¾-inch cy­press on the in­te­rior for the top­sides, plus steam-bent white oak frames of 2-7/8 inches by 3 inches spaced 15 inches apart.

Doris’ owner plans to keep her sim­ple: no air con­di­tion­ing, fancy elec­tron­ics and such. He also plans to race her in clas­sic-yacht re­gat­tas.

“The in­ten­tion is to pro­duce a mu­se­umqual­ity re­pro­duc­tion of the boat,” Snediker says. “She’ll be clas­si­fied as a restora­tion be­cause we have the orig­i­nal boat.”

Doris was a mag­nif­i­cent sight un­der sail in her hey­day.

Doris was moved to David Snediker’s boat­yard in Septem­ber 2014.

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