SAV­ING SINDBAD

A sur­veyor sug­gested the scrap­yard for an ice-class trawler from Nor­way, but the owner re­stored her any­way, in trib­ute to his fa­ther

Soundings - - Contents - By Mike Smith

Based on a North Sea trawler and built of steel and alu­minum in 1962, Sindbad was made to cross oceans. Fifty-six years later, she’s been given a makeover.

In 1962, the Bea­tles re­leased their first sin­gle, “Love Me Do.” John Glenn be­came the first Amer­i­can to or­bit the Earth. The Tel­star satel­lite beamed the first live tele­vi­sion sig­nal across the At­lantic. Also cross­ing the At­lantic in 1962 was the brand­new yacht Sindbad, mak­ing the first pas­sage of a voy­age that’s still un­der­way 56 years later. This past sum­mer, Sindbad was re­launched at Front Street Ship­yard in Belfast, Maine, af­ter an 18-month re­fit.

Based on the hull of a North Sea trawler and built of steel and alu­minum in Nor­way to en­dure icy con­di­tions in the North At­lantic and Arc­tic oceans, Sindbad was one of the first yachts to be launched by Roms­dal Ship­builders. In the 1960s, Roms­dal was based in the United States at Peter Var­ney’s Lido Yacht Sales in New­port Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. Ap­par­ently, Var­ney felt that rugged, go-any­where ves­sels were just what yachts­men needed on the Pa­cific Ocean. His ad in the Jan­uary 1962 is­sue of Sea and Pa­cific Mo­tor Boat shows pro­file draw­ings of four North Sea trawlers from 52 to 97 feet. (Roms­dal built a 37-footer, too.) One was the 80-foot Sindbad.

Var­ney was still run­ning Roms­dal ads sev­eral years later, and at that time, 20-plus Roms­dal yachts were built at Nor­way ship­yards.

Sindbad was de­signed and built at the Eidsvik yard at Uskedalen, about 50 miles south­east of Ber­gen, on the Har­dan­ger Fjord. The yard pro­duced mostly fish­ing and com­mer­cial boats, with only two

yachts, Sindbad and a sail­ing ves­sel, listed in its post-World War II build records. This trawler was the only ves­sel Eidsvik built for Roms­dal. Most of the Roms­dals sold in the United States were de­liv­ered on their own bot­toms, as was Sindbad, and many are still sail­ing to­day. The pas­sage from Ber­gen to New­port Beach is about 7,800 nau­ti­cal miles—a good shake­down cruise for any new boat.

Now in her sixth decade, and af­ter many own­ers, Sindbad is not much dif­fer­ent in gen­eral ap­pear­ance than she was in 1962. The most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence is the loss of her fore and aft masts, used pri­mar­ily for han­dling small boats and string­ing ra­dio an­ten­nas. To­day, there’s a hy­draulic davit serv­ing the boat deck. A taller, more stylish mast has re­placed her squat stack, with ex­hausts in­side and radar scan­ners and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­vices mounted out­side. But many unseen de­tails have changed over the years, and the most in­ter­est­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions oc­curred once the Reilly fam­ily took own­er­ship of the boat.

John Har­vey Reilly Jr. bought and re­fit Sindbad in the early 1990s. His busi­ness was re­frig­er­a­tion (his fa­ther, J.H. Reilly Sr., founded United Re­frig­er­a­tion in Philadel­phia in 1947), but his real love was boats and cruis­ing. He owned Sindbad for about 20 years and en­joyed “ex­per­i­ment­ing” with things on board, ac­cord­ing to Front Street Ship­yard Pres­i­dent JB Turner.

Most of Reilly’s ef­forts worked, but some didn’t. How­ever, one thing Reilly did that makes him more than just a tin­kerer was this: He de­signed an ef­fec­tive bulb for Sindbad’s bow, some­thing that’s tricky for even a trained naval ar­chi­tect.

A bulb projects for­ward of the ves­sel, be­low the wa­ter­line at the stem, and acts like a minia­ture hull, gen­er­at­ing its own waves that in­ter­act with and re­duce the size of the ship’s bow wave, low­er­ing re­sis­tance. The bulb has to be shaped just right for the speed of the ves­sel—in the case of Sindbad, for her cruise speed of 8 to 9 knots. Bul­bous bows add ef­fi­ciency to long-range ves­sels that op­er­ate at a mostly con­stant speed, usu­ally re­duc­ing fuel burn by as much as 10 to 15 per­cent. De­vi­at­ing from the de­sign speed turns the bulb into, lit­er­ally, a drag.

Un­less a yacht will be used for con­stant pas­sage-mak­ing, the cost of de­sign­ing, build­ing and in­stalling a bulb on an ex­ist­ing ves­sel, ver­sus the sav­ings in fuel, is more than a typ­i­cal owner would un­der­take. But John H. Reilly, Jr. was not your typ­i­cal owner. He de­signed a bulb, had it built and welded on, and then found that it didn’t work. So, he de­signed and built an­other; that one didn’t work, ei­ther. The third time, though, was the charm: The boat’s cur­rent bulb does ex­actly what it is sup­posed to do.

Reilly died in May 2012 while his other yacht, a 106-foot Burger, was in the mid­dle of a re­fit at Front Street Ship­yard. His son, John H. Reilly III, worked with the yard to fin­ish the job, then de­cided it was time for to get an up­date, too. There was rust­ing of the steel hull, es­pe­cially be­low the wa­ter­line and in the chain locker; cor­ro­sion of the alu­minum su­per­struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly un­der the teak caprails; and a need to re­pair or re­place al­most all of her sys­tems. Although the younger Reilly’s sur­veyor said not to spend a dime on the boat, sug­gest­ing the scrap­yard in­stead, Sindbad was his fa­ther’s boat. He wanted to fix her up. The younger Reilly asked Front Street to take on

Sindbad af­ter work on the Burger was com­plete. The Reilly fam­ily had se­lected this yard be­cause it had the right space, equip­ment and skilled staff for this type of project. Founded in 2011 on the site of a de­funct sar­dine fac­tory, it has enough in­door shop space to han­dle ves­sels up to 160 feet in length, and it’s equipped with 485-, 165- and 60ton hoists, along with a 30-ton hy­draulic crane. In 2016, the yard won the Re­fit Ex­cel­lence Award at the Re­fit In­ter­na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion & Con­fer­ence for up­grades to the 123-foot Palmer John­son Axia, an alu­minum sail­ing yacht built in 1990. Front Street also builds new yachts to 200 feet.

Sindbad stayed at Front Street for 18 months. Turner told Reilly the ves­sel’s con­di­tion wasn’t bad enough for the scrap heap, but the boat did have its prob­lems and it would need se­ri­ous work. The en­gine room, for in­stance, was in dire straits. Turner’s crew had to cut a hole in Sindbad’s side to re­move ev­ery­thing but the sin­gle Cater­pil­lar 3406 diesel. The gen­er­a­tors, wa­ter­maker, chillers for the air con­di­tion­ing, wir­ing and pip­ing all came out. The space was sand­blasted and re­painted; then new and re­paired sys­tems were

in­stalled. Some ma­chin­ery, in­clud­ing the wind­lass, was so old (or unique from cus­tom con­struc­tion) that Front Street’s ma­chine shop had to fab­ri­cate re­place­ment parts.

Sindbad orig­i­nally had twin Volvo Penta TMD96B diesels linked by rub­ber belts to a sin­gle pro­pel­ler shaft fit­ted with a Hun­dested con­trol­lable-pitch pro­pel­ler. Two en­gines were likely used to pro­vide re­dun­dancy for ocean pas­sage-mak­ing. (Fish­ing trawlers typ­i­cally have a sin­gle diesel with a con­trol­lable-pitch pro­pel­ler.) But at some point in the past half-cen­tury, the twin Volvos were swapped for the sin­gle Cat, leav­ing the con­trol­lable-pitch pro­pel­ler and the Hun­dested gear­box. Front Street’s tech­ni­cians re­placed the old driv­e­train with a con­ven­tional gear­box, a shaft and a four-blade, fixed-pitch prop fit­ted into a noz­zle to max­i­mize thrust and ma­neu­ver­abil­ity.

In the fi­nal stages of the re­fit Sindbad was fin­ished, keel to mast­head, with Alexseal coat­ings, but Reilly wanted to main­tain more of a work­boat look, so he asked the yard not to fill and fair the hull like a yacht’s. (That de­ci­sion would also save a lot of work hours.) Reilly also in­sisted that the in­te­rior re­ceive min­i­mal fan­cy­ing-up. He wanted

Sindbad to be a “guy’s boat,” Turner says. So, the Front Street crew cleaned up the gal­ley and re­placed the sole, but the join­ery stayed pretty much the same.

Since her re­launch­ing this past sum­mer, Sindbad has been cruis­ing be­tween New Eng­land and her home­port of Barnegat Light, New Jersey. She’s ex­pected to head south in the fall, bound for the Caribbean and more ocean ad­ven­tures.

JB Turner of Front Street Ship­yard

Sindbad’s ex­ten­sive re­fit took about 18 months.

Much of the boat’s ma­chin­ery, in­clud­ing parts for the wind­lass, had to be fab­ri­cated.

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