Sunday, August 17, 2014

More about Magnificent Wheeler Yachts

You may recall that during our July trip to Nantucket I had the pleasure of connecting with Gene Wheeler, the son of one of the brothers that owned the Wheeler Shipyard. As a result of that discussion, Gene had the family search their records for photographs on the two Wheelers that I had worked on as a kid, the 50 foot and 65 foot Randy Boatshu owned by Bob Cohen of the Randolph Manufacturing Company.

Gene was unable to find photos of Bob Cohen's yachts but he came close with excerpts from Wheeler brochures and plans for the 65 Promenade Deck Sportfishing Yacht.

The photo below is of the yacht Fram, which was a sistership to the Randy Boatshu.  I actually saw this vessel during my circa 1960 visit to Nantucket on the Randy Boatshu.

The brochure photos brought back memories.  That said, I was surprised at how little I actually remembered beyond the boat's magnificent lines and some interior features.

Master stateroom looking forward (companionway to starboard)

Master Stateroom looking aft
65 salon looking aft
Left  ro right: Companionway to promenade deck and accommodations

The spacious promenade deck
Here are some statistic on the 65 Promenade Deck Sport Fishing Yacht:
  • Length Overall: 64' 10"
  • Beam: 16' 6"
  • Draft: 5'
  • Power: 2 GM 6-110 200 HP diesels
  • Fuel Capacity: 600 gallons
  • Salon 14' by 10'
  • Galley 6' 6" by 7' wide with refrigerator and stove
  • Dinette 6' 6" by 7' wide with seating for 8
  • Master Staterooms: 8' 6" long 16 feet wide with bunks on each side and 2 hanging lockers
  • Guest Staterooms: Two 6' 9" long 7' wide with two bunks each
  • Heads: 2
  • Crew Quarters: 3 bunks with head
What was interesting is how different a 63 foot modern semi-displacement trawler is from one built 50 years ago.  While our Outer Reef is somewhat similar in basic dimensions (63 LOA, 17 beam, 5 draft, two 503 HP diesels and 1300 gallons of fuel), her utilization of space is radically different, which I suspect speaks to how people used yachts of this size at the time.  Several things just jump out:
  • Crew quarters for three
  • Separate beds in the master with bunks elsewhere (sailboat mentality?)
  • The large open promenade deck (speaks to afternoon cruises in lovely weather)
  • The provision for a small light-weight dingy launched by manpower (and no davit)
  • Small galley (anticipates use by crew)
  • No stabilization (no surprise, all that was available was flopper stoppers)
In fact, in my case, the things that "jump out" of the specifications are consistent with my memory of how the Randy Boatshu (65 and 50) were used.  We entertained shoe buyers with frequent evening cruises and some weekend cruises to places like Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Falmouth etc..  I suspect the Cohens did not live aboard while the boat was in Florida but rather continued to use her in the same way.

As to the 50, it appears she was actually a 52 Promenade.  Captain Lester Glawson had always referred to the first boat as "the 50"  and that's how I knew her.  Gene sent me brochure photos of two versions, one a flush deck and the other with a cockpit.  I think Cohen's was the cockpit version but I cannot be absolutely sure.  Memory does have it limitations.

52 Promenade flush deck with large outside deck
52 Promenade Yacht with Cocpit
I also found this photo on line of the 52 Wheeler Promenade Cockpit Motor Yacht.  My best recollection suggests Cohen's 52 was the cockpit version.  See photo below.

Photo of the 52 Promenade found on line
Fast story: We regularly cruised the 50 to Cohasset Harbor where we treated shoe buyers to dinner at Hugo's Lighthouse (today's Atlantica).  On one trip I attempted to jump onto the dock when the "local" seemed not to have clue as to how to secure the lines.  Unfortunately, I forgot to unfasten the wire safety and as a result tripped over it and fell into the water.  The "local" while not good with lines was great at rescue.  He pulled me out so fast I barely got my wallet wet.  Dinner was great even though I was a bit wet.

Thanks again to Gene Wheeler for the journey back to memory lane.

Written by Les.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Boston Adventures: A Trip into the Past

When Diana proposed a Saturday afternoon trip to visit the Larz Anderson Automobile Museum in Brookline I immediately said YES!

Notwithstanding the fact that I love car museums, this one in particular brings back strong memories from my growing up years.  When I was around 8 years old I started working at my father's drug store in Roxbury and would drive to work with him from our home in Newton.
Our home in Newton, Mass
Our route took us past the Larz Anderson Estate.  I remember visiting the museum and attending car shows on the grounds. However, its been over 55 years since my last visit.

Larz Anderson Auto Museum entrance

View of the museum, the former coach house
The museum (photo above) is located in what was the stables and what later became the coach house. The building is impressive.  The main house was torn down in 1950.  From the photo it appears to have been located on the hill atop the estate with I suspect a magnificent view of Boston.

Photo of the Anderson mansion
This of course begs the question: Who was Larz Anderson?  Wikipedia classifies him as a wealthy American businessman who served as Ambassador to Belgium and then briefly (13 days) to Japan at the end of the Taft Administration.  Born in France to wealthy parents from Cincinnati in 1866, he went on to marry Isabel Weld Perkins (1897), the heir to estate of William Fletcher Weld, a Boston shipping magnate.  At age 5 she inherited $17,000,000 ($400 million today) making her the wealthiest woman in America.  Both families have relatives who were prominent in the American Revolution.

Isabel willed the 64 acre estate to the Town of Brookline upon her death in 1948.

Look to the west from the museum

Looking north to Boston from the top of the hill
Now to the museum.  While I will let the photos do most of talking I want to speak to what made this museum unique.  The museum bills itself as "America's Oldest Car Collection" and today houses 19 of the 32 vehicles purchased by the Andersons.

These are stored on the ground floor and in all cases are not restored.  They are in the condition that they were at the time of their retirement to the carriage house.  I queried the docent, John, as to why these valuable cars were not restored.  He explained that the museum, a non profit, does not have the funds needed to do restorations (literally millions) and that the vehicles are used for historical research. He also explained why many are painted grey.  Larz Anderson had his staff (which once numbered over 200) paint them so they would not look so "grand."

The museum was open to the public in 1927. It has some of the most readable and interesting descriptions of the vehicles and artifacts that I've ever seen.

Docent John poses for a photo
Turn of the century oil cabinet common to wealthy car owners
Early vehicles used considerable amounts of oil
Antique gas pump with 17 9/10ths gas price

Speaking of memories.  Notice the price of 17 9/10ths cents on the antique gas pump.  I actually remember paying 16 cents a gallon back in 1959.  The time value of 17 cents is $4.09 today.  So the gas I purchased yesterday for $3.59 was a relative bargain.

1907 Fiat

Original Anderson vehicles painted grey

1918 Packard Twin Six in the "garage"

1903 Gardner-Serpollet
1905 Electromobile
The display at street level as you walk into the museum is completely different.  Here you find beautifully restored vehicles many of which are on loan to the museum set in context with fashion and events of the time.

The car on the left is a 1938 Packard 12 Custom Landaulette once owned by Isabel Anderson

Amazingly interesting vehicle information
Model T Ford

Antique bench that formerly resided in an early car dealership

Early electric car

Modern electric car
Fisker Karrma, the world's first PRODUCTION plug-in electric automobile
Why is a new 2012 Fisker Karma on display here?  Well it turns out that production was suspended in November 2012 due to financial difficulties with about 2,450 Karmas built since 2011.  We were told that the owner donated it due to his inability to get service.

And of course, Kodi, our official Social Director, made new friends.

Diana and Kodi chat with new friends
They hold car rallies at the museum on weekends.  Below is a schedule of events.

Written by Les.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mixing Business with Pleasure - Side Trips to Marblehead & Swampscott

Two side trips, one to Marblehead and one to Swampscott, were facilitated by Diana having brought the car up to Salem.  The first was to Marblehead on Tuesday afternoon.

The Taurus parked in the historic district

Marblehead Historic District

Marblehead Old Meeting House in the historic district
Marblehead Massachusetts, settled in 1626, is an upscale residential community of 20,000 just north of Boston. According to Wikipedia, Marblehead has its roots in fishing, yachting and is considered the birthplace of the American Navy.

Marblehead Harbor viewed from Marblehead Light looking southwest toward Boston
The first vessel commission for the newly formed American Navy, the Hannah, was crewed by men from Marblehead.  Marblehead men ferried George Washington across the Delaware River for his attack on Trenton and the town lost a good portion of the men who fought in the Revolutionary War.  In the first census of 1790 it was the tenth largest inhabited location in the US.

Fishing, its primary industry, declined after a storm of hurricane force off the Grand Backs destroyed 11 of 98 fishing vessels and killed 65 residents.  In the 19th century the city enjoyed a short term boom in the shoe making industry.  During that time the exceptional harbor attracted yachting and yacht clubs and that culture still exists today.

According to, the median income is $106,000 as compared to the state of Massachusetts at $65,000.  The median house/condo value is $553,321 as compared to the Mass average of $324,000.  This is a wealth community with very impressive yacht clubs.

We pose for a photo at Marblehead Light

The very impressive Corinthian Yacht Club (viewed from Marblehead Light)

Stone walls with pointed stones were ubiquitous

Most properties along the water were hidden behind stone walls and foliage

A very nice house viewed from the Corinthian Yacht Club

More nice homes along the shore

The Corinthian Yacht Club founded in 1885

The Boston Yacht Club

Old houses close to the water
Both the Corinthian and Boston yacht clubs were very large (as compared to others we've seen in our journey) and do no not have slips.  Members reach their moored boats via launches run by the clubs.  We sat at the Boston Yacht Club and watched the two 30 foot launches that were running that day.  The launch operators displayed amazing boat handling skills as the whisked members to and from their boats.

There are over 3,000 moored boats in Marblehead Harbor with about 1,600 people on the waiting list for a mooring.  Their are very few slips.  I can recall my sister waiting years for a 30 foot mooring in Cohasset Harbor.  Slips and moorings seem to be at a premium in the Boston area.

Our next visit was to Swampscott, about four miles south of Salem.  This is also an upscale residential community although not as impressive as Marblehead (median income at $94,633, median home value at $404,000). The Mary Baker Eddy Historic House is one of its two attractions and we decided to pay it a visit.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science lived in this home from 1865 to 1866. During this short stay she had the epiphany that led her to write her book, Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures, which led to the founding of Christian Science Publishing Society in 1898.  The Society still publishes the Christian Science Monitor.

Note: My Uncle, Irving Thurman, worked for the Christian Science Monitor in the 50s as a typesetter.  I remember to this day the tour of the the printing facility in Boston and in particular the Linotype he produced with my name set in type.

While her stay at this property was very short, essentially she rented three rooms, it was here that she had the experience that resulted in the book and ultimately the creation of a new religion.  The story as told by our docent, Mary, was that Mary Patterson (her name at the time) slipped on ice in Lynn Massachusetts injuring her spine.  Her physician, Alvin M. Cushing, is said to have declared that she was terminal and that there was no hope.  She subsequently made a miraculous recovery after reading a passage in the bible.  I'll let Mary tell her own story:

"On the third day thereafter, I called for my Bible, and opened it at Matthew, 9:2 [And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.(King James Bible) ]. As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I arose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed. That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence"

Note: Her physician, Alvin M. Cushing ultimately testified under oath in regard to a lawsuit she filed against the City of Lynn that the he "did not at any time declare or believe, that there was no hope for Mrs. Patterson's recovery, or that she was in critical condition."

In any case, (according to our docent) she spend the next seven years devoted to biblical study and what she considered the discovery of Christian Science.  Again in her own words: "It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in his healing."

According to Wikipedia there are approximately 1,000 congregations of which 900 are in the US; Membership is said to be approximately 85,000 worldwide.
Mary Baker Eddy Historic House viewed from Paradise Street

A photo of the house from the late 1th century

Mary, Our docent poses in the dry kitchen used by Mary Baker Eddy
Water was hauled up one story from the well

Bedroom of Mary Baker Eddy
Notice the chamber pot at the foot of the bed

Mary Baker Eddy Historical House viewed from its side
After our visit to Swampscott we returned to the boat and found that the maintenance project was close to completion.  As a result, I was able to depart Pickering Wharf at 3:50 PM.  My solo cruise back to Hingham was almost a carbon copy of the trip up to Salem they day before.  Calm winds with flat seas. The only difference was perfect visibility.

I arrived in Hingham at 6:30 PM and was met by Diana who had just arrived.  She had departed Salem 10 minutes before I did.  The 28.3 mile trip had taken her almost three hours thanks to Boston Traffic.  My 22 nautical mile cruise (25 statute miles) had taken only 2 hours and 50 minutes (at an average speed of 8.0 knots).

Docking single handed was easy.  I pulled into the slip and held the boat in place while Diana boarded via the swim platform.  She then grabbed the lines from the dock caddies and placed them on the cleats.

Bottom line: A fun trip that allowed us to accomplish an important maintenance project without incurring perhaps as much as $800 of travel expense.

Written by Les.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mixing Business with Pleasure - Cruise to Salem Mass

The Caterpillar engines were due for their first 250 preventive maintenance service and the question arose as to where the service would be performed.  Location became an issue due to the scope of the service, which includes a valve adjustment and torquing the injector bolts. Hansen Marine, Caterpillar's AMV (Authorized Marine Vendor), estimated two days for the extensive requirements. Since they charge time and mileage from their location in Marblehead to the boat at Hingham Shipyard and would have to go through Boston traffic four times at rush hour (easily 2 hours each way), the travel expense would easily exceed $600 and could run higher.  Further, travel expense would be incurred if they if they had to return to the shop for parts.

This known travel expense and the possibility of unexpected travel expense made the decision to bring the boat to them easy.  The next challenge was finding a dockage.  Marblehead was booked solid so we opted for Salem, a fast 15 minutes from Hansen's base with dockage at Pickering Wharf for one night at $209. Fuel burn at 40 gallons round trip ($160) would bring the total cost to $369.  A savings of $231 at the low end travel estimate and potentially a big saving with Boston traffic.

We scheduled the service for Tuesday August 5, which turned out to coincide with the arrival of Hurricane Bertha.

Next challenge: Getting the boat to Salem.  Here too there was a question as to how to do it.  Options: Diana and I cruise to Salem or I cruise solo and Diana arrives by car.  We chose the latter as the 63 is extremely well set-up for single handed operation and having the car would permit a side trips.

Explanatory Note - Single Handed Operation.  The combination of the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters along with the Glendenning remote control making docking easy.  The wide walk-around decks with high bulwarks facilitate deploying fenders and setting up lines in complete safty while underway.  As long as we have help on the dock we are golden.  In today's case, Diana disconnected the lines at our slip and both Diana and Pickering's dockmaster were available when I arrived in Salem.

I departed Hingham at 5:35 AM and headed northwest for Hull Gut and caught a beautiful sunrise. Then continued west crossing Nantasket Roads with a right turn at Georges's Island to link up with President Roads, the main channel heading northeast.

Sunrise between Bumpkin and Grape Islands
Hurricane Bertha, now a tropical storm, was not an issue.  She very conveniently turned northeast off Cape Hatteras and began heading out to sea.  She was expected to pass 300 miles east of Nantucket (notice the track in the photo below) posing no threat to marine interests.  Beyond that, the forecast for the Boston area said it would be sunny with a 20% chance of a thundershower later in the day.

Tropical Storm Bertha off of Cape Hatteras on Tuesday morning
Winds were light, seas were flat and visibility was 3 to 5 miles despite the haze. I passed Marblehead Light at 7:37 AM, entered Salem Harbor at 8:00 and was secured to the dock at Pickering Wharf by 8:20.  What a perfect morning.

Marblehead Light - a bit hazy

Channel to downtown Salem and Pickering Wharf

Historic sailing vessel
The technicians from Hansen arrived at 9:05 AM and went to work.  I spent the morning learning how to change engine oil and filters (oil filter, engine fuel filter and Racor 30 micron filters).

Guided Discovery at Pickering Wharf

Pickering Wharf with restaurant and condos in downtown Salem
Note: We visited Salem in September of 2011 while on the Great Loop.  See that article for additional photos details on the historic sights.

Written by Les.