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November 13, 2008     Post 10
september boat fest

Building community (and business) with boats


The owners of the Pleasant Beach Restaurant, H. and Bonnie Scoville, have been messing with boats for decades. They've worked with kids and kayaks, they've sailed Drascombs and other beach boats, they once owned an elderly wooden schooner, and they've cruised the East Coast with their 36 foot cutter rigged Cape Dory yacht, the Crescent Moon. They know that boats, like food and drink, can cement friendships and build communities. So they decided to host a gathering of wooden boats at their waterfront restaurant located on Little Sodus Bay, southeast corner of Lake Ontario. They chose a mid September weekend, a time when activity in the little lakeside resort is dwindling down and the restaurant business has gotten slow enough to allow for a little leisure and some organizing time.

The Scovilles directed most of their energy into recruiting locals. They decided to try flushing out some the village's woodies that had been sitting unseen and unused in barns, garages, boat houses, and other dark places. Get it out. Show it off. Tell us its story, they said. And people did. They brought canoes, rowing skiffs, and small sailboats. A couple of cruisers showed up, too.

Edgar Denton contributed a sweet little double ended day sailor designed by Phil Bolger especially for his use along with his 22 square meter sloop built for the emperor of Annam in 1928. Lotus with a crew of Sea Scouts dropped by the restaurant dock for a brief visit and Ramsey's Dream, a home built Tahiti ketch, powered in from her hole in the wall harbor at the lake's east end thirty miles away. We who have sailed Fair Haven's waters and viewed its Sunday afternoon fleet of white fiberglass sloops out for a sail, were quite amazed at the variety of the turn out. The Scoville's recruited at least a dozen local wooden power boats, including two varnished mahogany runabouts from Ray Sant's boathouse, plus several canoes and rowing skiffs. We had no idea there were so many woodies around. And we could find lots more! Bonnie told us.

Robert Greiggs, whose summer cottage is a one minute walk from the restaurant brought “Woozle”, a sharp little 13 foot lapstrake sailing dinghy that he had built twenty odd years ago. He described her as a re-incarnated Victorian day boat, and with her sliding gunter rig, transom notch for a scull, and custom made bronze and copper main sheet traveler, she was a charmer. He also moved his Bolger designed downeast style 'lobsta yacht' from her summer dock over the the PB dock. So we had Sara G a couple slips down from Sara B.

Edgar Denton, contributed three sail boats ranging from 19 to 36 feet, a good start on a wooden boat fest in their own right. Greigg's t shirt inscribed in Latin that translated roughly as “many boats, no brains”, seemed appropriate apparel for several of the participants.

Edgar Denton's Tancook Whaler- a "cousin" to Sara B Tancook Schooner
Denton's three sailboats included two gaff rigged daysailors that had been professionally built for their owner several decades ago. The delightful little Bolger designed sloop Shadow and the sleek schooner rigged Tancook whaler Lymnaea sat side by side in the water like a pair of graceful seabirds poised for flight. It's hard to beat a double ended lapstrake hull for looks. And several people that tried out the Bolger boat (including this writer) said this is the one I want!

Lancea, a sleek long ended bright finished racer, drew many an admiring glance. Lancea, was designed and built back in 1928 by Knud Reimers, a well known Scandenavian boat builder. She was commissioned by the emperor of Annam, at that time a part of French Indo-China (later and better known to my own generation as Viet Nam). I never did learn how she ended up in Kingston Canada on Lake Ontario five decades later. Denton's account of her history reads “when I first saw her she was full of ice and snow, hauled out on a dock. Parts of her cabin and coaming were missing and her after deck and bottom pierced for an outboard motor auxiliary.”


Edgar Denton's three woodies Lancea in foreground
Denton had the old racer professionally re-habed and restored. At 36 feet long and with a six foot beam, she was a stark contrast to a husky 33 foot Tahiti ketch docked a few yards away. One could scarcely imagine more contrast than that between The sleek Swedish-built racer, and the homebuilt gaff rigged Ramsey's Dream, a vessel crafted with long ocean passages in mind and designed for dreamers who wanted to escape the Great Depression's gloom. Her builder, Ramsey Luddington, saw plans for the Hanna design decades ago in a magazine and never forgot them. After he retired, he started building. Fifteen years later, now on the far side of 80, he saw her swim for the first time on the waters of the Little Salmon River. We first crossed tacks with Ramsey's Dream at the schooner gam last June.

Ramsey went to the Catskills for his white oak and walked the forest with the sawyer to select his for the little ship's backbone and frames. He found a stash of clear grain western red cedar at an Adirondack lumber yard, and had it milled for the strip planked hull. And when asked about the varnished yacht interior furnishings, he said with a smile it was Home Depot's best.

Ramsey and his son Spencer, himself a sailor and ocean racer of wide experience, motored up the lake from their home port the day before the show. Since her launch two years ago, they've gotten their ketch around to several Lake Ontario ports and were planning to squeeze one last trip to Canada in that fall. Will Ramsey ever sail her on saltwater? In my view he has already made a considerable personal journey of sorts with her creation. To an observer who once managed to craft a 14 foot canvas covered kayak with a lump and a flat spot, his venture of building a ten ton ketch seems of epic proportions.

There were other family yachts there that day too, like the “Old George”, a Lyman runabout bought new 42 years ago by the present owner's father, and always used on Fair Haven Bay. There was a museum quality Century Seamaid, fully restored with ten coats of varnish in all its gleaming glory and there was Rowsie, ragged but still functional and almost certainly well past her century mark.

Each boat there, as Bonnie pointed out, had its story. As the warm winds of mid September blew across the bay waters, the boat owners, family, and friends exchanged, enlarged, and imagined those stories. Old friends and former co-workers who hadn't seen each other in many years crossed tacks. The kids off the Sea Scout schooner Lotus jumped in for a swim. And out on the bay another white winged schooner, the Sara B, took a load of folks for a day sail. Among them were old salts, people who hadn't sailed at all that summer, and one person on her first sail ever. I'm betting it won't be her last.

H and Bonnie pulled it off. The first Fair Haven wooden boat gathering was a re-sounding success with food, music and good boats. Stay tuned for a follow up next year.


Sara B on a September sail before boatshow- more photos of boat fest are on her website




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