The following was written by David Irving, owner of Bone Yard Boats, a company dedicated to the preservation of old wooden boats. Irving has a long-held passion for wooden boats, especially the classics, and can’t bear to see them languish in backyards or, worse, discarded.
Since purchasing Bone Yard Boats in 2005 from founder Ginger Martus, Irving has increased its loyal following of antique-boat aficionados who share his love for these unique and irreplaceable wooden vessels. Bone Yard Boats maintains a website and quarterly newsletter featuring listings of old wooden boats that need saving, as well as their backstories, which can be fascinating.
Below is one such story:
David Irving of Boneyard Boats presents a rare opportunity to own an early 1-design racing sailboat with a New England pedigree and loaded with history. Asking price: Free to a good home.
Don Q: 1926 Northeast Harbor A-Boat #32
In 1911, the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts, commissioned Edwin A. Boardman to design a 1-design racing sailboat similar to the Dark Harbor 17 . The result was the oak-framed, cypress-planked EYC 17’ Gaff-rigged Sloop Knockabout. The boat had a 17’ waterline and was 27’ 6” overall, with a 7’ 3” beam, 4’ draft, and carried 368 square feet of sail. George Lawley and Son built the first fleet of 25 boats in their Neponset, Massachusetts, boatyard, reportedly at a cost of $500 to $700 per boat.
After racing off Marblehead in 1912 and 1913, first several—and in subsequent years all—boats were sold to summer residents of Northeast Harbor on Mt. Desert Island, off the Maine coast. By 1921, these sloops were being called the Northeast Harbor A Class, with the Dark Harbor 17 _’s that were their inspiration making up the B Class. As the popularity of the boats grew, the “NEH A” fleet was expanded in 1926 by an additional 25 boats built from the Boardman plans by Rice Brothers in East Boothbay, Maine, with one alteration. Seeking increased stability and drier sailing, it is believed that the Northeast Harbor Yacht Club that commissioned the new boats had Rice build them a bit wider in the stern than the originals.
Early One-Design Sailboats by Diana Eames Esterly (©1979) proved to be a valuable source of the historical information for the NEH A Class boats. There is a W.H. Ballard photo of this specific NEH A-boat #32, Don Q, racing under sail on page 71 of the book.
In addition, the owner has a May 15, 1997, letter from Sturgis Haskins, Maine historian and expert in the various classes of New England boats, in which he explains: “My records indicate that Don Q was built in 1926 for George R. Clark. By 1940 her owner was listed as David W. Clark and in 1959, John R. Clark. She disappears from my records until 1978 when she lists Fred Dowalo of Topsfield, Massachuseys, as owner. I indicate that he bought her from Rockland, Maine.”
The current owner, who keeps Don Q in Rhode Island, explains that the boat has shear plank and garboard removed, as well as the deck and cockpit. It needs a total rebuild. The cypress planking is good, but the oak frames need replacing. The rig and sails are included, although the rig needs varnish and the sails probably need replacing. He is offering the boat for free, to a good home. It includes 4 jackstands, and even some well-seasoned 8/4 oak that he bought for frame stock.
About Bone Yard Boats
Firmly dedicated to the belief that for every old boat out there in need of a new home there’s a crazy boater looking for a project, Bone Yard Boats is a website, and old school print newsletter, and a community of subscribers passionate about old boats. The site and newsletter feature great old free and ‘for sale’ boats—mostly wood—from all over the U.S. and Canada, along with stories of boat restorations and historical tales of nautical interest. Not all the boats we list are free, but some really great ones are. This 1926 Northeast Harbor is currently featured on the “Free Boats” section of the Bone Yard Boats website which you can access by CLICKING HERE.
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