Video: Reconstructing a Herreshoff S-Boat


Regular visitors to New England Boating may recall the last time we visited with Dan Shea of the Bristol Boat Company. Back in fall of 2011, the talented craftsman was unveiling the exquisite cold-molded Herreshoff 20 he had spent the better part of a year building in his shop on the grounds of the former Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. (Read: Herreshoff H 20 Unveiled)

Dan Shea displays a piece of white oak stock and 2 of the new steam-bent frames for the S-boat. Photos by ## Tom Richardson##

Now Shea is up to his elbows in another project, this one involving the restoration—actually, a complete reconstruction—of a 90-year-old Herreshoff S-Boat. The boat is Hull Number 3 of the 98 wooden sailing craft built by Herreshoff from 1919 to 1941, and was recently purchased by a Rhode Island Herreshoff aficionado.

Shea and his crew of Bruce Cresser and Bradford Gove have their work cut out for them, as the boat is in pretty rough shape, having passed through several owners and several partial restorations over the years. Every piece of wood and hardware will be replaced, save for the ballast keel, but first the team needs to correct the damage caused by previous restoration work and improper layup, which twisted the hull out of alignment and caused the bottom to sag.

The first step in the reconstruction effort involved a visit to the Herreshoff Museum of Yachting, where Shea and Halsey Herreshoff (grandson of Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and a principal of Herreshoff Designs) took precise measurements of the original S-boat half-model using a special offset machine. Shea then used the measurements to create 11 “stations”, or cross-sections of the hull, out of plywood. These were placed inside the existing hull to achieve the original form, and will aid in the eventual installation of the new floors, framing and planking. (To watch a video of the half-model offset measurements being made, click here: Video: Bristol Boat Company, Taking Measurements.)

A series of plywood "stations" are installed in the original hull to bring it back to form.

Starting amidships, Shea, Gove and Cresser worked progressively fore and aft, placing the stations ever closer to the bow and stern, and using clamps and comealongs to bring the hullsides into conformity.

The next step will be attaching the floor supports to the keelson then installing the new white-oak frames. At the time we visited with Shea, the frames were already being steam-bent to shape according to the offset measurements.

Once the floors are in place, the frames can be installed, followed by new planking and attachment of the ballast keel. From there, Shea, Gove and Cresser will begin working on a new deck and interior, followed by the mast, boom, tiller, rudder and hardware.

Granted, they’ve got a long road ahead, but when they’re done they’ll have essentially built a new S-boat conforming to the exact model created by Capt. Nathanael Herreshoff nearly a century ago.

Stay tuned to New England Boating for more on this project as it develops.


The Bristol Boat Company


Bradford Gove works on one of the forward stations.
The S-boat will receive a new transom, as well as new frames and planking.
One of 11 stations created from offsets taken from the original S-boat half-model.
A false keelson with centerline markings helps the crew position the stations and floors.
Gove preps a forward section prior to installation of a station.


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