Visiting the Wizard. In Bristol, RI that is.

It’s Sunday morning and we are anchored in Newport harbor where we will be for the next few days.  Yesterday we motored down from Bristol into a light SW breeze, an easy run of about 10 miles.   It was remarkable to see how many boats were out on a perfect Saturday afternoon for a sail. I would guess that there were literally hundreds of white sails dotting the water.  And, the boats that weren’t out on the bay were motoring around the harbor.  What a busy place. However, in spite of the crowded harbor, we were able to find a place to drop the hook for the night. 

Along the way we were passed by the sole remaining member of the NY 50 class, Spartan, built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, a boat builder from Bristol that dominated the yachting scene from the mid 1800s through the 1930s.  Spartan, was rebuilt over several years in a no expense spared restoration.  I had seen her at the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic several years ago when she was fresh from her rebuild.  Yesterday she sailed by us with topsail flying.  Imagine a 70+ foot long daysailer.   Yes, she has some bunks down below but it’s not a big boat inside.  What a sight to see the huge sails billowing in the light wind. It was fitting that we should see Spartan as we left Bristol where we had been the prior day with the Essex Yacht Club cruise as we had visited the yard where she was built, the Herreshoff company closed in the 40s and now lives on as a museum dedicated to the many yachts that the yard turned out.  The museum has an impressive collection of boats built there.  In particular, they display the half models of nearly every design that the yard developed, some built and some just ideas of yachts he’d have liked to build.  Nat Herreshoff the dominant force at the yard for many years and a brilliant designer, was dubbed the “Wizard of Bristol” and was sought after by many yachtsmen of great wealth to have him design and build yachts for them.  The yard was a dominant force in the early America’s Cup yachts turning out many winners.

Nat’s designs were done first as half models which he carved out of wood and then they were measured  and the lines taken off so that a proper set of builder’s plans could be drawn and it was from these plans that the actual yachts were built.   The museum has a remarkable set of these half models on display.  There are a lot of them representing every yacht that the yard turned out throughout their rich history.  The walls were just covered by them. The tour was particularly interesting as we had an expert guiding us and giving us interesting anecdotes along the way.  They even did some work for the US government during the two world wars including the hulls design and construction of some flying boats.  In particular, the NC4 which was the first plane to fly across the Atlantic, albeit with stops for fuel along the way.  This is a particularly nice model of the design, if a bit blurry.And, it appears that the Navy did this short movie of the historic flight. I haven’t watched it though as I don’t want to burn up bandwidth.  I hope it’s good.

They also designed fast torpedo boats for the Navy including a design that is noted for being the first to launch a motorized torpedo at speed.

They have a remarkable collection of Herreshoff built boats on display, many of which are in perfect, like new, condition.It’s a wonderful museum worth visiting.   Check their site out. 

Now we will be in Newport for a few days prior to heading to Fisher’s Island for the wrap up event of the Essex Yacht Club cruise.

Today we will head ashore for a bit of exploring in Newport, a busy but fun place to visit.

Perhaps I should call it a “wrap”, put this post up, make some coffee and get on with my day.  Yes, a good idea and it’s a beautiful one at that.






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