To be a Little Vigilant…

For several months last winter, Brenda and I cruised aboard Pandora through the Windward Islands, in the south east Caribbean.  Along the way happened upon a lovely steel trawler in Le Marin, Martinique, Little Vigilant.  I mentioned that sighting in a prior post but my only information was a brief glimpse and a quick photo as she motored by.  I was bummed to only get a quick shot of her as she glided by and hoped that our paths would cross again.As luck would have it, we did see her again, a number of times actually.  When we spied her in Bequia, I was able to get aboard for a tour by captain Earl MacKenzie, who was running her for the winter.  He knows her particularly well as he had recently been the project manager for the first stage of her refit at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast Maine in 2017 and was clearly proud to show her off.

Little Vigilant has an interesting history.  This is what her Facebook page, has to say about her.  It’s pretty interesting.   It seems that she was originally conceived by her first owner, Drayton Cochran of Oyster Bay, NY in the late 1940’s.   She is named after a much larger 110′ Vigilant, built in the 1930s, a sailboat I think, that he cruised widely.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out much about Little Vigilant’s big sister but it seems that Cochran decided to downsize and  commissioned Walter McGinnis of Boston, MA to design a trawler for summer use on the European waterways.

She was built and launched by Abeking & Rasmussen in Bremerhaven, Germany in 1950, and used by Mr Cochran extensively during the next ten years.  As an interesting footnote, Cochran is described by some as the “father of the Concordia yawl” as he was the one that approached A&R about building these lovely little yachts that remain so popular today.

Clearly, he had a very close relationship with yard as he launched both Little Vigilant and his own Concordia yawl, both built by A&R in the same year,  Shelia, now Duende, Concordia yawl hull #5.   This photo is of one of her sisterships of this iconic design. Little Vigilant was sold in the early ’60s to her second owner, a wealthy British businessman and sat in a storage shed, I am tempted to say “barn find”, until 2004 when she was discovered by the present owner. She has a lot of work done on her since that time both in 2005 and again last year, the first stage of a multiyear refit.

She presently hails from South Darthmouth, MA, which is doubly interesting as that’s where all the Concordia yawls were launched between the late 30s and 50s.   As an aside, the history of the much loved Concordia Yawls has been very well documented by marine historian Waldow Holand, son of the founder of Concordia Boat Company in Padanaram, MA.  There’s even a wonderful book about the class that’s worth reading.However, I digress.  So, back to Little Vigilant, also a product of the same builder that produced the Concordia yawls.  This video about her most recent refit, is worth seeing.  If this video seems a bit familiar, that’s because I used it in a post where I referred to Little Vigilant back in mid February.  I guess I’ll just say if it’s worth posting once, it’s worth posting again as this is one pretty boat. I found these plans for Low Tide, penned by Geerd N. JHendal (1903-1998), a yacht designer from Camden, Maine.   The author of the post about Low Tide notes the similarity to Little Vigilant.  The drawings were published in The Rudder Magazine in April, 1948 and the author who wrote about Low Tide suggests that this design was an early proposal to Drayton Cochran for Little Vigilant (launched in 1950 to a Walter McInnis design).

The link says this about the design:  “Geerd was a well known yacht designer at the time but I have a feeling that his heart was not quite in this one. McInnis used a commercial herring carrier hull that is far prettier with lot’s of shape in the ends. This one is 69′ x 16′9″ with 7′6″ draft. Construction was to be wood, that single big fuel tank seems unlikely, and all the topside ports raise questions about framing.”Take a look at the below deck plans and note the interesting “get home engine” helpful on a single engine cruiser.   It’s described as…”Power is a single 6-71 with an auxiliary 2-71 turning the main shaft via a big belt.”

As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to have captain Earl give me a tour of her when we were in Bequia.    She looked just wonderful sitting on her mooring on a beautiful “winter” day, sweet sheer and all.  Just love the proper boarding platform/stairway.On the day I visited to introduce myself to Earl and his wife Bonnie, several of the owner’s family were visiting, all sitting around this table on deck, a very civilized spot to wile away the hours.   The classic, Wind in the Willows would be a prefect read while sipping an iced tea at this table, I would think.  Bonnie sewed the awning so they’d be out of the sun and wind.  As there are brief showers and plenty of sun most days in the Caribbean, a cover like this would come in very handy.   Note the vinyl section forward.  It’s designed to be raised or lowered to keep out the rain or adjust the amount of breeze to adjusts to the perfect “zepher” when at anchor.  How civilized.  This is a pretty neat anchor lift that I believe Earl designed.  It doesn’t take the strain at anchor, just holds it up and secure when stowed.   The fire hose threaded on the chain near the anchor is a nice touch to keep the topsides from being marred.  This is a serious windlass, original to the boat but rebuilt. The view aft looks like a great spot to spend time with a rod and line or just a nice spot to watch the world recede into the distance.  Inside the aft deck cabin, open to the stern, is a cozy spot to lounge while underway too.   I didn’t take a picture of the deck cabin space as it was all torn up for the day as Earl was working in the area.   You’ll just have to trust me that it is a nice place to watch the world go by.  When she called the canals of northern Europe her home this salon would have been very cozy with a coal fire burning in her stove.    Forgive the port list.  Must be the photographer…These days she is also fully climate controlled with AC.   Note the rivets in the cabin top.  As is the case on any proper yacht, she has a framed set of plans displayed in the bridge.A very nice galley adjacent to the salon. She has a serious engine room and with very good sound insulation, something that Pandora needs but doesn’t have.
I don’t expect that this steering chain will break any time soon.  It’s as rugged as the rest of her gear. Little Vigilant is a charming yacht and with additional refits planned.  I expect that she will be even more lovely when our paths cross again, which I hope is soon.

Little Vigilant is a charming little yacht with an interesting history and an owner who’s decided that it pays to be more than a little vigilant in keeping her in Bristol fashion for many years to come.



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