30 June 2011

A different sort of genealogical search

Back in the latter days of winter we purchased a boat. I know - strange timing, right?

My husband had his eye on this boat for a number of years. It was resting on a trailer in the parking lot of a winter/summer sports shop, under wraps. All we really knew about the boat is that it was the right size, the right shape and it was a wooden boat that seemed to resemble the boat we really wanted - a Whitehall rowing boat.

Unfortunately, it wasn't for sale.

Until unforeseen circumstances came up prompting the aging owner to close up shop and finally retire from the business he had grown and loved. I went into the shop to find some cross-country ski socks, and maybe find a pair of skis, on sale. I didn't find either, but when the sales clerk said was there anything he could help with, I half-jokingly said - well, is the boat for sale? He said that it wasn't, but on a hunch, he said - wait a minute, let me speak with the owner...

To cut the story short, the boat is in our backyard now.

The boat... ca. 1910 fantail launch?

We don't know exactly what kind of boat it is. We suspect it might be a fantail launch, built in the early 1910's. It has a Massachusetts boat registration numbers on the hull. No motor, but we can see where there was one - possibly a diesel engine. It came with an "antique" fuel can, that sadly has already been recycled.

From the information we received from the former owner, we know he got it from a man in Massachusetts - and his intention was to restore it to its original state. An exhausting (yes it is exhausting to search on an unknown topic in the beginning) search on the internet actually gave us a few hints at identifying the boat. We found a few images that could be in the same boat family... from a website from the Finger Lakes Antique and Classic Boat Society...http://www.flc-acbs.org/. Not an exact match, but it's a start.

We went to the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Connecticut, hosted by the Mystic Seaport Museum, http://www.mysticseaport.org, last weekend, hoping to get more information on identifying and restoring the boat. Wow! Gorgeous boats everywhere... from the humble dory to the magnificent Charles W. Morgan (now in restoration process). The wonderful folks from Wooden Boat Magazine,   http://www.woodenboat.com/,  really know how to put on a show! Luckily, for all of us, the rain held and we enjoyed a lovely weekend at the shore. We learned about lofting, spiling and caulking wooden boats; cruised down to the ocean and back aboard the Sabino; rowed around the harbor a little; and we met a lot of nice boat people along the way.

The highlight for us was a treasure hunt through the closed portion of the museum that was opened to the public for two hours on two days of the show. We were told by some antique boat restorers that there might be a fantail launch in the storage area... and I believe we found it! All of the boats are in their original condition and all have been donated to the museum. And they are stacked from floor to ceiling with just enough space to squeeze through. Some of the boats have been measured and have plans made of them available for purchase. All of them could be if one were motivated to initiate the process, and pay to have it done. The fantail launch was not one that had been slated for plan making. Darn.

So our search continues... every now and then we start a new search on the computer, and each time we get new information. I have found back issues of Rudder Magazine on Google Books with articles referring to the fantail launch. I have to say - I love Google books - and I have quite a collection of old books that offer a lot of good reading on various subjects - mostly historical references - Court Records of early Connecticut,  History of Everett, Massachusetts. You really ought to take a look if you haven't already.

And since there is no harm in asking -

Can you identify this boat?


  1. Was this boat in Keene, NH? Happy it has a new home and restoration.

  2. It is still in Keene! In the garage now undergoing all sorts of restoration. We hope to get it into the water next year.


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