Hi Girls & Guys:
This blurb will be a bit unusual as it will focus on Paviti (Latin;” to tremble or quake“) Tern! This will not be a story about passages she has made , or harbors in the USA, or foreign countries, or places she has taken me, or the storms, or the beautiful sunrises and sunsets from her decks! Nor will it include the people that she has introduced me to. This blurb will be about her, PAVITI TERN!
The decision I made to decommission her this winter has been a very hard decision for me, probably the hardest I have ever made! Having past the prime of life a few years back’ the rigors of 40 some years of living life on the water first as a commercial fisherman then single handed sailing the Tern, the time has come to submit to rehabilitation of my shoulder. A few weeks ago Otto Pilote (auto pilot) broke again and I realized that if it had broken a hundred miles or so off shore I would not be able to sail her home. The decision was made more for her than me. It took me five long years to restore her. She was fully restored using tradition as a guide throughout the restoration. All summer I have been sailing Marthas’ Vineyard, MA, Block Island RI, and the sounds, bays, islands of Cape Cod! So there will be much recounting (blurbs) to do this winter for your reading pleasure as I do what is necessary to fix the shoulder. I will learn how to type in a shoulder sling or do it one finger at a time. I know most of you enjoy my blurbs and pics so I will keep em coming! The Tern will be safe in a covered shed with a wet dirt floor. One or two of my veteran friends will help me sand, paint & varnish her.
Paviti Tern survived the Great Hurricane of 1938! She is named after the Tern which is most definitely a traveling bird, a fast flying bird, as well as a fishing bird that ranges from Nova Scotia to Africa. She was launched at the Casey Shipyard in Fairhaven, MA in 1938. Her planking is African mahogany. Her keel of New England white oak. Her decks were teak. She is a very unique boat in that she has a cast iron keel with a slit cast into her keel for a center board. The board is pinned in the cast iron eliminating the malady of leaks in the centerboard trunk common in all centerboard boats. Casey built four of these unique boats under commission from John Alden. Two of them were Yawls and two were Ketches. Paviti Tern is a knock off and rigged as a triple headed Cutter, meaning she has three headsails, a flying jib, a yankee and a stay sail! due to her unique sail plan she can and does fly all three at the same time. One of her sisters has survived out in San Francisco, albeit in a body bag (fiber glassed hull). The trade off of having a cast iron keel was you could not use bronze fasteners because of electrolysis. All five of these boats were fastened with iron clinch nails.
After 40 years of ownership Robert S. Sanborn of Vineyard Haven MA signed the Federal Document #515906, the Sailing/ Vessel, (S/V) Patience over to me for one dollar and other considerations. The other consideration was that I would restore her to her previous glory, take him sailing and I buy him lunch. The $1 sale included all sails and appurtenances. The bronze steering gear alone is many thousand of dollars. The rest of the bronze much more if sold separately. Fours years before he was asking $18,000 at the Yacht Brokerage House of Cannell, Payne & Page of Camden Maine. At that time Bob was lamenting in a letter to the broker how much he hated to sell Patience but his old age (83 years old), his lack of funds to maintain her, his health, and his families wishes were forcing him to sell her.
It was Bob Sanborns’ rebuilding of the then Patience in the late seventies that allowed me to restore her. From 1978 until 1984 Bob, with the help of Nat Benjamin (today Benjamin & Gannon shipyard on Martha’s Vineyard) rebuilt the Patience. Important things like keel bolts, sister frames, garboard and broad planks etc. Unfortunately for Bob he did not have the dollars to due a complete restoration. Things like failure to remove old clinched nails, covering her decks& house with rubber led to her demise. As we get old maintenance of a wood boat gets harder and we cut corners to try and keep the fresh water out. Salt water does not cause rot. The culprit is fresh water. Bob kept a log of all the work done on her and handed these records over to me. Here is an example of Nat Benjamin receipt on 31st of August 1978 for 24 hours of labor @ $8 per hour $192.00. Needless to say “Times Change”.
When I brought her to Tripps boatyard in Westport Point, MA, she was ready for the grave. Ready to be stripped of all her bronze fittings and winches which was about the only salvageable items. All of her deck beams were rotten, all of her original frames fastened with iron clinch nails were rotten, her house, except for the roof was rotten and even the tenons on the roof beams were rotten. Her teak decks had leaked and rotted her rails and beams. Once I started to take Patience apart I began to realize the enormity of the task at hand! Her mast was rotted beyond repair, her engine old & useless. Her sails from the 80’s. The corner posts of her house rotten right through so much you could stick your fist through. Each day that I took her apart I found more rot. One day the enormity of the project hit me like a ton of bricks. I am just a fisherman I thought how can I accomplish this task. The next day I brought my chain saw to the boat yard to cut her up and sell the bronze. I stood there looking at her and realized I could not do it. There was just to much history and tradition to commit such a sacrilege. I had owned many wood sailboats starting with a L. Francis Herroshoff centerboard knockabout , then another L. Francis design, a 30ft Yankee One Design. The last sail boat was the S/V Windflower designer unknown. The Windflower was built at the Thames River Shipyard England in 1908. I restored her in Jamestown RI at the Roundhouse Boatyard. While taking her south in the winter of 1976 & 1977, she got stuck in the ice in Atlantic Highlands NJ. She was a pleasure vessel so the Coast Guard refused to break her free! In the spring I was forced to sell her due to extensive damage suffered the previous winter. Thirty years later I can still recall the poem she had cast in bronze; S/V Windflowers Poem, “If I was a bird that lived on high, I would lean on the wind when the wind came by, I would say to the wind when it took me away, that’s where I wanted to go today”. After fathoming out the extent of the rot on Patience, with this poem whirling around in my head I got real drunk and decided to rebuild this rotten boat and catch the wind!
A lot of people have asked me why did I want to go through such torture when I could buy a Clorox bottle (fiberglass boat) for very little money or work. I had owned, sailed and fished on wooden boats all my life. I love their feel of wood under my feet. Their gentle way of rolling suited me, they way they handle a tumultuous seaway and heavy winds. Patience caught my eye in Oak Bluffs, MA that cold blustery Feb. day. She looked cold and lonely with a large American flag flying from her masthead There was a For Sale sign with a tel. # . When I called the owner told me where the key was hidden. When I went below there was a overpowering smell of rot. Some of my friends from the friends from the Vineyard came down to look & laughed like hell at this rotten old boat. I did not see the same boat they did I saw an opportunity to solo fly a bird that is made of wood and designed by one of Americas greatest designers. In the five years since restoration many thousands of miles have passed under the Tern keel and I have yet to feel uncomfortable or afraid this boat would let me down. I recall being a hundred miles or so off the coast of Georgia with Frog Tillett asking why the huge waves surrounding us did not come into the cockpit? All I could answer was “you would have to ask John Alden” When a particularly large one passing under the Tern would slap her topside Frog would let out a big “Arrghhh, Missed us”.
I will let the pics tell the story of the restoration process but, the thing you can not see is the materials that were used. In the beginning I purchased a 30 gallon barrel of MAAS Epoxy resin. Dozens of oak, cedar, birch, mahogany planks were milled & fit in place. Throughout the boat inside and out Kirby paint products were used. Since my fishing days I have used nothing but Kirby paint, it is second to none. The same New Bedford family has been serving the maritime community since 1846. When it finally came time to “pitch the bilge” Kirby had the pine pitch and the formula for mixing it with beeswax. Pitching the bilge is done on wood boats in the northeast to keep the garboard plank from accumulating dirt and moisture then freezing in the winter when the boat is hauled for storage. We have now come full circle with the bilged pitched ready for her first winter since restoration. She will have her mast removed as soon as all hurricanes are gone. Her mast has not been out since she was launched 5 years ago! She is hauled once a year or so for bottom and topside paint but now it is time for a little long overdue maintenance on her and her Master.
I am in need of some shoulder repair! The rigors of sailing single handed and commercial fishing have taken their toll. The Tern is a stranger to docks except for fuel! I have a hard time getting my head wrapped around the Tern being locked inside a cold, wet, dark shed. She should be anchored in warm clean water waiting for her Master to take her out to play. Instead she will be anxiously awaiting the warmth of spring and her Master’s arrival to begin anew her life on the water!
I hope you enjoy the pics?
Ciao! For now,