The End of the Road
13 May 2014
The above photo is the catboat, SPRITE, believed to be the oldest Herreshoff boat in existence. It was designed by the 19 year-old, blind John Herreshoff along with his father, Charles. John's brother, Nathanael drew up all the plans & molds for the boat. He was just 11 years old. SPRITE was launched in 1860. In 1878, John and Nathanael started The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.
May 5, 2014
Eight days later, the sun finally showed its face. We were in Newport, Rhode Island or rather, Middletown, just next door. The first weekend in May and all the inns in Newport were full. Nothing special was going on that we could tell. I guess it's just the place to go.
We didn't tour the extraordinary mansions lining Bellevue Avenue (think Downton Abbey) but found our way to the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, instead.
As I mentioned before, we own an 18' Herreshoff catboat. I always preface "catboat" with Herreshoff because when most people hear the word catboat they think of a Catamaran. This boat is much different. She has one mainsail and is gaff-rigged. Her boom extends at least a foot past the stern. Like Cadenza, she has a wide beam, eight feet. She is almost half as wide as she is long! She has a centerboard that draws three feet when down and 18" when raised.
I have been sailing SkipJack (We really do have to change the name. It was named after the two brothers Jay bought it from 24 years ago.) for almost as long as I have sailed Cadenza. It is the perfect boat for Katama Bay here in Martha's Vineyard. We get 10 to 20 knot winds but no waves. She flies along the water going six knots at times! Needless to say, we have a blast on SkipJack. So after ten years of sailing a Herreshoff catboat I thought I knew something about them. Wrong.
The first hint was the sign when we arrived at the museum. Herreshoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame. America's cup? What does Herreshoff have to do with the America's Cup? Well, to start, it turns out that Halsey Herreshoff was a four-time defender in the America's Cup. Halsey Herreshoff is the grandson of one of the co-founders of the company and also was the designer of the catboat we sail today. Here's where I got it really wrong. I thought the catboat was it, the only Herreshoff design. (Obviously, I never picked up a book, nor did I Google Herreshoff.) It turns out the catboat is but a footnote in the history of this boat-building company. Not only did the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company design over sixty different hulls and build boats for the military during World War II, they built eight sailboats that competed in the America's Cup! Visiting the museum was a fascinating lesson in maritime history.
We spent three days visiting Newport and its surrounding areas. It is a beautiful seaport village and we finally got to have a meal outside overlooking the water. We took a walk along the cliffs and explored the shops in town. We were content, having made our way back to the sea.
Sunday, May 4th was our very last day on this road trip. We spent it in Walpole, Massachusetts at a volleyball tournament. It is my daughter, Talia's, very first year coaching and her team won a silver medal. We celebrated at dinner and then drove off to Wood's Hole where we took the ferry to the Vineyard.
It is Monday, May 5. We left Mexico over five weeks ago and today we woke up in our own bed. We have finally arrived on the island.