Meeting Ticonderoga

Ticonderoga in Lunenburg, Photo by R. Mair

Ticonderoga in Lunenburg, Photo by R. Mair

To understand why we go forward it helps to look back, and this summer we’ve been doing some thinking and some backward looking.  So many things have come together to take us to where we are now.  Things like this:

It was a sunny day with the winds blowing nicely, between 15 and 18 knots. The first boat to complete the Miami to Montego Bay race was racing to the finish. She was pretty, she was wooden and she was fast – so fast that the local ski boat couldn’t get past her. She was taking full advantage of the wind, flying lots of sail: the main, the mizzen, a spinnaker, a jib and a mizzen staysail, five pieces in all. Watching her cut through the water was breathtaking.

Richard was watching. It was 1965, and he was fifteen years old. It was a sight he never forgot and talks about still. The boat was the classic yacht Ticonderoga. She is still racing today.

Her speed was remarkable, but to this boy from Jamaica her interior was sheer luxury. As a member of the Montego Bay Yacht Club Richard had the chance to go on board, and of course he took it. It was the first time he had seen a sailboat with a television set on board, and a real shower. And he could see that she was immaculate inside and out, her spars beautifully varnished, the whole boat lovingly maintained.

He compared her to his father’s boat, Olympia. She was wooden too, thirty feet to Ticonderoga’s seventy-two, narrow, basic, locally built, every piece of wood painted. She was built for the sea and the trade winds that blew in Montego Bay, built to cut through the waves, a capable boat. In some ways she was very similar to the Alberg 30 we have now, though she was even narrower.

Olympia raced against Ticonderoga, once, shortly after that classic win. Both boats took part in the Lucea to Montego Bay race that was part of the local regatta. Richard, his father and some of their friends sailed up to Lucea the day before the race – they had no lights on the boat, and no desire to sail at night. They had no anchor light either, and no head, and the only cover they had at night was dacron sails which were no protection against the cool damp air. So, as you can imagine, it was a rather uncomfortable night they spent at anchor. No doubt the crew on Ticonderoga were much more comfortable.

The race next day was exciting. The winds were blowing 18 to 20 knots, on the nose. The conditions suited Olympia, and she cut through the water as she was designed to. Ticonderoga was, needless to say, much faster than Olympia. So they saw her sailing away at the start, and by the time they got to the finish she was moored and tidied up and her crew were off the boat.

The whole experience left Richard with lasting memories that have become part of our shared story, and even now we keep an eye out for Ticonderoga when we travel. If we happen to see her, as we have in Halifax and Lunenburg, we swing past (by land or sea) to enjoy the beauty of her and pay our respects to a truly special boat. Once, after he saw her come across the line, well before he knew what owning her would cost or mean, Richard dreamed of owning her. Now he is simply happy to see her well-cared for and still racing.

Long may she enjoy the care of appreciative owners and dedicated crew, so that others may enjoy her too.

A little bit more about Ticonderoga:

Ticonderoga was originally Tioga II of Marblehead, a 72 foot classic ketch designed by L. Francis Herreshoff to be a day sailer for Harry Noyes and built by the Quincy Adams Yacht Yard in Massachusetts in 1936. Her furnishings included two showers and a cast-iron bathtub, a fridge and freezer, and a heating system. She was heavy and low on her lines, but proved fast and sea-kindly, and was soon being raced.

Her second owner bought the boat but not the name, and was inspired by the pencil he was holding to name her Ticonderoga (thereby including her old name in her new one). He and subsequent owners continued to race her, and she set course records in races on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Then things changed radically: in World War II she was painted grey and did duty as a patrol vessel along the Eastern coast of the U.S. Understandably this was hard on the boat, and by the time she left active duty she was not in the best of shape (though still well cared for, as Richard saw).

It took some years, but in 1988 she was given a full and expensive restoration by her owner at the time, Bob Voit, at Southampton Yacht Services in England. The work done then has been the foundation for the work that keeps her beautiful and seaworthy now.

Last time we saw her it was obvious that her current owner, Scott Frantz, has continued to look after her with love and sail her with respect and passion.

The information in this section is courtesy of ClassicSailboats.org. Visit them to learn more!

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About Margaret Mair

In love with the sensuousness of paint, intoxicated by the rhythm of words, entranced by the world of water, ever an observer and explorer.
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