Dear Compass Readers,
Letters may be
edited for length, clarity and fair play.
|LETTER OF THE MONTH
DICK AVERY, SOME FOND MEMORIES
Dick Avery, who died in February at age 83, arrived in St. Thomas, USVI in 1959.
In late October of that year, as a result of a broken anchor shackle, my 1905-built yawl, Iolaire, drawing seven feet, was aground, lying on her side in 18 inches of water in Lindberg Bay. Marv Berning and I were hard at work jacking her upright with the aid of scrap timbers we had scavenged from building sites, two greenheart wedges made by the West Indian Company timber shop, and two ship’s jacks borrowed from Creque Shipyard.
Dick, right off the plane from New York, showed up, looked over the situation and with the voice of doom said, “You will never get her upright.” He revisited regularly; the beach bar of the Caribbean Hotel was right above Iolaire.
When we got her upright, again Dick’s voice of doom intoned, “The floating crane will not be able to get to Iolaire — the water is too shallow.”
He did not realize how resourceful was the late Roar Pedersen, dockmaster at West Indian Company. Roar brought the floating crane as close to Iolaire as possible and put slings around the hull. When he lifted her out of plumb, she swung toward the crane, which grounded from her weight. Roar then lowered Iolaire so she was standing on the bottom. Once the load came off, the crane refloated. Roar winched the crane out about 15 feet and lifted Iolaire again. Again she swung out and was lowered until she touched bottom, the load came off, and the crane refloated. Finally Iolaire was lifted and the crane stayed afloat. Iolaire was carried to the West Indian Company dock and I set up my own little shipyard.
Dick, yet again the voice of doom, came along and pointed out that because of the grounding and broken frames, the port-side shearline was humped by the chainplate: “If you succeed in rebuilding her, you will not do well racing! She is hogged on the port side; she will not sail well on port tack.”
With the aid of three shipwrights from Tortola — Ruben Petersen, Stout and Titely — Iolaire was rebuilt with 11 new planks, seven main frames, six intermediate frames, a new bilge stringer and a new rudder. The copper sheathing was removed and thousands of nail holes filled by match sticks inserted by a number of US prep school kids in St. Thomas for vacation. Thirteen weeks and three days after I bought the wreck from the insurance company for $100 — as is, where is, with the responsibility of removal — we were out on charter.
We raced Iolaire and never took first prize but often won a podium place. Each time we did, I would raise a toast to Dick Avery, saying he was a great sailor but a poor predictor of the future. Dick had a good sense of humor and we would have a laugh over his predictions.
When Dick first arrived in St. Thomas, in November 1959, finding accommodations was difficult and expensive. The ever-resourceful Dick got together with Captain Tony, a marine captain badly injured in the Korean war; Augie Hollen, who was always building something; and Don Greise the sailmaker. They built four houseboats, which they moored off Frenchtown. They lived there happily beginning in 1962. In the middle ’60s the local government started passing rules to force them to move. But for many years Dick succeeded in out-manoeuvring them and stayed on his houseboat until 1970, when he bought land on which he designed and built his house.
The bareboat fleet in those early days was a miscellaneous collection with no interchangeabilty of parts or equipment. Local stocks of spares was minimal and obtaining parts from the states all but impossible. Alternators had not yet been invented, and incandescent lights sucked batteries flat with amazing rapidity, and Dick spent a lot of time charging around bringing batteries to boats and getting engines to start. Wooden boats needed to be hauled, but what facilities there were were unreliable.
Dick had a piece of land in Frenchtown for his bareboat base and maintenance shop, so he decided to build a slipway. The standard slipway with two rails required a strong cradle to carry the weight of boats with beams of seven or eight feet. Dick was ingenious. He built a monorail slipway. A single heavy beam, about 15 feet long, has wheels mounted on the bottom and two horizontal arms about five feet long attached to the center beam. There were small wheels under the arms and uprights at the end of the arms. He then laid a single heavy track to take the wheels on the bottom of the heavy central beam, then two light tracks to take the small wheels on the bottom of the arms. A winch was found in a Krum Bay junkyard; a motor to power it came out of a wrecked car. It worked. Dick hauled boats on it from 1967 to 1987, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Donna.
He had a good maintenance and repair shop, but he was a frustrated boat builder. He built a wonderful little about 18-foot replica steam tug. It was diesel powered but produced fake steam through the funnel, and it had an authentic steam whistle, but air rather than steam powered.
With his good friend the late Rudy Thompson he had various interesting boatbuilding or boat-altering projects. Their best was altering Rudy’s short, fat boat with high freeboard. Dick, Rudy and Dick’s son Morgan took a skill saw and cut the top off the bottom. Then they cut 18 inches off the bottom, and then rebonded the top to the bottom. The result was not only a a much better looking boat, but also one that for well over 20 years was the boat to beat in all St. Thomas Rolex and BVI regattas. Needless to say, headroom was lacking. When I asked Rudy’s wife, Sheila, about that she replied, “If we are having a good party after a race and it starts raining we rush below and just continue drinking sitting down!”
Dick was a frustrated boat designer. In 1987 he bought a 41-foot bare hull built by Duffy & Duff and designed by Joel White of Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine. For ten years, Dick had been sketching deck structures and interior layouts. Dick and his son Morgan finished the boat as a beautiful trawler-type yacht with the pilot house and the interior to Dick’s own design. A local Maine magazine published a beautifully illustrated article about Dick’s trawler yacht. The article was written by a naval architect. In the article he stated that when amateurs start redesigning boats the result is usually either a step backward or a complete disaster, but Dick Avery’s alterations to Joel White’s design were a definite improvement.
After rebuilding Iolaire in Venezuela in 1995 and taking her to Europe, I began cruising the Caribbean on Li’l Iolaire, a 28-foot J Francis Jones sloop. She was a little rocket ship, but I felt she would be easier to handle as a yawl. While in St. Thomas at the late Timi Carstarphen’s dock, discussing this with Timi and Dick, Dick said, “No problem; I have the solution.” The next day Dick arrived in his dinghy with an aluminium mast from one of the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s Mercury sailboats that had been wrecked in a hurricane. We got out the tape measure, drew up Li’l Iolaire’s sail plan and sketched up a mizzen and mizzen boom. We shortened the Mercury mast, went into the junk pile under Timi’s treehouse and came up with enough wire turnbuckles to rig the mast and a boom we shortened; some blocks were found, and some spare line. In a day Li’l Iolaire became a yawl, with total cost a very reasonable bill from Dick for four hours’ labor, and a big beer bill for Heineken for the three of us.
Each year until Li’l Iolaire was eaten up by a big cat in the closing hours of Hurricane Ivan, I would pick her up in Grenada in late October, slowly work my way north, and leave her at Timi’s dock over Christmas and New Year. I would see Dick before I left, giving him a list of odds and ends to be done in my absence. When I returned, all would be done and off I would go.
One year I asked Dick to touch up the deck as necessary then give it one coat overall. I arrived back and the deck looked beautiful. I complimented Dick on an excellent job. Dick replied, “It was a tough job, and I cannot figure it out. The port side of the deck needed only a little bit of touch-up, but the starboard side — especially back by the cockpit — was so badly worn that it took three coats of touch-up before I could give it a final coat. Do you have any idea why the starboard side of the boat was so badly worn compared to the port side?”
I replied, “I know you are a good sailor and think your parents were also sailors but neither they nor you were brought up in proper yachting fashion and traditions. Paid hands and tradesmen board a yacht from the port side, owners and guests on the starboard side. Since Li’l Iolaire has no paid hands nor do tradesmen visit her, the port deck is not worn, but since everyone comes aboard on the starboard side it gets well worn!”
Dick sucked on his moustache, and then we had a beer and a good laugh.
Dick, I hope you enjoy sailors’ Valhalla, where the winds are fair, the seas smooth, the boats are beautiful and there are no catamarans.
MORE ON MORE MOORINGS
Further to letters in recent issues about the proliferation of mooring balls.
Sadly, the trend to “privatization” of lovely anchorage sites continues. On our tenth winter of cruising the Eastern Caribbean aboard Spray, our Tartan 3700, we have come across two more examples.
There is a great spot in a corner of Clarkes Court (Woburn) Bay in Grenada. Over the years we have dropped the hook for a few days and enjoyed the clean water and wind protection. It was last year, I believe, that I noticed the mooring balls for the first time. There are about 12, and so arranged to effectively blockade the bay, forcing anyone who wished to anchor out into 30- to 40-foot depths and into the wind and swell. This year on principle, and with some difficulty, I anchored amongst the balls, but nicely spaced and well clear of them. Needless to say, shortly thereafter I was politely given serial reasons, each one more sketchy, why I should move. Having made my point, I did eventually move to avoid stress.
The other privatization technique is to “fence off” an anchorage with buoys and influence the government to declare a “marine protected area”. This appears to have been the modus operandi at Corbay, a lovely little two- or three-boat spot on Canouan, in order that members of a private restaurant with an imported sand beach may enjoy unobstructed sunset views. Fortunately, there are many anchorages. But vigilance is necessary as big money speaks loudly.
I live full time with my partner on our 40-foot sailboat. We winter over in Grenada and are very aware and affected by the mooring versus anchoring dilemma.
The laws of water rules are set by the local port authorities. I have spoken to several Grenadian boatowners and they are just as frustrated as we part-time boaters are. Several locals have questioned the port authority and have met dead ends. It seems like there is presently no office or officer to appeal to about the situation. In September 2016, I submitted a letter to the Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG), stating my concerns about the Grenada anchorages of Prickly Bay, Mt. Hartman and Hog Island, as well as Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, becoming over-run with mooring balls.
I also asked the following questions: Who has priority over the space designated as an anchorage: a boat on a mooring or an anchored vessel? If a vessel anchors near an unregistered mooring with no boat on it, can the vessel be required to move? What is the legal requirement that will stand up in a court of law in the case of a dispute? What is required of a business or individual to place a mooring, maintain it, identify it and insure it?
No answers have been forthcoming.
This is a real problem and will get worse and conflicts will end up in the courts with insurance companies making the decisions and rulings.
Dear Devlin and William,
We asked Robin Swaisland, President of MAYAG, for commentary, which follows.
Thank you very much for an opportunity to comment. We are well aware of the issue, and are grappling with it. But it will come as no surprise to any sailor with Caribbean experience that finding a sensible resolution is proving to be long-winded, complex and difficult. It is true that the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA) is the National Agency responsible for mooring issues. But our current interpretation of the law is that it applies only to official Ports of Entry. It seems that GPA are not keen to get involved. MAYAG has recruited a lawyer with maritime law experience to its Board of Directors to improve our capacity to understand all the angles, and strengthen our ability to negotiate with Government. We are on the case.
We want to maintain a choice between anchoring and mooring for all our visiting yachts. Apart from the proliferation of mooring balls by those who want to make money from them, we also face a strong environmental lobby that believes yacht anchors cause too much damage to the seabed. The Woburn area is part of a designated Marine Protected Area, and when its management team is operational we can expect further pressure to reduce anchoring. MAYAG’s position is to ask the marine scientific community to be more specific about the seabed features that really need protection, rather than to demand a blanket ban for a whole Marine Protected Area. We are having the same discussions about the anchorage outside St George’s Harbour, which is in the recently declared Grand Anse Marine Protected Area.
We sincerely hope that this situation will not put off visiting yachts, and through the pages of your great publication we shall keep everyone informed of progress.
President, Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada
TOO MANY CATS!
Further to letters in recent issues about cat-feeding programs in marinas.
I had left my boat stored on the hard. When I came home to Angelos after an absence of six months, someone had taken over. Down below, I stepped on fresh and old fecal matter everywhere, and bird feathers were all over. At least one cat had given birth on my bed. I can’t even describe the smell and the mess!
The boat had been covered and closed, but I did not close one bull’s eye that I normally leave open for ventilation. I don‘t know how the cats got up onto the boat; there was no ladder.
I was extremely upset, and I went to the management of the boatyard. They said they already knew about the cat problem and showed me a written report that stated that in the last few months, 30 stray cats had already been eliminated. But then they had problems with other customers, who wanted to feed the cats as pets.
As I write, plenty of cats are running around everywhere in different yards, jumping on and off boats. I have watched some owners of boats on the hard presenting the cats with dinner on a plate, small morsels accurately cut in cubes, and the top nicely decorated! I’ve seen as many as 20 cats at once come to be fed. And exactly here is the problem. Feeding cats makes them stronger, and without ongoing spay-and-neuter programs they multiply — fast.
Come on people, this is not normal! Can you imagine 50 and more cats running around in one single boatyard? A boatyard is not a zoo. Animal hoarding is a mental disorder. But the boatyards get blamed for that; their business gets damaged. Do you want to store your floating home where there are more stray cats than boats?
Don’t get me wrong: I love cats, but one or two per boatyard should be enough. Yards want to keep a cat to get rid of mice and rats. But if the cats get fed like gourmands there is no necessity to lift even a paw for a mouse.
Please think the matter over carefully. There is nothing against feeding animals as long as it does not get out of control. And I guarantee, if what happened to me happens to you when you come back to your boat home, you will definitely see my point.
SEARCHING FOR FATHER, BOAT
Dear Compass Readers,
Can you help me? I’m searching for information about my father, Hans Christian Heinrich Frohlich, and also for his sailing vessel, Isabelita Betancor. The last I know is that she docked at Recife in Brazil in the early Seventies.
Isabelita Betancor is still Spanish registered, as far as we know. I know from the Spanish Official Lists of Vessels of 2002 and 2009 is that her distinguishing mark, EA4872, was registered in folio 583 fifth list and registered in Las Palmas.
The vessel was built in 1948, of traditional wood construction, in Las Palmas It was registered with the number 2041 of the third list, fishing vessels, and rigged as a ketch. It was a pure sailing vessel. The first owner was Ramón Betancor Villalba. The main dimensions were 15.26 metres length, 4.97 metres beam, and 2.28 metres depth. The gross tonnage was 23.14 TRB and the net tonnage 12.80 TRN. The cost of the construction was 50,000 pesetas.
On May 27th, 1969, the boat was changed to the pleasure register, fifth list, with the number 583. On June 15th, 1970, the boat was sold to two Swedish citizens, Hans Christian Heinrich and Mari Anne Moller for 20.000 pesetas. Two engines of 25 horsepower each were installed before the trip to South America in 1971.
I am grateful for all information about Isabelita Betancor and her crew.
This is how you can help: If you know people who sailed or have contacts in the world with other sailors, tell them about this. In this way, I hope that as many people as possible get to read this, and then the chance that I’ll get to know something about what happened to the boat and the crew will increase. If you have access to newspaper archives, you can help me by searching for Isabelita Betancor and my father in the archives.
Please visit my page on the search on Facebook:
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