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Thread: L. Francis h.

  1. #1
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    Default L. Francis h.

    The object of this thread is to try to get input from people who have knowledge, experience, or enthusiasm for the yacht design work of L. Francis Herreshoff.
    Leading off with a first=person, second=hand account.
    Back in the 1980's a good friend got me some sub-contract work at a yard that was building fishing boats. One of the people around there was Roger Morse, who was nephew (I think) of Wilbur Morse, who's credited with designing the Friendship Sloop.
    Roger Morse had owned his own shop and built a lot of boats, and his "Morse" name is the one attached to the "Lyman-Morse" company that is associated with swank-ola yachts.
    I heard that he'd built some LFH designs, and asked him about what LFH was like to work with. Morse said that he'd come screaming into town, driving some Eye-talian car (I think it was a Ferrari), and just look things over, "pretty quiet-spoke fella."according to Morse.
    I asked him what LFH designs he'd built, and he said that he'd built the original of the "Marco Polo" design. At the time I thought the Marco Polo was just about the coolest thing ever designed, and asked him what the hull was like to build.
    "T'weren't nothing to it," Morse said. "It was like planking up a cigar."
    SEO

  2. #2
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    L. Francis did own a Ferrari which he lovingly liked to clean by wiping off the early morning dew with a soft chamois. When I asked why he drove such an exotic car around Marble Head, his answer was, Because its a damn fine car! That's why!"
    Jay

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    In The Compleat Cruiser iirc he recommended the same morning dew chamois-wipe-down of a boat's varnished surfaces. His reasoning was that acids and dirts in the dew would become distilled and more corrosive to the finish if allowed to evaporate in the sun and wind. Same thinking about the Ferrari I imagine.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    The entrance to the Herreshoff Home at Crocker Park in Marble Head was a castle built to resemble Eric the Red's stronghold. The lot sloped a bit and so the main entrance was up a short flight of concrete steps that led to a Gothic Arched door. The door had a knocker and a bronze plaque on the front that simply stated, "L.Francis Herreshoff, Yacht Designer". The interesting thing about the door was that due to the prevailing winds during storms, the door leaked! And, so the skipper caulked it shut. The entrance was below into a hall and dining room with a small kitchen beyond it. Skipper had a standing joke to challenge the knowledge of wood identification to his guests. I was handed the small block and was asked if I knew what it was. It was snow white and of open grain. So, I said that if the grain were tighter I would say it was holly. "Well, that is a good guess, but you are wrong", was the reply.
    "It is macassar ebony. But it was bleached with two part bleach." Even though it was a joke, I learned to be more carefull in my observations and answers after that.
    Jay

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    My own interest in sailing and cruising came from my discovery of LFH's _Sensible Cruising Designs_ in the stacks of my college library as I was wandering around avoiding studying for whatever class I was there for. Unfortunately he was already dead by that time, but I have most of his books and read everything by and about him that I come across. I think it is fair to say that he was a bit of a curmudgeon and surely a "character".

    I'm grateful to Jay and others who have first hand stories to relate. Roger Taylor is supposed to be writing a biography, does anyone know how that is coming along?

    Bob

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I always get the herreshoffs mixed up, and who designed what.

    Nevertheless, Meadow Lark remains my favorite design. I consider my Shearwater Yawl a "trailerable" Meadow Lark.

    Moby Nick

  7. #7
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I have seen two of his designs, Araminta, and the 30 Square, Oreole. I had a sail on the second. She is owned by the Museum of Yachting at Newport. Both are beautiful.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    The big benefit of using the morning dew to clean the brightwork is that it doesn't use ship's water, a short resource.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    The entrance to the Herreshoff Home at Crocker Park in Marble Head was a castle built to resemble Eric the Red's stronghold.
    Like this?




    Steven

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    The morning dew is distilled water, eh?
    No spots...

  11. #11
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Anyone who drove a Ferrari and designed this had to be OK

    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime" Mark Twain... so... Carpe the living sh!t out of the Diem

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    A good shot of the Castle. The garage has a copper roof and also has a second floor with access via a stair case on the left. The sleds that Skipper and Muriel Vaughn would slide down the street on were stored under the stairs. In the second floor, on shelves, on the north wall was a full set of bound copies of the Rudder from the first issue on until skipper got fed up with what he called "Utter Nonsense" in later issues after 1950. I would have sold my soul to the fiberglass promoters just to have been able to have owned that collection. Also were brochures that were printed up after the Herreshoff Mfg. Co. was purchased by Haffenreffer.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 12:29 PM.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoeyawl View Post
    The morning dew is distilled water, eh?
    No spots...
    Indeed it is.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post
    Anyone who drove a Ferrari and designed this had to be OK

    That is Nathaniel's design of one of his early cats that had independently supported hulls that allowed them to pitch separatlly from each other. His son, Francis, had the Ferrari.
    Jay

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    That is Nathaniel's design of one of his early cats that had independently supported hulls that allowed them to pitch separatlly from each other. His son, Francis, had the Ferrari.
    Jay
    I thought someone was getting their Herreshoffs mixed up.


    Steven

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Damn... and I DID do the search for L Francis H.... its that damn interwrongweb again... can't trust it.

    The Mystic site lists a number of LFH cat designs, but I couldn't find an image of them..... must look harder eh?
    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime" Mark Twain... so... Carpe the living sh!t out of the Diem

  17. #17
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    If memory serves, Nat designed that catamaran in 1870, and liked racing the fastest steamers to show off its speed. L. Francis was born in 1890.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Hi All-I was introduced to LFH's work in 1972 (same year he died) when I came to work for F.E. Barlow in Pocasset, MAss (USA). Bucky, as he is known, had built the fist Meadowlark, the Loon, for a customer in maybe 1951(?). Later he went on to build the Golden Ball (1960) for same customer. It was during the construction of those vessels that Bucky came to know LFH. There are stories.......Also in the care of the yard was Quiet Tune to which I was introduced. From that exposure developed my own plan to build a Rozinante (which I did) and during which time I made the acquaintance of Muriel Vaugh and was invited to The Castle. It was with a sense of wonderment that I entered that inner sanctum-the upstairs workshop.
    Muriel loaned me LFH's own patterns for the Rozinante hardware.
    Some winters at Barlow's in Pocasset we had 4 Meadowlarks afloat. Interesting to see the variants. I now own Marco Polo myself.
    I believe LFH also had a Lancia.
    LFH did design a catamaran-the SailSki. Don't know if anyone ever built one but looked a bit complicated and hulls assymetrical, for example. Muriel used to give out copies of those SailSki plans for free if anyone would build one.......
    Anyway-sory to have just missed the man but his designs are "Things of Beauty" formany of us and are inspirational.
    I think Jay G. could dig up more photos of the inner wonders of The Castle.
    All the best/JCaird

  19. #19
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    In about 1970, I built my first boat; a dory construction Marco Polo tender. I bought the plans from Rudder for ten dollars. I set the molds, put the bottom on and made my first plank. The drawing had no indication of the proper screw size. What to do? I got his phone number from information and called him up. When I got to asking about the proper screw size, he said something I will never forget. "Building a boat is really nothing but solving problems. If you can't figure out what screw size will work, you will never get that boat built". OK, lesson learned; I think of it often. Thanks Skipper.
    Dave

  20. #20
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    My daughter's boy friend owns a Marco Polo. They are putting her into shape for a re-launch this summer.
    Jay

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    L. Francis loved trees. He and Muriel would often visit the cemetery in Marble Head just in order to see all of the different vareties that were planted there. When we went for the tour, I learned a thing or two about oak trees. White oak is called "White" not because of the color of the wood but, because the undersides of the leaves reflect light in such a manner as to look white. Red oak does not do this but, often reflects a redish bronze look.
    Jay

  22. #22
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I was once told a story by an H-28 owner, who was looking at the bowsprit that I'd put on my H-28. He said that he'd sailed to Marblehead, went to LFH's house, asked about putting a bowsprit on the H-28, and was subjected to a dressing-down on the subject of altering designs.
    He apologized for the intrusion, and was turning to leave, when he said that Herreshoff went into a file, and got out a sheet of paper with a bowsprit design for the H-28, handed it to him. Didn't say anything.
    I wonder if that was a true story. He no longer had the drawing, and his H-28 was a knockabout.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    L. Francis had reasons for the way he designed his boats. His comment to me once was that he planed his boats so that it wasn't necessary to have a bunch of "Gigolo Yacht Jockeys" on board to contribute a lot of of verbal chaos while eating and drinking up all the stores!
    Both Marco Polo and the H28 have knock about rigs and I must agree that the boats are much better as designed. The boat you see above was changed from a three masted schooner to a two and has a bow sprit added. The reason for the original design was so that only one person was needed to handle any one of the sails. The Marco Polo is a passage maker and is designed as a motor sailer. Skipper really liked this design over all that he did. I personally like the Medow Lark and of course the Bounty is my dream boat.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 12:39 PM.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    When I first got my H-28, in 1976, she had a very old suit of Boston sails, including a nylon genoa. NYLON! No fooling.
    By the end of a winter's turn through the Bahamas, the main had been restitched so much that it was not exactly a prime sail.
    Needless to say, she didn't go to windward very well, partiularly with a big nylon lapping headsail stretching its draft ever aftward. She also had a very strong weather helm.
    The wise men of the anchorage all agreed that I needed a bowsprit. So I built one, scaling its proportions LFH's other designs in Sensible Cruising Designs, from Ticonderoga down to Araminta. One foot of bowsprit overhang for each seven feet of length on deck, if anyone's interested...
    The general design and arrangement came from Neriea, which I was very enthralled with at the time. It looked quite lovely, sailed all right. But by that time I had gotten newer, flatter sails, made out of dacron, and so the weather helm had disappeared. She still has the bowsprit, still looks lovely, still really doesn't need it to sail very well.
    In general I agree with the idea that Herreshoff knows more about boats than any three ordinary mortals. At the same time, there is a case to be made That modern materials might justify modifying some rigs. In the case of "Marco Polo," I can see how the advent of dacron sails, roller furling headsails, etc, might persuade one that a ketch Marco Polo might make a better boat.
    Once when working on an oceanographic vessel out on the Gulf Stream we were doing some sampling work when a Marco Polo came up over the horizon, complete with a course and raffee, making about ten knots and looking very sweet and at-home.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I have a photo somewhere of a lovely H 28 with a short plank bowspirt taken in the Virgin Islands in 1976. It was painted in pastels and real nice looking. I'll see if I can find it.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Random comments:

    In LFH's "The Common Sense of Yacht Design", there's a brief history of the multihulls designed by Nathaniel H. and his other son, A. Sidney DeWolfe Herreshoff.

    Seems to me that a lot of added bowsprits are motivated by the weather helm caused by blown-out sails.

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I am glad that Peter Belenky came through with the photo of Sailski as I knew full well that at least one had been built.

    As to LFH I am sure there are those who know far more than I. What I do know is that in 1920-21 after he got out of the navy he Frank Paine, Starling Burgess and Starling's son, Frederic Tudor, shared a house in Provincetown, MA where Burgess mentored his gifted students. In late 1921 Burgess and Paine formed a design and brokerage firm called, well, Burgess and Paine. LFH was hired as a draftsman along with Norman Skene (Skenes elements). I have copies of many plans produced by this firm and no matter the origin of the design, if the drawings were signed 'LFH' they were true works of art.

    He left the firm in late '25 or early '26 just after he designed a radical R boat named Yankee, not as radical as Live Yankee, yet to come but a very interesting boat nonetheless.

    To skip ahead a great number of years, after years of estrangement LFH came to Paine's house in Wayland MA, with a pair of brass candlesticks that he had made to 'bring light to the darkness. I wish I knew where they were now.

    LFH and FP had been working on a number of projects shortly before Paine's death in 1952. Mystic has a number of drawings of a 'five cycle gasoline engine'. I have not had a chance to look at these to see what that meant, but in time.

    When Paine was in the hospital for what turned out to be the last time LFH sent him a piece of tarred hemp to remind him of ships and the sea. I think Paine died before this arrived, but I thought it an interesting gesture.

    I ramble but this is all off the top of my head without benefit of my notes that are scattered due to house remodeling.

    As ever I am in constant search of materials relating to the Paine, Burgess, LFH era. My great grandfather, Paine, would think me mad for digging up the past. But I am not he.

    Jon

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I can't add much to the discussion about the various Herreshoff designs, but I'd swear I saw an article ("Messing About In Boats," maybe) that pictured one of the Herreshoffs wiping down a Gullwing Mercedes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_300SL.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    You can't think that he would limit himself to Ferraris, can you? LFH enjoyed nice cars, and owned several.

    Jon

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Jon R,
    Thanks very much for your contribution. This is something that the internet can do.
    Has anyone on here sailed on a "Sailski?"
    Speaking as an owner of a Hobie 18, having sailed Tornadoes, etc, the rig makes a lot of sense. The competing interest in having a taut headsail luff and light structure weight seem to be mutually exclusive, and a luff spar seems like a logical solution.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    What a genius he was, in his designs and his writing(s). We're extremely fortunate to be stewards of DEVA, the only-build of his Design #65 (see WB #157). See in Common Sense. I'm sorry I never got to meet him... alas. I can't wait to read Roger's book.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    Here's the address of an article about "The Castle" and LFH, written by someone who grew up in Marblehead, and is the current owner of the castle:

    http://www.herreshoffcastle.com/History1.html

    It includes a comment that LFH owned a gull-wing Mercedes.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    One of the mistakes that was made in constructing the Castle was that the walls were built of terra cotta four celled conduit piping. These pipes were about three feet long and laid so that the hollow cells face out board and in board making a perfect water way for the many leaks that came through the outer and inner plaster that is laid on expanded steel fabric. In fact, it was a constant battle to staunch the leaking walls and overheads. Visquine was always in use to protect Skipper's antiques in the main hall and lathes, drafting tables and tools that were housed in the third story shop.
    Jay

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    Default Re: L. Francis h.

    I am sad to say that I am not sure if I ever met LFH myself or not.. I would have been young. He remained a friend of the family and was a frequent guest at my great grandmother Paine's house. She lived to a ripe old age and I knew her well. I wished I had mined her wealth of knowledge when I had the chance. A story that she did tell me once was that when LFH FP and Burgess were in P town Starling designed two six meters one with the help of LFH that was Sheila, and the other, Jeanie with help from FP. The latter was built in P Town by LFH, FP and WSB themselves. Now that would be a cool piece of history. Jeanie was sailed in 1921 with a crew of FCP, LFH and Nick Potter. Either too many cooks or the boat was genuinely bad. I think the latter. They took her to England and stunk up the Six meter competition. FP sold the boat in England.
    Sheila fared much better, and is with us today.

    Yes, LFH was a genius. His racing boats in particular looked like nothing that came before. An original thinker.

    Jon

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