Shearwater is a classic Newport-style schooner yacht, only recently recognized as a national landmark in 2009. The vessel was built by Rice Brother Corporation in East Boothbay, Maine, back in a time when yachting was a rare combination of elegance and adventure; Rice Bros. were well known for building luxury pleasure yachts and produced some 4,000 hulls over a period of 64 years. The keel was laid down on January 4, 1929 and a news clip from the Boothbay Register reflects alongside a photograph "Tyler Hodgon at the old Tide Mill is getting out timbers for the schooner to be built at Rice’s. Vessel to be built of native white oak." Traditionally built from hand-hewn native white oak, she was the last boat to be constructed at that yard - likely due to the ensuing Great Depression brought on by the Stock Market Crash that occurred later that autumn. East Boothbay was a small coastal town with shipbuilding being its only industry. About 40 workmen were employed for the construction of SHEARWATER.
Her designer Theodore Donald Wells was born in Hudson Falls, N Y on October 22, 1875. He was a naval architect and marine engineer, a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and also the Institute of Naval Architects London. His education included post-graduate work at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He began his career as a member of the firm Herreshoff and Wells, N. Y. City in 1902. Working with Herreshoff no doubt had an influence on his designs, which bear similarities to many of the famous Herreshoff designed yachts of that time. From 1903 to 1907 he worked for Wintringham and Wells and then began practicing his profession under his own name. Mr. Wells joined the Navy Department in March 1917 and became Superintending Constructor of the Baltimore District U. S. N. Notable yachts designed and constructed under his supervision are "Viking" a 272 foot steel motor yacht built for George F. Baker in 1929 by Newport News and "Karina" a three masted schooner built for Robert E. Tod in 1932 by Staten Island Shipbuilding. Mr. Tod was a well-known offshore yachtsman as was his former yacht ‘Thistle", which competed in the Emperors Cup ocean race.
SHEARWATER was launched on May 4, 1929 and photographs in the Boothbay Register reflect her graceful and elegant lines. Her first Captain, Leon Esterbrook of Edgarton, MA, arrived to take charge of the fitting out. Her owner Charles E Dunlap was a member of the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, Oyster Bay, NY and this became SHEARWATER’s first homeport after her completion in late September 1929. It was there in Oyster Bay that she first started to thrill those who sailed in luxury aboard her and those who were privileged to crew her on race day.
Since her launching and documentation in Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts in 1929, she has had a colorful history and has been carefully maintained and restored to standards that few contemporary vessels are able to match and is truly a piece of American Maritime History.
On November 7, 1942 SHEARWATER was requisitioned by the War Shipping Administration and became a member of The United States Coast Guard’s Coastal Picket Patrol during World War Two. She was painted gray and bore the numbers CG67004. Based at Little Creek, Virginia she patrolled the waters east of the Chesapeake Bay entrance and south towards Cape Hatteras. Her skipper during that period reflected on how they used their free time while out on submarine patrol to race against other yachts and in his own words "sailed in tandem with the schooner Lord Jim, racing in and out of port, up and down the east coast and winning." She was designed and built as a gaff rigged schooner but during this period was changed to a Marconi rig. She carries over 2,550 square feet while under full sail.
A true veteran world cruiser, she first transited the Panama Canal in July 1946 and in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s completed a two and a half-year global circumnavigation.
In December 1971 Mrs. John B. Thayer of Rosemont, wife of a former trustee and treasurer, donated SHEARWATER to the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Environmental Medicine. She was used by the university as a laboratory for research on physiological responses to the stresses of living and working underwater. Captained by James Shearson, she was fitted with compressors, generators, monitoring instruments and a small decompression chamber.
She has participated in many Ancient Mariner and Classic yacht races in U S waters as well as racing in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand while on her circumnavigation in the early 1980’s. It is rumored she was once dismasted in the famous Newport to Bermuda race. She was last raced by the current owners in San Diego in May 1995 in the American Schooner Cup and finished second overall.
She entered the yacht charter industry in 1966 whilst on the West Coast sailing to the Channel Islands and was again used to generate income to keep her shipshape while owned by the University of Pennsylvania. During the chartering industry’s infancy in the Caribbean, SHEARWATER was known as the " Queen of the Fleet". Today she continues this tradition offering the most unique sailing experience and has passed rigid Coast Guard inspections and can carry up to 49 passengers.
We welcome you to join us for an excellent opportunity to experience the ambiance of a vintage sailing vessel while delighting in the splendors of The Manhattan sky-line, the Statue of Liberty or the beauty of the oceans beyond.