Reconstruction Begins!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Center portion of keelson with temporary boltsCenter of keelson with temporary bolts

Less than a year ago I wrote an article for Boating on the Hudson about the volunteers who are reconstructing the Eleanor. At that time the work was approaching a huge turning point. Eleanor was just about disassembled and the workers were anxious to start working with “new” wood and start putting her back together. This past week it happened. Our volunteers installed the new keelson, making ready for the new floor, new ribs, and reconstruction of the transom. All of these are being made of new white oak.

 New floor cut and planed and ready to goNew floors cut & planed & ready to go

We lift our glasses and give a toast to our over-the-top volunteer crew who have been working so hard:  Artie Christie, Guy Hazelton, Don Hegeman, Bill Hurd, Joseph Kenneally, Consultant Jim Kricker, Chris O’Reilly, and Mark Weatherup.  Extra nods to Bill Burrows who inspired us all with his sense of humor, his talents, and by creating the chart, and to Louise Bliss who keeps it all together and moving forward.

Our volunteers work on Thursday nights as their schedules allow at a warehouse off Third Street in Hudson. We invite woodworkers who would enjoy learning about wooden boat restoration to join us. Hopefully we can get a day crew together. The work has turned out to education for adults.

Towards the end of 2014 HRHBrass, Inc. purchased new cedar and mahogany, and wanna for the garboard strakes. We started fundraising for the spars. Eleanor needs $15,000 to purchase a new mast, boom and gaff. We invite you to a Great Lawn and Porch Party at Rokeby on May 31rst to help us meet that goal. Halsey Herreshoff and hopefully you will be our special guests.

For those of you who haven’t seen the article, we reprint it here. It’s a bit dated as it was written in May 2014.  JAH


Patience is a virtue when sailing a boat.  It also comes in handy when restoring one.

Eleanor, a 112-year old, 36-foot gaff-rigged Raceabout Class Sloop designed to win by Clinton Crane, is the last of seven – so it is said.  She sits stripped of her glory in a dark warehouse near the river in Hudson.  Her current crew is a dedicated volunteer band of believers, dreamers and doers — some passionate about sailing, others about restoration. Most guess it will be five years before she is back in place gracing the city’s harbor. Perhaps they are being over-cautious with their estimates, because their progress, working only a few hours a week, is impressive.

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Volunteers look to Bill Burrows and Richard Marsters for leadership and expertise.  Bill joined the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society, Inc. in 2011 when his wife learned about HRHBrass and said to him: “You might find this interesting.”  Bill built his home, barn, and two wood kayaks but never sailed until this past summer.

Richard has restored old Dutch homes in Woodstock and the Stockade in Kingston, and built cabinetry for the fiberglass world- sailing boats built under the many names of the original Allied Boat Company of Catskill.  Richard is the technical man.

Since the beginning of 2013 the group has:

·      recorded the deck fittings by photograph
·      removed the plywood deck
·      removed paint
·      removed and photographed bunks and benches
·      removed the rudder
·      removed and rebuilt the transom
·      removed and numbered the cross-sections
·      removed and photographed the tiller
·      removed the keel
·      separated the 2000 lb.lead keelfrom the deadwood
·      found (with difficulty) copper rivets holding the keelson in place
·      removed 15-foot long port and garboard strakes after four months of pulling copper rivets and screws
·      measured floor boards and cut patterns for new ones


Disassembling is almost done and all the secrets of the boat most likely have been discovered.  Richard, who compares boat restoration to sculpture, says putting it back together will be easy.  The harder part is getting everything ready to put together.

IMG_0619cropOther essential “crew” members, but not all of them, include Doug Cropper who has handsomely restored Eleanor’s transom just because; Jim Kricker who surveyed Eleanor to establish a work plan, materials lists, and cost estimates; Joe Kenneally who is the provisioner;  and an “old salt,” Ricky Aldrich who harvested and milled oak for the reconstruction from his farm Rokeby.

Louise Bliss accepts jobs assigned to her.  At one recent session she was under the Eleanor removing old caulk and shanks of copper rivets.  At other times she’s under there scraping paint.

The next big push will be to remove and replace the ribs, two-at-a-time, with new oak ribs steamed in a chamber built by the members.  HRHBrass is looking forward to celebrating Eleanor’s coming about.  At last the crew will be putting the boat together instead of taking her apart.

When not working on the boat, the crew is talking about it:  How shall we reconstruct the deadwood?   Let’s go check out the iceboats in Tivoli since the rigging is similar to Eleanor’s.  The centerboard is a nuisance, but it is a historic feature.  Should we keep it?  Every step requires time for thoughtful planning, for strategy.

The hands-off crew is thinking all the time also.  This is the “Year of the Mast” and the group is working to raise the money to cover its cost, as well as to educate the many new citizens of Hudson and its visitors about the significant role of the river in Hudson’s past.

Phil Hoyt, who crewed on racing boats in Long Island Sound and sailed the Newport/Bermuda race in 1954, is photographing the boat’s progress.  He smiles when he says he hopes to live to see her in the water. Be patient Phil.  If a few more men and women contribute a few hours a week to the restoration, Phil and visitors to the Hudson Valley will be racing out towards the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse on Eleanor in no time.

One response to “Reconstruction Begins!”

  1. cameron coe says:

    Richard Marsters…greetings. Google Noah Parsons House.Com…rebuilt…I took it down and moved it. John Otis, my hero, rebuilt it…only the front part, unnerstan. Hope your Doctors Without Borders daughter is well, et al.
    Many fond remembrances…at least a few! I’m retired, living at the Inner Harbor in Balmer, rebuilding the Nova for the third time…550 HP. Still have a cute little plywood stool of yours, painted nicely in Rustoleum Safety Red…an historic hue. Son living in Pearl River, NY with wife and one-year-old daughter. Cameron Coe

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