Nat is a Master sailmaker, rigger and sail designer based in East Boothbay, Maine. He is most well known for building sails for large traditional sailing vessels in the United States and abroad. Nat is very excited about designing and building sails for Eleanor as sailboat Eleanor is being restored rather than being replicated. To build the sails for Eleanor, a historical vessel on the New York State and National Registers, is an honor and a privilege. We are pleased to have Nat Wilson and Suzanne Leahy, our spar builder, join in the restoration of Eleanor.

Main ail & Rigging 1998

Main Sail & Rigging — 1998

Bliss has been working with Wilson since 2014 on the sail rig which includes, sails, spars, and rigging. Much research was completed by Leahy, Wilson, and Bliss which has been very challenging as there are no plans in existence about the sail rig of Eleanor. Final details and planning are still to be completed and we must raise the funds to Raise the Sails.

Ships that have sails and/or rigging built by Wilson include the U.S.S. Constitution, USC Eagle, Spirit of Massachusetts, American Eagle, and Mayflower 11.

Published in the Register Star, January 27, 2016, p.A11

100_1108William Burrows, four year member and volunteer, stands beside the new deadwood for Eleanor.  The construction of the deadwood, designed after the 1903 deadwood, was engineered by Burrows and took several months to make.  The new deadwood is constructed of four slabs of White Oak.  The original cuts were done with a chain saw, roughly shaped, laminated together and then carefully cut and finally shaped by sanding to have the same lines as the original.  Deadwood is the part of the boat that fits between the original 2000 lb. lead keel and the new keelson which was also engineered and made by volunteers with Burrows being the lead volunteer.  In 2015 the volunteers at the side dedicated 514 and one-half hours to the project.

January 2016 celebrates the fifth year since the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society Inc. was organized on January 6th, 2011 by people in Columbia and Greene Counties who wanted to save Eleanor, the last remaining gaff rigged sailboat of her design to sail without a motor in the waters off of Catskill, Hudson, Athens and the Hudson River between Albany and New York.

When she sets sail again, she will be powered by the wind and an electric motor keeping her the environmental vessel she has always been. Because of Eleanor’s low freeboard, ability to come about in her own length and sail against the tides and light and variable winds characteristic of the Hudson River, she has spent her entire sailing life only on that river.

The saving of Eleanor is being done by patient and skilled volunteers at the restoration site at 99 South Front Street, Hudson. The Hudson Riverfront Industrial Park building, inside door 19 is where the real Eleanor, not a replica is being repaired. To the casual visitor it may not appear that progress is being made, but to the members volunteers who gather on Thursday nights to share camaraderie, skills, thoughts and experience, a great deal of work has been accomplished. The Eleanor project is the only project of this nature to take place anywhere along the Hudson River (Clearwater and Woodie Guthrie are replicas) It is only happening in the City of Hudson. While work is going on at the site, there is another group of volunteers who are working to raise money, hold events and man education tents to inform residents and visitors about her one-hundred and thirteen year history and the restoration progress.

Aside from Eleanor’s pedigree and history, the original members of the board decided that the restored Eleanor would be for the public’s enjoyment and education. They believed that sailing on Eleanor would bring a new interest in the history of the Hudson River as experienced from the river in an intimate classroom; Eleanor’s cockpit where everyone on board can participate and develop a keen awareness of nature’s unstoppable forces and the river’s environment. And, of course a love for sailing.

To meet the volunteers and to celebrate the onset of the sixth year of this remarkable restoration project please join others on January 28 at 6 p.m. for an evening of pleasure and business at the Hudson Power Boat Club, at the north end of the Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson. Bring a covered dish with your favorite entrée, dessert, or pre-dinner treat prepared or purchased. If you would like to receive more information, please email or call 828 7884 for more information. Volunteers are always welcome on Thursday nights or to help plan events, educate, build membership, or record progress with photography, writing or videos.


It is a thrilling to watch as the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society community volunteers steadily restore Eleanor to her former self. When she sails again on the Hudson River she will be there for the general public’s enjoyment and education: an intimate class room on the water where people will learn to sail, communicate and work together as a team, and gain both an appreciation of the River’s history and environment and a keen awareness of nature’s unstoppable forces.

This year, as illustrated by the contributions and grants received both locally and on a state level, HRHB can proudly declare that we are recognized and trusted to be an organization managed with integrity.

After much research and evaluation beginning in the summer of 2014, we placed the money received by grants and contributions for the building of our mast, boom and gaff into the capable hands of the Beetle Boat Shop in Wareham, Massachusetts. Our spars look great.

New Sitka Spruce hollow mast, hollow boom, and gaff

New Sitka Spruce hollow mast, hollow boom, and gaff

Progress during 2015 was impressive.  Our volunteers installed the new keelson, scarffing the bow and stern sections together. They cut, steamed and shaped elm for mast hoops.

Creating the steam chamber

Creating the steam chamber

At the last Thursday restoration session only four of the 40 floors which are shaped out of White Oak still remained to be fitted and installed.  We still have a chance!

New keelson and floors

New keelson and floors

Our goals for 2016 include completing projects begun this year:  finalizing the design of and building the new deadwood, completing the transom rebuild, beginning the deck repair and installing new ribs made of White Oak purchased from Newport Nautical Timbers in Rhode Island.  This last job is a difficult project requiring steaming and bending wood, and it requires a great deal of our volunteers’ time.

nswsail1We worked with Nat Wilson, Master sailmaker from East Boothbay Harbor, Maine on the design of the sails. Eleanor will join a long list of boats and ships that have Wilson sails and rigging, including the U.S.S. Constitution, Clearwater, and Mayflower II. We had no drawings and Nat worked closely with our members who had sailed Eleanor and were familiar with her sails and how she maneuvered, and with Beetle Boat, so that the sails and the spars will work together and will perform as in the past. We anticipate that this next major expense will be about $6000, and 2016 fundraising will be to “Raise the Sails!”

While she is being restored, community volunteers learn, hands-on or through discussion, how boats like Eleanor were built back in 1903, using the materials and craftsmanship of boatbuilders at the turn of the century.

We encourage organizations and classrooms to schedule visits to our restoration site to see what we are all about.  To schedule a visit or inquire about volunteering as a woodworker or a crewmember on our unofficial committees write to us at


View the complete timeline of Restoration Progress

Currently we are in the midst of our end of year membership and fund drive.
We hope you will consider a gift to HRHBR&SS on behalf of Eleanor.

See you down by the riverside — with your deck shoes on!

One important goal of Hudson River Historic Boat’s mission, often overlooked when we are talking about ourselves during this period of intense focus on reconstruction of Eleanor, is to “serve as a resource for the general public who . . . desire to learn how to sail.

Peter Tenerowicz and Kathy Hamm ParchuckMember Pete Tenerowicz on a teaching sail with Hudson resident Kathy Hamm Parchuck

Today there is an article in the New York Times by Maya Jasanoff who is writing a book on Joseph Conrad.

Before Conrad published his first novel in 1895, he spent 20 years working as
a merchant sailor, mostly on sailing ships, and fully half his writing — including
“Heart of Darkness,” “Lord Jim” and “The Secret Sharer” — deals with sailors,
ships and the sea. These loom so large for him that as I have researched a book
about Conrad’s life and times, I have felt it essential to travel by sea myself.

And she did. Maya “hitched” a ride on the 134 foot brigantine Corwith Cramer, a classroom on the sea for students at Sea Education Association, who for over 40 years has offered field-based environmental education through its accredited study abroad program with Boston University.  As a bonus the students learn to sail.

300px-CorwithCramerCorwith Cramer

She spent time with “a row of pallid sailors crouched at the leeward rail.” The 12 students who were on board with Maya were learning the

grueling schedule of round-the-clock watch duty, hauling and heaving lines,
setting and striking sails, scrubbing dishes and floors. They were learning the
ropes just as Conrad did, 140 years ago.

It’s hard to think of a less relevant skill in today’s job market than knowing your
jib halyard from your main sheet.

But by the end of her sea journey and the end of her Opinion piece in the paper Maya knows her arduous journey from Cork to Brittany was well worth those uncomfortable, unpleasant moments, and was much more relevant to our present day life than she ever imagined.

I disembarked from the Corwith Cramer knowing things I had not appreciated
otherwise. I learned that to stay on course at the helm you have to watch the
horizon more than the compass. I learned that sails balance a ship, so much
so that oceangoing steamships carried rigs for stability long after they used
them for auxiliary power. I learned how to steady myself by swinging like the
gimbaled tables in the saloon, which seesawed wildly with the ship’s roll while
plates and glasses didn’t budge.

She gained new insight into Conrad, progress and obsolescence, and of the value and art and ethics of sailing.  But she says it so well that reading her article in full is a must.

We at HRHB aren’t taking to the the oceans in tall ships with novice seamen and seawomen, but we do have our own education program.  Volunteer craftsmen meet every Thursday night where they share skills on shipbuilding, restoration, woodworking and the physics of sail.

102_0021Hard at work/play at the reconstruction site last Thursday

We teach interested persons how to sail while developing a relationship with the Hudson River by gaining an appreciation for the river’s history, an awareness of nature’s forces and the river’s environment while instilling a love for sailing. Pete Tenerowicz, member of HRHB took Kathy Hamm Parchuck of Hudson for a lesson this July.

President Louise Bliss writes:

Parchuck, after returning to shore took time to reflect on her sailing lesson
and experience. Just keeping your head, listening to and following directions
are some of the pieces of wisdom that Parchuck took to heart. Terms such as
apparent wind, tack, stays, jib, come about, hold your course, and main sheet
are now part of Parchuck’s vocabulary. Tenerowicz has been sailing since he
was a kid. His experience of over 30 years makes Tenerowicz a knowledgeable
teacher. Tenerowicz says that anyone can learn to sail if you have time and like
being on the water. Money and fame, Tenerowicz says are not part of the criteria
for learning how to sail.

Our Education Tent is a familiar and popular stop at many Hudson outdoor fairs and gatherings.  This year we demonstrated steaming and shaping white oak into new mast hoops in our home-made steamer at the Mohawk Hudson Council of Yacht Clubs Boating Festival at Henry Hudson Park.  Acquiring the skills to make our own mast hoops and the tools we needed to do it took much experimentation and rethinking and we are still learning and honing our techniques.

Steaming the white oak for mast hoops

The Education Tent also is a place where young are introduced to the possibility that they too can become sailors and hopefully some of them will walk away with the desire to learn how to sail.

Learning the ropes

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Louise Bliss spends her days and nights fulfilling the responsibilities that you normally expect from the leader of a non-profit organization: grantwriting, public speaking, administrative duties…but wait – is that her scraping paint off the hull of an old boat? And is that Bliss wearing a facemask and holding a piece of lumber to steady it during a precision cutting? She knows quite a lot about copper rivets, how to distinguish red from white oak and what green wood is used for, too.

The president of the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society, Inc. modestly describes herself as “a gopher. If we need lumber, rivets, epoxy, tools, I’ll study it, research pricing, go out and network with people and learn about it. I’m a lifetime learner,” Bliss says simply. Her labors, and those of many volunteers associated with the Hudson-based non-profit, are focused on one goal: restoration of the 1903 Clinton Crane sloop Eleanor.

The 12-meter racing sloop is entered in the US National Register of Historic Places (1982) and the New York State Register of Historic Places (1983), and is the last known example of a “raceabout”: a class of boats designed for speed. As such, Eleanor offers sailing enthusiasts, master craftsmen, history buffs and boat designers a rare opportunity to observe an important chapter in the evolution of sailing and sailboat design. Once restoration of the nine-passenger sloop designed by Clinton Crane in 1903 is complete, it will become what Bliss calls “an intimate classroom.”

P.S. Egan, the third sailor to own (1952-1998) the sloop Eleanor.

P.S. Egan, the third sailor to own (1952-1998) the sloop Eleanor.

“The Eleanor is small enough that passengers are part of a team. On this boat, you’re involved in sailing. You don’t just sit and watch someone else haul the lines; you’re part of the crew. We may allow a few more people on board if the weather is good, but nine would be the limit in stormy weather,” says Bliss.

The restoration began in earnest when ownership of the Eleanor was transferred to the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society in 2011. One of the many challenges inherent in restoring Eleanor has been that when Clinton Crane died in 1957, all plans for the boat that he created were burned. Restoration plans had to be created from existing boats such as Crane’s Idem Class racing sloop the Water Witch, on display at the Adirondack Museum.

Shortly after bringing Eleanor to Hudson, the organization invited Jim Kricker of Rondout Woodworking in Saugerties to take a look at the boat. “His help has been extremely important for us,” says Bliss. Kricker wrote a complete plan for the ambitious boat restoration, from setting up shop to outlining materials and projecting costs and time estimates. “We’ve been following Jim’s plan and refer to his suggestions often. Just the other day, we needed some copper nails, and I called him, because copper is so expensive.”

Volunteers Joe Kenneally, Bill Burrows and Guy Hazelton shaping the transom for the Eleanor

Volunteers Joe Kenneally, Bill Burrows and Guy Hazelton shaping the transom for the Eleanor

In March of this year, volunteers finally turned their attention from the painstaking process of taking Eleanor apart to begin the reconstruction process. A new keelson was installed to support the sloop’s new floor, new ribs and reconstruction of the transom. Mast hoops were cut this month, and new white oak flooring is being laid.

Bliss, who has lived by the Hudson River and worked around boats since she was 12 years old, acknowledges that wooden boat restoration requires an abundance of patience. “We volunteers work together on Thursday evenings, and it’s a cohesive, fun group of people. We’ve established an informal boat school ourselves here in Hudson,” she says, adding, “We’re not licensed, but we’ve learned a great deal about how boats are made.”

This learning curve took a slight turn when workers uncovered a little secret:Eleanor’s floors were asymmetrical. “Eleanor has a rustic, very strong assembly, and she was in very good condition for her age. Often boats this old are sitting in a field somewhere with grass growing up through their hull,” says Bliss. “She’s not symmetrical, but she was built the way she would be strongest. And at about 6,000 pounds, she’s a very lightweight boat, built for racing.”

Part of Bliss’s job is ensuring that US government standards for historic preservation are followed. “The Eleanor is an important part of the history of the Hudson River and the Catskills. Her home port was Catskill from 1927 to 1998, and a lot of people in the area sailed on her and learned to sail on her. We wanted to see her on the water again. We’re doing all of this work for public enjoyment, and because of our love for sailing and education about boating and the Hudson River,” she says.

016 (2)“The Hudson is a great river for boating because when you’re out on the water, you’re close enough to both shores to see many interesting and beautiful things. Sailing is a great vehicle for learning about yourself, who you are and how to work with other people. Eleanor belongs to the public and to the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society, not to just a few people. She was deeded over to our organization, and we take the responsibility very seriously.”

On May 31, an Edwardian Great Lawn and Porch Party – and a silent auction – will be held at the Rokeby Estate to raise funds needed to restore the Eleanor. The afternoon event features a 4 p.m. talk by noted sailor, bowman, tactician and navigator Halsey Herreshoff. The octogenarian is well-known and respected in sailing circles for four successful America’s Cup defenses. “Our speaker also designed boats for speed – bigger ones, classified as yachts – and he was a competitor of Clinton Crane. This is our first major fundraiser,” continues Bliss, “and we hope to raise a significant amount of funding.”

Guests are welcome to stroll the grounds of Rokeby, built in 1815 and one of the Hudson Valley’s premier estates. The Grand Hall, library, parlor and dining room will also be open for viewing. Bruno Café in Hudson will provide Edwardian picnic fare and sparkling beverages, and the Blackiston Twins will perform keyboard duets of what Bliss calls “good-time music of the 1920s and ’30s. It’s listening and dancing music and, in honor of our special occasion, they have even added a tune from 1903 to their repertoire. And of course, people are encouraged to dress up in Edwardian style – even if they just wear a bowler hat.”


Edwardian Great Lawn & Porch Party, Sunday, May 31, 3-6 p.m. (rain or shine), $75 (reservations by May 20), Rokeby Estate, 845 River Road, Barrytown; (518) 828-7884,

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.