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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, www.hudsonriverhistoricboat.org.

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.