Silent Maid: Loud Statement
This 33-foot catboat, the reincarnation of a storied Barnegat Bay racer, is the latest success of a former Wall Streeter devoted to bringing classic wooden sailboats back to life. Yacht Style from our December 2012 issue.
A Class of Beautiful Classics
I warmed up for my weekend on Silent Maid by racing on a 28-foot A Cat in the weekly Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association regatta in early July. I steered Vapor, owned by Kellogg’s nephew, Jimmy. One of Vapor’s regular crew, Jenny Buck, gave me some advice. “Just go with your gut instinct when racing an A Cat,” she said. We had a magical day, finishing with a second and a first to win the day.
|Areys Pond Catboat Rendezvous. Photo by Emily Ferguson.|
Four weeks later, I was aboard Silent Maid. The races were to be sailed out in the ocean off Point Pleasant, New Jersey, where the America’s Cup was sailed in the years through 1920. Vapor was in our class. I found it hard to race against my teammates, but what the heck—a race is a race. We opened with a third out of the five boats in our class. Longtime Barnegat Bay champion sailor Peter Chance sailed another A Cat named Torch, a boat also owned by Kellogg. Torch won the first race. Vapor was second, and Silent Maid was third.
Another entry was Elf. Like Silent Maid, she’s a beautiful classic, a 30-foot cutter originally built in 1888 by George F. Lawley & Sons of South Boston, Massachusetts, and renowned today as the oldest small yacht in the United States.
In 1893, Elf cruised on a round-trip voyage from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, becoming the first small boat to cruise and race long distances. She had an active career racing as a gaff-topsail cutter, but the boat gradually declined into a dilapidated state after World War I and owner modifications. In 1971, Rick Carrion, founder of the Classic Yacht Restoration Guild, began her painstaking, 17-year-long restoration.
The efforts paid off, and in 1980, Elf was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The guild’s activities exist in part to raise funds for Elf, which is its flagship, and to keep alive classic-yacht traditions and education.
But back to the on-deck action. In the Squan Tri-Sail regatta, Elf flew an impressive, imposing jackyard topsail that towered 60 feet off the deck. There were many thousands of patrons sitting on the beach that weekend. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned Elf, Vapor, Torch, Silent Maid, and another classic named Windigo as stunning components for a portrait that might have inspired a marine artist such as the 19th-century master James Buttersworth.
Race Two went better for Silent Maid; we placed second. Torch won again. But as luck would have it, Torch was unable to race on Sunday. We had one race scheduled, and we were tied with Vapor with five points each. Elf and Windigo were behind in the standings. It came down to a match race between Silent Maid and Vapor.