A Crocker Ketch Comes Home
During a summer sojourn to her home waters, an old ketch’s past takes on vivid meaning when her original first mate, 60 years on, pays a visit.
In 1946, Mary Paul “Paulie” Loomis spent her honeymoon sailing for four months aboard the ketch Land’s End in Alaska. She cursed at hefty brown bears who interrupted her foraging for blueberries, caught salmon, and climbed the mainmast like a monkey to perch in the spreaders, alert for rock and reef. It was a pretty brave foray in a time when the waters of that vast territory weren’t charted to a modern standard.
The 22-year-old was from the MacLeod family of Philadelphia’s Main Line. Her newlywed husband, Henry Loomis, hailed from one of the wealthiest, best educated, and most influential families in America. His scientist father, Alfred Lee Loomis, helped develop radar and invented the long-range navigation system known to sailors as LORAN, and Henry, as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, trained pilots in its use during World War II. This is but a smidge of the countless, lofty Loomis family accomplishments over the 1900s in science, government, and business.
The Loomises also loved to sail. Alfred Lee put up the money, and Henry had the mahogany-planked, oak-framed Land’s End, designed by Sam Crocker and built by Britt Brothers in Lynn, Massachusetts, completed for himself and his brother, Alfred Lee Jr., in 1935. Lee, as Henry’s brother was known, went on to became a financier and an Olympic sailor who also managed the successful Independence-Courageous America’s Cup syndicate in 1977. Not only was Land’s End a platform for nautical exploits; she also once came in handy for science: The senior Alfred Lee had an interest in brainwave research, and for one experiment into hypnotic suggestion, an investigation into the impact of emotional disturbances on brainwave activity, he whispered into a sleeping Henry’s ear that Land’s End was on fire.
Like Crocker’s other trademark designs, Land’s End was sturdy, rugged, and simple, with a plumb bow, a bowsprit, a boomkin, and yards and yards of canvas, including a squaresail. Below, the boat’s amenities were basic yet comfortable. An icebox that was loaded from the deck could carry up to 550 pounds of ice; coal was routed through a scuttle to a locker beneath the Shipmate cook stove. The nav station was amidships, opposite the head; the saloon contained a varnished dining table and was made cozier thanks to a Wilcox Crittenden blue ceramic fireplace, trimmed with bronze edging, a Delft tile of a Dutch sailing barge as its centerpiece over the hearth. A forward cabin contained single bunks with mahogany leeboards.