The Old Girl’s Ready to Dance Anew
Doted over by Maine craftsmen and devoted owners during a 20-month refit, the Sparkman & Stephens-designed yawl Bolero is savoring her new vitality. From "Yachtsyle" in our December 2010 issue
Bolero cruised happily in Europe for several weeks a year, from Turkey to England, until the structural issues arose and Kane decided that the hull needed serious attention. After the boat returned to Newport in the summer of 2008, the owner of Rockport Marine, Taylor Allen, went down to take a look with Kane and the boat’s captain, Spike White. Pulling a couple of planks revealed many broken frames, and removing the headliner below exposed rot in the deck beams. Kane committed to a lengthy and expensive major project. That was the same day that Lehman Brothers failed, but he carried on, and Bolero was delivered Down East to Rockport, Maine.
“I give Ed a huge amount of credit for tackling this at that time,” says Allen.
The project took 20 months with a crew that sometimes numbered as many as 20 skilled workers. Of her 120 original white oak frames, 47 were replaced with new laminated frames, which are stronger than traditional solid oak. (“We didn’t want to do this job again,” Kane told me.) She was replanked with sipo, or African mahogany, over cedar, with epoxy glue between the layers. The horn timber—the boat’s backbone from the transom to the stern post—was also replaced.
During the refit, the original deck was restored. Bolero had been built with a cedar deck, but over the years, as it aged and leaked, layers of plywood and teak were piled on top of it. Rockport Marine stripped off the old layers, replaced the rotting deck beams, and installed a new deck with an Alaskan yellow cedar veneer. Yet Bolero remained essentially the same boat. For Kane and Wallace, Bolero is a historical artifact that they feel obliged to maintain.
“We’ve always thought we have a duty to put it back the way it should be,” Kane has said. “This boat is historically accurate.” She has electric winches, roller furling, and air-conditioning, yes. But she is undeniably Bolero.
Bolero was again hauled out in Rockport on a brilliant, cool day in late September this year when I stopped by to chat up the restorers and take a tour of the boat. Rockport Marine is nestled in a small notch of flat land between Penobscot Bay and the hills of Rockport. The air there is perfumed by the sweet smell of wood shavings, and its sheds and flat places are packed with wooden boats. The largest was Bolero, her masts towering over a gathering of trim Concordia yawls and sloops and some lovely products off the drawing board of the Danish-born New England yacht designer K. Aage Nielsen, among them a 35-foot sloop called Northern Crown that had been built for an old friend of mine, Donald Starr. Northern Crown is now in the loving hands of Taylor Allen, the yard’s owner; his father founded Rockport Marine in 1961. Allen informed me that Ed Kane had been there just that morning to climb on board another Nielsen woodie for an overnight cruise.
Wooden boats are always full of surprises, and the latest was a bad leak in Bolero’s centerboard trunk, more than nine feet below the yawl’s waterline. The garboard plank was pulled, and the metal trunk was getting some squirts of 3M 5200, one of many modern materials that Henry Nevins could only have dreamed of using. John England, the head of the Bolero restoration project, led me on a tour of the boat. He was dryly humorous in the best Down East tradition. When I asked about the many Concordias at the yard, he joked, “They seem to grow here. If we ever succeed in finding the male, we can put a stop to it.” England also made my cheeks rosy by saying that several of the photographs in my book on Bolero had educated him about how the Nevins Yacht Yard had built the boat back in 1949. As he led me up the long ladder and showed me all the improvements, England assured me that in every way, the third restoration of this famous yacht had left her better, handier, more seamanlike, and above all, stronger. “They’ve been mollycoddling Bolero. Now they can sail her hard. She’s as strong as a new hull.”
Kane was content. “Two full restorations of the same boat must be some sort of record,” he told me with just enough irony to indicate how expensive they had been, each probably well into seven-figure territory. Not that this had discouraged him from wooden boats. Around the time he bought Bolero, he helped restored Marilee, a 1926 Herreshoff New York Yacht Club 40 sloop, for the 2001 America’s Cup Jubilee. Recently, he’s considered buying and restoring Baruna, Bolero’s older near sister and dueling partner for many years. “That would mean another big restoration and owning two boats,” he said, “but of course I already own two boats.” The second is the replica of an Olin Stephens 6-Meter, Cherokee, built at the International Yacht Restoration School’s Museum of Yachting. He’s so passionate about wooden boats and restorations that he took a course in building wooden boats at IYRS.
“Normally Eddie doesn’t like project sorts of things,” says Marty. “But he really likes that these boats are preserved and sailing.”