Few things are more relaxing that sailing alone on a boat on a soft summer afternoon, slipping through gentle waves and taking in the low green Dutch coast. If the boat happens to be the classic 1925 6-meter class ‘Oslo’, the tranquility is periodically interrupted by other boats diverting for a closer look, greetings shouted across the water, waving and thumbs up and mobile phone photos.
Stepping back in time on the Oslo is a welcome change as we near the end of a long doublehanded season on big Maverick. Not that we ever step completely away from our doublehanded family, as we gratefully accepted a tow through the locks from veteran doublerhanders Bart Desaunois and Nick van Dijk on Batfish. I hoisted sails outside the lock as Batfish sailed ahead, and settled into a 25 mile trip across the Makermeer inland lake to Muiden.
A light breeze picked up, and Oslo glided south in the late afternoon. She sports varnished wooden blocks and lacks many of the rigging and line handling refinements found on modern boats, fiddly to trim and hard to handle solo but rewarding in so many other ways. At sunset I neared the narrow entrance channel to Muiden, medieval Muiderslot Castle glowing in the last light, the intricate Amsterdam towers and church spires rising a few miles to the west. As the wind stiffened the shallow waters soon became choppy, time to drop sails and motor in.
Without an autopilot, timing is everything. I rounded up to the wind and looped a line around the tiller to center it, and released the genoa halyard as I quickly stepped out of the safe confines of the cockpit and moved forward along the narrow side deck. Oslo has no safety lines and a tiny open foredeck -- attempting to combine the brutality of a rugby tackle with the deft moves of a rodeo calf-roper, I sprang forward and wrapped my arms around the genoa, hauled it down further, and wrapped a sail-tie around the untidy mass of flapping sail. Another boat stood comfortingly by in the twilight as I bundled and lowered the big mainsail with similar crude but effective methods.
The harbormaster waited at the end of a pier as the unlit Oslo puttered into the harbor in darkness on her outboard motor. “Over here, we have a good place for you”. Muiden is the oldest Dutch yachtclub (1847), home for a number of venerable classic boats, and the Oslo is well appreciated. While other competitors joined crowded rafts along the main docks, he pointed to an open area along the clubhouse terrace and smiled. I made fast and spent little time with the crews mingling in the clubhouse before falling into a deep contented sleep in Oslo’s cozy cabin.
The Flevorace Regatta traditionally starts with an all-day medium distance race around fixed and temporary marks on the Ijsselmeer. A very light forecast suited Oslo, except for getting to the start area nearly 5 miles off – too slow to sail, and barely enough speed using the outbord motor to make it on time. Our doublehanded family again came to our aid, and we made fast to the side of Sparklings and hitched a express ride with Richard van Leeuwen and Joost to the start area.
The doubllehanded class started first, and though a late season race with the top boats scrambling for points and positions, the doublehanders demonstrated an orderly and exemplary start for the later classes . Next up were the massive racing barges, ostensibly old flat-bottom sailing cargo ships with 19th century rigs, but in reality fast, modernized race boats hiding high-tech blocks behind wood veneers, discretely placed digital displays, massive modern winches, and even more massive investment and bragging rights. In the light conditions the broad boats hoisted sails above, around, and between booms, the behemoths soon drifting off together.
As fitting our years and maturity, the Classics start was stately and civilized. No shouts or protest flags, wide gaps between boats, the last few boats coming up ever so carefully behind the main group. Oslo came to the line just behind Muschka Sailing Team, a beautiful 70m2 sailboat and the largest and fastest rated boat in our class. Under her expansive light wind genoa Oslo leaned ever so slightly in the faint breeze, accelerated, and along with Muschka began pulling away from the other classics. Though starting 10 minutes ahead of us we took aim at a few of the straggling doublehanded boats, disadvantaged in this case by their modern hull forms and more compact sail plans.
Rounding the upwind mark we led the classics, close by with Muschka. The two boats seem to share more affection than rivalry, and there is comfort and recognition we are sailing well when we can keep near. Working upwind across the Markermeer we managed a higher line and maintained better speed than Muschka, with the other vintage boats, as well as a small class of ‘classic plastic’ boats, falling further behind. Early on we passed two of the doublehanders, and over the next hours we eased past three more. The circumstances called for very modest waves, with dispirited waves in return, as they are passed and gassed by a smaller 91 year old wooden museum piece.
We sailed old school, without instruments and steering to tell-tales, working patches of breeze and shifts. In the faint wind each tack was a slow ballet; smoothly leaning the tiller over like my Grampa John had in scores of races in the 30s and 40s, Raymond Roesink steadily walking the big genoa from one side to the other, Nico van Marle gently taking in the jib sheet, the winch slowly counting tick-tick-tick until the sheet is made fast and Oslo catches the wind and leans lightly into the new course.
A few hours into the race, near the halfway point, we rounded the course mark leading Muschka by 100 meters and leaving the rest of the classics far behind. We sail Oslo infrequently and did not have time to practice the spinnaker work, but over the years we have enjoyed many hours together sailing doublehaned and on deliveries, and we smartly hoisted and set our spinnaker. I blurted out ‘”Nice to see our big blue and white battle flag hoisted”, and Nico responded, “Yes, but the light wind spinnaker is white”. We held a reasonable lead, and Muschka gives us time on rating, and we decided to keep the heavy blue kite up.
Muschka followed under a larger red and white spinnaker, soon drawing close and then along side. Smiles and waves, two beautiful family boats side-by-side on a warm and sparkling summer afternoon. Muschka pulled ahead in the last half of the leg, and we began to look behind as a few other boats slowly closed the gap. The weak wind filled in slightly from behind, first giving a boost to the trailing boats before arriving to our part of the course. They began to reel us in like the peleton catching up with a breakaway group in cycling, but we soon matched their speed and held our advantage. We rounding the next mark we gybed and set course for the finish, .
Muschka crossed several minutes before us though given our differences in speed and rating we finished well ahead of them on corrected time. The rest of our class lay far behind, and after several minutes waiting for another classic we began to smile and enjoy the moment. Despite coming tantalizingly close with several podium finishes in earlier classic races, Oslo had just won her first race of this century.
We sailed back lazily toward Muiden, relaxed and snacking and laughing. Through the evening visitors came by to see the Oslo and hear her story, and now and then I could make out Nico or Raymond comfortably telling other sailors about this racing boat from America that belonged to my Grandfather, who told his grandchildren it once belonged to the King of Norway. They admired her sweet lines, the prettiest boat of the classics, drawn by the hand of an artist, built and restored by the hands of craftsmen and friends, once the fastest boat on Little Bay du Noc, and for today, the fastest old race boat on the Markermeer.
A drizzly mid-winter Saturday morning in North Holland, but only a few months until spring and much work still to do before old wooden boats are ready for another season on the Ijsselmeer. The smell of paint and varnish, the sound of saws and sanders as owners work on their boats, pausing for coffee or to admire the handiwork of a neighbor. The Oslo rests comfortably in a boatshed at Ventis Scheepstimmerwerk en Brasker Masten, looking small and sleek and faster than the big boats surrounding her.
Like the other owners I have a magically regenerating ‘to-do’ list; there is a fleeting moment of satisfaction after a full day honest work to draw lines through the completed tasks, but they are soon replaced with a new list for the next visit.
The Olso was first launched by Johann Anker for Norway’s Crown Prince Olaf, in her namesake city in 1925. After a storied early race history she somehow ended up in a small town on Lake Michigan in the middle of the Great Depression. While a 6-Meter class sailboat is over 10 meters long, it is narrow and low to the water, with very little room below. A small coachroof was added, as well as a few internal amenities. She was just big enough to sail with a young family, and on occasion my Grampa John and Grammy would sail from Escanaba to Fayette and overnight in the small sheltered bay at the foot of the ruined mills.
When we rediscovered the Oslo in 2009 the deck and coachroof had long since caved in, but instead of restoring her to her spartan 1925 racing lines we decided to restore her as she was during the years she raced and sailed on Little Bay du Noc. Even with the coachroof there is precious little space below deck, and after enough bumps and scrapes I manage an ungainly gorilla-walk down below to retrieve sails or gear. There is no sympathy from her other crew, as Raymond Roesink, Christian Jeffery, and especially Nico van Marle are considerably taller, and a journey below for them is an even bigger adventure.
As a reward for crossing through the majority of tasks on the to-do list, I decided to turn to its poorer relation -- the wish list. One of the wishes was to replace the functional yet plain marine plywood floor with teak veneer boards. A bit extravagant, and not quite depression-era Escanaba style, but teak is practical, durable, and looks spiffy (to at least give it a depression-era Escanaba description).
After removing the old flooring I reasoned that I might be able to lower the frame – an apparent moment of inspiration and clarity. As with anything that begins with ‘wood’ and ends in ‘boat’, it is always ends up a little more complicated. The last few weekends have entailed unscrewing, sawing, hammering, trimming, unscrewing again, retrimming, bracing, and – voila – a new floor. In 1930’s parlance it looks swell and the three boards line up perfectly, but the biggest gift to my towering crew is a further 8 cm (over 3”) of precious headroom. We’ll still have to hunch over, but perhaps now more Neanderthal than gorilla (except Nico, always the gorilla).
Mid-summer Nico and I enjoyed a relaxing evening sail in Enkhuizen. In light wind we managed to sail in and out of our berth without drama, and enjoyed waves and compliments from passing boats as we leisurely tacked out to the Ijsselmeer. We slowly worked back in the dying breeze and light, admiring historic Enkhuizen on a lovely summer's eve, and discussed again entering her in the Flevoraces, a Dutch Regatta in August. We had entered her two years earlier, missing the first day when the Oslo arrived late from her sojourn in Sweden; with no time to prepare we took second place on the second and third days, gaining admiration and respect on the course and enjoying the company of other classics crews.
It would also be a more relaxed (or so we thought) break from the Dutch and RORC doublehanded series on our thoroughly modern French temptress ‘So What’. We would take on 15 other top Dutch classics with a doublehanded ‘dream team’ reunion with Nico van Marle, Raymond Roesink, and Christian Jeffery. We looked forward to earnest yet careful competition, enjoying the hospitality dockside, and giving the racers in the modern classes a chance to admire one of Johan Anker's loveliest designs in full flight on the Ijsselmeer.
We had a decidedly mixed first day at the Flevorace Regatta in Enkhuizen. After a long delay due to little wind we were finally off with a flying start on the Oslo in the classics class. We enjoyed a great first upwind leg, rounding just behind the 8mR boats and then settling into an even better spinnaker leg in this opening middle distance race. The wind continued to build to around 20 knots and the dreaded IJsselmeer chop also came up; approaching the final upwind mark we fell hard off a wave and heard the crack of breaking wood, as the mainsail sheet yanked up a deck fitting and edge board. We fell off as water came through the gap and retired from the race. On the positive side we had a terrific day on the water and many laughs, and Oslo was wicked quick. We spent a few hours in the harbor making a temporary repair (many screws, dyneema, and watertight tape), hoping the old girl would hang together over the coming days.
The second day dawned with lighter winds and flat seas, very welcome given the hasty repairs. The first two windward lee-ward races we took second on time to the well prepared and faster rated Muschka, but the wind built to the high teens and 20's before the third race, along with some hefty chop, and we changed to an untried small used jib that we had picked up during the week. Christian called a perfect start and we had a zen-like first leg, rounding the first mark well before the rest of the 13 other boats in the field. Nico and Raymond worked tirelessly on mainsheet and trim, the temporary repairs stood the strain, and we held our lead through a wild and rolley first spinnaker leg. Alex proved herself a terrific pit and kept up with of the boys above deck, and we maintained our advantage at the last upwind mark. We spared (and saved) the spinnaker and white-sailed the last downwind leg in 22 kts wind, taking line honors and finishing ahead of the next boat (big Muschka) by over a minute. As far as we can tell, it is the first race line-honors since Grampa John beat Mindemoya in 1941 in Escanaba. Here's to the grand old Oslo.
The Rite of Spring for wooden boat owners is the same everywhere. The days are finally longer and warmer, and the boat hall in Enkhuizen came alive today with the sound of sanding and smell of varnish. Managed to sand, tack, tape off and get a fresh coat on the Oslo's coachroof and cockpit trim, enjoying a coffee break with some 'neighbors' and visiting their gorgeous 1938 50m2 Seefahrtkruezer 'Fortuyn II'. I admired their spacious interior but then realized they had at least 10 times the area to sand and refresh annually, and considered myself lucky with the Olso's smaller size and spartan interior. Several more weekends ahead sanding, varnishing, painting and rigging -- the ritual is no different then it was years ago for my Grandpa John and Uncle Jim, with no shortcuts and hard work well rewarded. The Oslo will be gracing the Ijsselmeeer again this Spring, with many thanks to Ventis Scheepstimmerwerk en Brasker Masten for their help and support.
It was warm a warm and windless early summer morning in Saltsjobaden, Sweden, a small waterfront town east of Stockholm. Walking down the hill toward the marina there was little movement among the boats and it was strangely quiet, except for my footsteps on the gravel and my own heartbeat. Rounding the boatyard building she lay before me, tied up alone on the dock, reflected in the still water. A small American flag flew from the stern, she was clean and rigged and newly painted. The Olso had returned to the water.
Most relaunchings involve ceremony and fanfare, traditionally breaking a bottle or splashing a glass of Champagne across the bow as the boat slips back into the water, handshakes and photographs, a celebration of years of planning and hard work. During the trip from Holland I was initially disappointed to have missed her launch the day before, but with the 6mR Championships days away it was essential that the Oslo spend as much time soaking up water as possible and she was lifted in a day earlier than planned. Admiring her alone on a still morning now seemed a much more appropriate way to reflect on the time and effort over the last two years, not a moment of exultation but a peaceful moment to appreciate her before an intense few days to prepare her for sailing.
The tranquility was suddenly broken by the whirr of an industrial-grade bilge pump, quicky emptying several gallons of water from the Oslo into the marina. After a few more minutes of solitude the pump returned to life, again dumping a substantial amount of water out. I was soon joined by Bobby Cyrus, a quintessential big Swede with a bigger smile, one of the craftsmen and wooden boat lovers in Andreas Millde’s Stockholms Batsnickeri who had worked last minute wonders on the Olso -- while collectively taking a shine to her. He anticipated my concern, noting that while Nordic pine boats leak copiously when relaunched as the soft wood quickly swells to soak the gaps, a combination of Oslo’s hard mahogany planks and classic seams (cotton wadding pounded between the planks) would take some time before sealing themselves.
The next two days were a joy, a short-course in the finer points in wooden boats by this yard’s amazing experts and a race against the clock. The mast and standing rigging had been nicely finished before my arrival but the all of the ‘running rigging’ (blocks and lines) needed to be fitted, and the sails unpacked, hoisted and checked.
After studying photos of other 6-Metre class boats, early in the restoration a rigging plan was drafted during a winter trip to Ashland. The drawing noted the placement of all the deck hardware (winches, tracks, and cleats), which was subsequently installed with much friendly help in Escanaba before shipping her to Sweden. The plan also identified each line and block, and there was further satisfaction that the newly installed rigging fit and ran as planned. She soon took on a more complete and classic look, lines ready and coiled around winches. We'd be sailing soon.
We had made grest leaps forward, and except for the bilge pump gushing water out on a regular basis, had few issues or concerns. In late afternoon we unpacked and laid out the sails, designed and delivered months earlier by Tom Pease and the Chicago North Sails loft. The mainsail needed some resizing (no fault of North), but the Stockholm North loft would soon take care of it. A few last priorities were agreed with Andreas, and one of his young boatwrights (also Andreas) delayed his holidays to help finish the last tasks. As I departed the Batsnickeri for a few days back in Holland, before rounding the building I took a last glance back at the Oslo, lying beautifully in the glassy water – until broken by ripples as the bilge pump again came to life.
Returning with Nico a few days later, we would need to sail the Oslo from the boatyard to Nynashamn, around 40 miles to the south. In the intervening days another of Andrea’s boatwrights (and to our great benefit, a rigger), Thomas, volunteered to help sail her to Nynshamn (and crew with us during the regatta) while Nico would drive down and unload our gear at our little crew cabin. As in Escanaba, the Oslo made friends easily and we were overwhelmed with the spontaneous and enthusiastic support. One of Thomas’ friends was also travelling to Nynashamn with his vintage power boat, and offered a tow until we were in open water. We readied lines and sails, cast off from the boatyard dock, and were gently towed toward the harbor mouth.
I could not repress my silly school-boy grin and felt compelled to wave at nearly every passing boat, because I was indeed the King of Norway and Master of the Oslo. As if the grin could get any bigger, after a few minutes we hoisted sails and let loose the tow line, and for the first time in decades the Oslo was a thing of rare beauty, under full sail and slicing through pristine waters on her way to the big regatta.
Thomas and I took turns trimming, helming, and pumping the bilges. In a moment of rare prescience I had shipped her with a battery, charger, and electric pump, as well as a manual pump for underway. The leaking had indeed reduced significantly but was still steady and a small concern, but of little immediate interest as we sailed through the Stockholm Archipelago. It is surely one of the most beautiful sailing areas in the world, featuring thousands of small and largely uninhabited islands and rocks, pine forest, clear Baltic waters, and on this day light winds and sparkling summer weather.
Thomas also proved a fine guide, both to the island of the archipelago but additionally spotting and pointing out particularly attractive Swedish ladies on passing yachts. As we were sailing a stunning and classic boat we were also treated to waves and encouragement from the ladies, and it proved a real challenge for Thomas to hold course when helming.
When the wind died we were again provided a tow, and we entered Nynashamn harbor in mid-evening twilight. Nico waited on the docks as we located a slip, opposite a row of meticulously prepared 6-Meter boats, and took our lines as we drifted in. The Oslo had now officially rejoined the 6-Meter fraternity, and in the coming days would properly introduce herself.
There is something special about a sunny, crisp late Spring day in Escanaba, especially for a long-awaited homecoming and a chance to renew old acquaintances. In our youth the drive to the Upper Peninsula seemed (and indeed was) interminable, until we met up with aunts, uncles and cousins for our hectic family reunions. On this trip the drive from Green Bay passed unusually quickly, as I wanted to reach Vinettes Boatyard before the Oslo arrived from Ashland.
Turning into the boatyard in early afternoon, it is now difficult to say what was more moving – seeing the nearly completed Oslo on slings, a majestic form from a bygone era suspended above the trailer, or the older gentlemen in lawn chairs who had come specially to witness her return. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the visits, the stories, and a warm welcome back to a very special place.
Earlier in the month, after a week in Ashland helping Josh with last tasks, the opportunity to relaunch the Oslo in Escanaba before her trip to Europe was appearing very likely. We endured a range of delays, missed deadlines and disappointment earlier in the restoration, but the list of tasks was getting shorter and with luck and long hours the Olso would make her shipping date.
A few days before shipping Josh sent an e-mail with a jarring opening line: “It is safe to say I’ve failed”. He further explained that critical time was again lost in Ashland to illness and family, and while the hull was largely complete, she would not be in proper shape to return to the water in Escanaba. Expectations of sailing her from Vinettes to the yacht harbor were dashed, and the only hope of having her ready for shipping to Europe would entail concerted and fast paced work during the few days she would be in Escanaba. E-mails were soon sent to family and friends in Escanaba that she would indeed arrive on the appointed day, but would not be gracing Lake Michigan.
Walking across the grass toward the suspended Oslo and the men working to unload her, the lack of completion came into searing focus. The hull was primed but unpainted. No deck gear or brasswork had been installed. The rudder was missing. With a blush of embarrassment I mumbled apologies for her not being ready to take to the water. “Gorgeous boat” was the first response, followed by “She’s beautiful” and “Nice to see her back here”. No hint of concern that she would not manage the short sail to the marina during this trip, only appreciation for her classic lines and her return home to Escanaba.
The owners of Vinette Boatyard, Dan Branson and his brother Jeff, and their team readied a space in one of the boatshed and carefully guided the Oslo in. While watching their work, a gentleman approached and introduced himself. “I’m Dean Shipman, a friend of your Uncle”. It was a bit of understatement, as Judge Shipman was my Uncle Jim’s lifelong friend, sailing companion, and fellow judge. He remembered the Olso from his youth and passed on his best wishes to my mother and aunts. It was the first of several meetings with Escanabans who knew the Oslo, and even sailed on her.
Early the first afternoon Mike Manning arrived, local attorney and secretary of the Escanaba Yacht Club. Mike has not only been helpful throughout the restoration with photos and race information from the club archives, but provided humor and moral support through delays and postponed launchings. Mike said he would come by to help between court dates and added “My dad should be coming by later, he’s really looking forward to seeing her again”. He was joined by Tom Woodaz, owner of Escanaba Moving Systems, who would be transporting the Oslo to Newark in a few days for its onward journey by freighter to Sweden. “I have some time in the coming days, I do some carpentry (an understatement) and can help out (a gross understatement). Their offers were unexpected and brought a flush of hope, though the list of unfinished tasks was daunting.
Once the Oslo was safely ensconced in the shed, Dan’s crew set up stands and ladders set up around her. We unpacked and laid out paints, deck gear, and partially finished wood pieces in preparation for the three days (and nights) ahead. Work was periodically and pleasantly interrupted by well wishers, and in late afternoon a gentleman in full bike racing gear – colorful spandex shorts and jersey, racing helmet and glasses, and impressive racing bike – walked up and took in her lines. “Hi, I’m Jack Manning, I was a class mate of your Aunt Nancy and remember the Oslo”. It was beginning to feel a little like the film ‘Cocoon’, with something in the Escanaba water very much keeping the older generation spry, or even shaming fit. Jack had cycled 12 miles before stopping by, and we talked about my mom and aunts, and the time the Oslo graced Little Bay de Noc.
By late in the first evening the winch pads were varnished, the deck was masked, and a second coat of the grey-green deckpaint, her original Escanaba-era color, was laid on. Time left for a burger and shake at Hudsons and a short sleep.
Working together with Tom and Mike, over the next two days the Oslo began a rapid and remarkable metamorphosis. The deck gear -- winches, padeyes, genua rails, and cleats were placed and measured, holes were drilled, and then the gear was secured with bronze bolts. The deckhouse was varnished and the four bronze portholes mounted, immediately giving her a more complete look. While securing deck gear topsides Tom and Mike painted the hull in tandem – ‘rolling and tipping’ – and the first eggshell-white glossy topsides coat looked stunning.
We also took frequent breaks to meet new visitors. Local boat owners like Jim Dempsey came by regularly to check progress and offer encouragement , younger Escanabans like Mark Ammel were curious about her past and links between our families (it seems there is at most one degree of separation between all Escanabans), and some of the usual boatyard denizens popped in briefly to see the old boat and hear her early history. Mark’s restaurant “Bobaloons”, a foray into bringing more international tastes into Escanaba, was also a welcome stop for lunch.
Late the second day, appropriately bringing together family and the Oslo’s past, my Aunt Martha and her sons [my cousins] Michael, Gregory, and Warren arrived in their blue Oslo crew shirts, and the Oslo served as a fine backdrop for some photographs of this little family reunion. We enjoyed a family dinner, fine weather, and the opportunity to take a break from paint, sawdust and a still imposing list of tasks.
Tom’s charming (and efficient!) daughters Anna and Jacqueline had helped plan the upcoming shipment to Newark, and the latter dropped by to tell me a reporter from local Channel 6 would be coming by. The reporter/driver/cameraperson/editor was delayed after diverting to cover a fire, and on meeting her the last day I asked if “there was a big fire in Peshtigo”; alas the reference was either lost on the next generation or my lower 48 humor fell flat. In any case she took some good footage of the Oslo and conducted a short interview of her far less photogenic owner, which aired a few days later (see http://
In many ways the most important visit was one of the last. Late the second afternoon an older gentleman emerged from a car and introduced himself: “I’m John Hebert, I sailed on the Oslo”. Mr. Hebert ("Johnny" to my mother and aunts), a close friend and colleague friend of my Grampa John and a regular Oslo crew, walked slowly along the hull and recalled earlier days racing her. As a champion Michigan speedskater (with a possible Olympics interrupted by the outbreak of WWII and service), he had been comfortable on the Oslo's narrow, unprotected foredeck and enjoyed many races and wins on her both before and after the war. As a member of the original crew, Mr. Hebert was given an Oslo crew shirt, and we were again impressed by the longevity and vitality of Escanaba seniors.
On the last day Tom showed off his considerable carpentry skills by adding cockpit trim and some flooring. Now painted, with all the deck gear installed and once-rough edges nicely trimmed, she looked ready to take to the water and resume her sailing life. Tom introduced Don and Theresa Alverson, experienced drivers and sailors themselves, who were excited to be able to take the Oslo on the next leg of her journey. Her return to Little Bay de Noc would have to wait, as she would be loaded in a few days for the trip to the Port of Newark – and onward to Europe on the freighter Grand Mercury.
Tom, his lovely wife Cathy, Mike and I closed out the final day with dinner at the Hereford and Hops, joined later by Mark. We enjoyed the food, new friends, Yooper hospitality, and shared stories about our intertwined pasts and our parents (and grandparents) eras in Escanaba. Over the three days the support and sense of community was overwhelming, and the Oslo’s past crossed generations and linked up with the present. It now seems only appropriate that the Oslo took her final form in Escanaba, “Queen of the Upper Peninsula”.
On May 21st, following an absence of 64 years, our newly restored 1925 Johan Anker 6-meter class sailboat “Oslo” will be relaunched in Escanaba, Michigan. The historic sailboat was originally commissioned for Prince Olav of Norway, and christened “Oslo” to commemorate the Norwegian capital reclaiming its traditional name (from the Swedish “Christiania”) the same year.
Prince Olav, an avid sailor and gold medal winner in the 6-meter class in later Olympic Games, raced Oslo to victory in her maiden King’s Regatta in Norway in early 1925. Later in the year the Oslo was shipped to the US and represented Norway -- along with boats from Sweden, Denmark and Finland -- in the first Scandinavian-US 6-Meter Team Regatta. The four–boat American Team won the regatta, though the Oslo placed second individually – only after losing her series lead in the last race due to a broken forestay (but admirably finished the race). The Oslo is the only surviving yacht from this early international regatta.
In the mid-1930s she was purchased by Escanaban John Mitchell (my grandfather) and graced Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the next 14 years, before making way for the more practical 1933 yawl “Lucky Star” (which my generation remembers fondly) . After leaving the Mitchell-Moran family in 1948 she had a series of owners in the Great Lakes, but fell into disrepair and disappeared in the late 1960s. In 2006 members of the Port Huron 6-meter fleet located and stabilized her -- heroes in our eyes. Three years ago we tracked down the Oslo via Internet searches and working through the 6-meter class associations, and she was purchased and relocated to Ashland, Wisconsin for restoration at JW Swan Boatworks.
The boat required extensive restoration, though the original keel, ballast, transom, and other key elements were saved. We had much help and advice from the 6-Meter community, and have tried our best to combine a proper period restoration with a few nods to modernity. She is substantially returned to her appearance during the time she was in Escanaba, and in June she will ship to Stockholm, Sweden to participate in the classics division of the European 6-Meter Class Championships in late July. She will be one of the oldest boats racing and will represent Escanaba Yacht Club – which Grampa John helped found in the 1930’s.
(Note: New and additional photos for July, October and December may be found under "Gallery")
With the hull meticulously fared and primed, the coachroof and deck ready to be installed, and several frigid months until she can be re-launched in the Spring, Josh took some well-earned time away from the Oslo to work on the new JW Swan workshop. Not only is it on land owned by Josh and his wife, but he is doing nearly all of the framing and construction himself. We trust it will be both sturdy and finely finished, especially for an overgrown boat shed. The new shop is also large enough for any future Oslo-sized project, as well as a number of the smaller wooden boats he builds or brings back to life.
Josh had finished the foundation and framing before the teeth of the Northern Wisconsin winter arrives, and when final work on the Oslo can be done in the warmth of the current shop. The pause also provided a timely opportunity to again visit Josh and the Oslo, as well as ever-charming Ashland, with time to go through the final, shrinking list of tasks and more importantly to finalize the interior layout.
There is always much discussion in wooden boat circles, including the 6-Metre owners, about the fidelity and style of restorations. Some owners opt for a range of modern methods, materials, and even subtle improvements to the shape to improve race performance, while most owners try to find a healthy balance of existing or traditional design with some modern conveniences. For some purists, restoring the Oslo to the original 1925 drawings would represent the acme of the historical restoration ethos and best express Johan Anker's genius. Like other 6-metre boats where modifications were made over the years (generally more for the worse then the better), early in her life the Oslo was fitted with a small coachroof and auxiliary engine. This was the Oslo my Grampa John owned in the 1930s and 40s, and the boat my grandmother, mother, her sisters and brother sailed on.
Early in the restoration we decided for sentimental, family, and practical reasons to restore the Oslo closely to her 1934 appearances, but to forego the inboard engine. This embraces historical accuracy, albeit several years later into her life, and more importantly she will look as she always did for those who still remember her in Escanaba many decades ago. While the deck and small coachroof were no longer with her, a nearly identical coachroof was designed and fabricated by Josh using old photographs of her in Escanaba. The boat also sported a functional but spartan interior, though there was little recollection when my mother and her sisters were individually asked for any details. It wasn't until the family reunion in July and visit to the Olso in Ashland that some of the memories, and important details, began to emerge. My mother, Aunt Nancy, and Aunt Martha walked around and peered in the nearly finished hull, and each contributed: "It was light green, the deck was light green"..."There was a tiny galley on this side [port]"..."I remember these [winches]!"..."There were benches on each side so mother and John could sleep onboard when they took overnight trips".
With the benefit of these memories and a day with Josh to scramble around the interior of the hull, a simple re-creation of the benches and galley was drafted. For those who have never seen a 6-metre boat, it posesses a long and elegant hull form yet perhaps the most limited space down below of any sailboat its length. We contorted, pretended to sit and lie on tiny bunks, hunched under the deck beams and over the one-burner galley area, and generally admired how my grandparents could spend time 'below decks'. It also helped explain why Grampa John finally sold Oslo for the 41' yawl Lucky Star, which the next generation warmly remembers sailing on as children -- by modern standards the Lucky was small down below, but cavernous compared to the Oslo.
Another objective of the visit was to decide on locations for remaining fitting and stowage for all the necessary gear. There were a range of advantages to select and deliver everything needed to launch the Oslo while she was still in the shop, to ensure 'everthing had its place' and that the electrical and electronics, running gear, and interior appointments could be properly fitted. During the last months Josh has taken a stream of deliveries, including spinnaker pole, instruments, safety gear, anchor, lines, fenders, charts, stove, compass, and other small but critical items needed before relaunch. Our thanks to some of our usual suppliers -- including Annapolis Performance Sailing (APS) and Defender -- and to a number of E-bay sellers who provided vintage and special purpose items.
Somewhat like an early Christmas, we opened and checked the many boxes, laid everything out (see photo above), fiddled and played with the new toys, and decided how they would be installed or stowed aboard. Satisfied with our progress and having driven through a lake-effect snowstorm on the way to Ashland, it was prudent to leave early and stop in Wausau overnight, before driving further to Green Bay for a morning return flight to civilization. One of the benefits was a chance to visit Wausau's Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum, with a unique and eclectic collection of bird art -- including works by N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, James Audubon, and Andy Warhol. A great stopover, capped by a large, unhealthy, and friendly midwest dinner in Wausau's well preserved center.
While not being ready to re-launch the Oslo at the end of summer was a disappointment, there has been much greater benefit to gaining further time to complete the restoration. In particular, during the last month the hull planking was carefully faired (made smooth and even), and the interior has been beautifully finished with grey bilge paint and layers of varnish on the exposed wood.
Following our family reunion visit to Ashland in July, when the extended family had a chance to see the Oslo (and my mother and Aunts helpfully recalled further details), Josh and Kevin took a well-earned break and also started work on some smaller projects. This allowed them to resume work on the Oslo in September refreshed and ready to finish work during the dark Northern Wisconsin winter.
The first task was to glue up the sheerstrake, a band of wood that is installed along the top row of the top of the planking, along the length of both sides of the hull. The sheerstrake reinforces the hull and holds its shape, and is integral to attaching the deck.
The molds -- wooden frames put in place to hold the hull shape while replanking -- were then taken out, and as Josh explains,
"...and at the same time cross spalls we put in to maintain the correct beam widths, although the hull is very solid and nothing moved one way or the other. With the molds and corresponding infrastructure out of the way, some very long and fair battens were made up and tacked onto the sheer for the first uninterrupted view. There were some little lumps and bumps, so with viewing ladders set up in three places: off the forward quarter, amidships and off the aft quarter, the process of fine tuning began. After a long sequence of looking at the sheer, getting down and tweaking the batten and then looking again, a fair line was settled on, even though it was off some of the projected marks from the hull when she came in. The new sheer was then checked against the original heights form the sheer down to the top of the keel along the length of the boat, and the most the corrected sheer was off the original by was .4 cm. This was very satisfying. It is very nice to have the hull out of her molds and framework and to see her shape without interruption. She is a handsome boat."
The next step was to fair the exterior of the hull, an arduous job even with electric tools to plane the plank surfaces so that they are smooth and then sand them to an even finer finish. The hours spent properly fairing the hull tend to pay off handsomely later in boat speed, and next summer we will hopefully see the true benefits.
Josh and Kevin also tidied up and sanded the interior before applying bilge paint and layers of varnish. First photo below is the finished interior of the hull, prior to varnishing. Early in the restoration the planks had been soaked to increase moisture content before being shaped to the hull, and as the planking had dried somewhat in the interim the hull was misted to increase the moisture content slightly before varnishing. The second photograph is the faired and sanded hull.
The pictures below show off the bilge and interior after varnishing -- very clean and careful handiwork. The varnish brings out the beautiful mahogany wood grain while also protecting the wood, and in the coming weeks some simple but well-crafted interior appointments will be added. Josh selected the ubiquitous Epiphanes varnish, coincidentally produced here in Holland and a top choice for Dutch (and US) classic wooden boats.
After the simple interior is completed, with two benches and small bulkhead as on the 1930's Oslo, the pre-made deck beams (with a nice finish and original bead) will be installed and the deck and long-completed coachroof mated to the hull. The deck gear is also ready and will then be fitted, with Chris again showing up to provide some unskilled but enthuisiastic help, and to finalize deck gear layout.
A Spring re-launch in Escanaba is now in planning, as well as a possible trip across the pond for Oslo to participate in the 6mR Class European Championships in July in Sweden.
It would not be a proper major restoration without a roller-coaster ride through a wide range of challenges and emotions. During the last month the sudden reality and disappointment that the launch date would not be met has gradually given way to growing excitement as the family now plans to take a day trip from the family reunion in Escanaba to Ashland to see the Oslo in her boat-shed glory.
After the May visit we knew the 9 July launch date would require faster progress and few complications. The planking was proceeding well and the mast was only awaiting some final measurements. Though the relaunch had been planned to coincide with a family reunion, Josh, the mastmaker, and wise older members of the 6-metre community wisely counseled to take as much time as needed to do it right. Josh and Kevin had also been working almost exclusively on the Oslo through the winter and spring, and it was prudent and sound for future business to allocate some time for other projects (with boats waiting in the wings). By early June it was clear the 9 July date would not be met; the heat was turned down on the kettle, and Josh and Kevin took a well-deserved Oslo break to finish some needed repairs to a lovely little ketch that had saddled in next to the Oslo.
The delay posed some immediate issues, primarily concerning family travel and the need to advise the Escanaba Yacht Club that the Olso would not be gracing the Little Bay du Noc in time to participate -- for the first time in decades - in the annual summer race. Both the Vinette boatworks (who will rig and relaunch) and EYC were gracious and supportive, and family disappointment soon gave way to appreciation we can still have a summer (in name, as it is the Upper Peninsula) reunion in Escanaba.
During a late June visit to Ashland, Chris and Josh came up with Plan B -- which in many ways helps make up for the missed relaunch and hopefully will give participants further insight and perspective prior to the expected relaunch in Fall. The ketch will be moving out and the work area will be specially arranged for a family visit to Ashland on 8 July, when the Olso hull, coachroof, deck beams and decking, and deckgear will be splendidly arrayed. Josh will lead the family through the Oslo restoration history and retell the state of the poor thing when first sledged through his doors, surprise and appreciation in the state of the wooden keel and transom, clever repairs to the lead ballast, extensive study and use of the original Johan Anker plans (as well as archive and family photos) to ensure fidelity in the restoration, and perhaps add a gruesome account for the younger attendees on how he nearly severed his thumb on the bandsaw (and lost a few weeks time...).
As Josh noted, the Oslo looks much bigger out of the water, and all of the unfinished hull, keel, and rudder will be visible. There is also an extensive collection of specialty boat hand tools (both necessary, and many rescued or rediscovered by Josh), as well as the big power tools and stations, that will appeal to the tool guys/girls. All of the deck gear, including the original winches, vintage replacements, new bronze winches for real use, shiney bronze bits, wooden blocks, and lovely genoa track and cars will also be laid out for a show-and-tell.
Boatbuilder, mastmaker, sailmaker, sailor; all are now much relieved there is time to work through late issues and details -- and even finish the interior a little more finely than first planned -- prior to the relaunch. With some luck and steady effort she will take to the water in Escanaba at the very end of the Summer to wet the timber and perhaps chase a few other boats around the bay. The disappointment has been edged out by appreciation of the impressive progress to date, and the chance to show it off to three fine ladies who once sailed on the Oslo, as well as to the next two generations who only heard the legend of King Olav's racing boat.
The earlier preparation and careful work on the frames and early planking has paved the way for faster progress as the planking rises up the broad part of the hull, with the final planks expected to be fixed in the coming days. The coachroof is nearly compete and a thing of beauty -- new photos of the planking and cochroof may be enjoyed in the April Gallery.
As detailed in earlier installments, most of the essential elements have been procured are in manufacture, including the new Mainstay-Yachtech mast, North sails, a host of branze bits and deck gear from Classic Marine, and the sexy (at least in our eyes) new bronze winches from Mauri Pro Sailing. On 15 May Chris will again make the trek to Ashland, not just to survey progress on the Oslo, but also to help Josh with whatever unskilled drudge work he may require. He will also size and make preparations for modest electrical installation, consisting of an auxiliary battery, charger, switch panel, and bilge pump and lights.
On entering the shop the Oslo will present a very different view from only two months ago, with the coachroof sitting complete and the planking entering the final rows. Josh has also shaped the deck beams and prepared the deck, including some fine millwork and details, and his careful preparation should make for a smooth incorporation of the deck and coachroof to the hull.
Closing out the hull this month will be a tremendous accomplishment but does not minimize the amount of finishing work and installations yet to come. The devil is truly in the details, and it will be an enjoyable challenge to finish work in time for the planned re-launch.
Throughout the Oslo restoration we have been fortunate to locate and enlist a fine set of craftsman and suppliers to participate, playing important roles and providing essential parts and equipment. As much of the Oslo's deck hardware did not survive with the hull, one of the key tasks was to identify and find sources for fittings and deck hardware. Some of the restored classic 6-Metres employ modern deck gear, but lest the 6-Metre Purists again blanche after our selection of self-tailing winches (albeit in beatuful bronze) and an aluminum mast (though painted), we are opting for traditional bronze deck fittings.
With advice from Josh and other wooden boat owners we considered several sources, and are pleased to announce Classic Marine in Suffolk, UK as our provider of essential bronze fittings. These initially include genoa track, fairleads, and mooring cleats that nicely match the original bronze-and-wood cleats. Classic Marine has been helpful and personable, with a great range of reproduction fittings at competitive rates (priced in quid, shillings, farthings, and ha'pennies, but also readily converted online to Euros and Dollars).
The first order has already arrived in Ashland, and based on the high quality of their products, quick delivery and very helpful service we look forward to working with them on an upcoming order for additional fittings and deck gear. For those of you who are also looking for the right fittings for your restoration, please consider Classic Marine and tell them the Oslo sent you.
In selecting new sails for the Oslo we ultimately faced a difficult decision between two established US Midwest lofts (sailmakers), both providing strong proposals and an impressive level of personal attention. Providing sails for classic 6-meter yachts will never be a primary business for a loft, but there are secondary market benefits as well as noble satisfaction to designing for and supporting this small fleet.
As with other elements of the restoration, the broader 6-Metre support community offered a range of opinions and recommendations for sailmakers, while contemporary race and sailmaker experience on Rebellion (http://www.brutsailing.com/) also shaped our decision. As expected the traditionalists advocated use of classic cut dacron sails to keep appearance consistant with the era. Dacron sails look much the same as the cotton canvas sails from the period, though with much improved performance and longevity, though in competition they generally perform a notch below well-designed modern 'membrane' sails. Membrane sails are lighter and offer optimized shape and minimal stretch, but tend to look (sometimes distractingly) high-tech and are more costly.
We were fortunate to receive multiple strong quotes from established regional sailmakers, for solutions ranging from dacron to top-end membrane solutions. We queried our ad hoc 6-Metre old boys network about the prospects for mandatory dacron sails for future classics races, similar to class rules that stipulate dacron sails for a range of modern one-design fleets, and learned that this has been periodically raised in the 6-Metre Association but has garnered little support among owners. Some regattas now offer separate scoring in a 'vintage' division, for classic boats sporting dacron sails, but owners look for whatever edge thay can get and are unwilling to give up their custom leading-edge sails.
Given the Oslo is burdened with some extra windage and weight from the small coachroof added in the 1930s, and that the sailplan is not as optimal as on some of the later 6-Metres, we selected membrane sails to hopefully overcome some of these impediments. Additionally, the future Oslo crew over in Holland is familiar and adept with membrane sail trim from our experience on Brut, Tigre, and Rebellion
Two of the possible sailmakers afforded us significant time to understand the project and each subsequently detailed different options and associated advantages of each. The Internet was also a valuable resource to learn about reputations and race results for particular lofts and designs. In the latter stages one loft brought to bear additional design expertise and recent experience with other winning classic 6-Metre boats, and we are pleased to announce the selection of the Chicago loft for North Sails as the sailmaker for the Oslo. We had worked with North previously for the mainsail on Brut and the Dacron delivery/heavy weather sails and S2 spinnaker on Rebellion; while the top sailmakers take their criticism and lumps from competitors and sometimes customers, North has a terrific race record and its strongest lofts, like the Midwest loft, provide a high level of customer support. Tom Pease is our new North Sail representative, and his work with us and the North design team through this process was exemplary.
The initial order is for a 3DL 680 main and #2 Genoa, along with a mid-range S2 spinnaker. The North 3DL line is well established with continuing improvements in performance and longevity over the earlier generations, and is a favored choice among racers in a broad range of boats and conditions. These three sails will be sufficient for the relaunch and near-term training and racing, but well before the European championships in 2012 we plan to fill out the sail wardrobe with a light genoa, light spinnaker, and another potent yet still secret new sail that will be unveiled at the perfect moment (shaped by our warm memory of an unused and ignored heavy reacher spinnaker on Tigre, that earned us a podium place when first raised in anger in the 2010 50 Mijl Double Handed Race).
North has also promised delivery before the relaunch and race in Escanaba on 25 June, including on-site help in fitting and initally sailing with the new sails. This is a heavy responsibility, as there will be a host of family, friends, residents, suppliers, and other sailors on hand for this event. We look forward to hearing the response from this throng ashore as we hoist the new North sails on the Oslo for her maiden race in the modern era.
Following close consultation with Josh and key suppliers, the official relaunch of the Oslo is now set for 25 June in Escanaba. This also allows her to participate in Escanaba Yacht Club's annual C.W. Stoll Race, her first competition since the 1940s. The relaunch will be attended by family, friends, noted residents who still remember the Oslo from her time in Escanaba, and members of the Port Huron 6-Metre Association (who were responsible for saving and sabilizing the Oslo before she was acquired).
The Olso will journey from Ashland by flatbed on 22 June, arriving the same day at Vinette Boatworks who will unload her and step the new mast. The Oslo will take to the water before the weekend for a short shake-down before the 'official' relaunch on Saturday.
The Oslo continues to rise up nicely from within its scaffolding, with several milestone decisions behind us yet many details ahead. The hull restoration, coachroof, and trim are proceeding apace, while a lively e-mail discussion on rig dimensions and options finally yielded 'final' dimensions for the mast, boom and sails.
As shown in the new Gallery, the hull planking is progressing steadily, interspersed with work on the coachroof and deck beams. The planking pace is now picking up; the deeper curves at the turn of bilge required more time soaking and shaping the mohogany planks, while the process is less challenging now that the more regular and 'flatter' topsides has been reached.
Part of the Faustian bargain for restoring the 1930's coachroof was to maintain original dimensions but also finish it to a very presentable level. The Oslo will be canvas decked and painted white as in her early days, and the coachroof wood and trimwork will hopefully stand out smartly while still remaining in proportion.
In prior photos the coachroof sides, combing and beams were shown, but during the last weeks, the roof (deck) was shaped and fixed, and subsequently covered in canvas. The time-honored traditional manner of smoothing the canvas still entails some adhesive, water, and flat laundry iron. The marine plywood deck is also pre-grooved to simulate planking, another small touch that helps restore the original look while employing a more modern and stiffer approach. One of the challenges in restoring and racing an early 6 -Metre yacht is to ensure the hull remains light and meets all class rules, but also has sufficient strength and rigidity to handle loads from modern sails and rigging. We are taking care that the topsides, deck, mast support, and rigging are all robust and able to handle race conditions for years to come.
The sliding deck hatch was also completed, sized just slightly larger than originally to allow more space for crew work while racing (and perhaps to accomodate the somewhat larger American girth 80 years later). Josh also builds small boats and furniture, and the detail work for the hatch and companionway is solid but also promises to be very attractive. I am sure Grampa John would not have objected to renewing the coachroof at a slightly improved level.
Now let's turn to the frigging rigging. As noted earlier, we are very pleased to have selected Mainstay-Yachttech as our spars (mast and boom) maker, and during the last month a virtual committee of owners and 6-Metre organization members was informally brought together on an e-mail distribution to debate the merits and trade-offs between different rig dimensions. The 6-metre 'rule' is a collective set of hull and sail measurements and during a restoration it is possible to adjust (within set limits) the mast length, height of the boom, length of the boom, and size of the foretriangle (the size of the jib) to improve performance or handling characteristics. The Oslo was an early 6-Metre, and compared to boats from the 1930s and forward her jib stay was set quite low on the mast, the jib and spinnaker size were relatively small, and the total sail area limit was achieved with a very long boom and large mainsail.
Based on the trend in the 1930s and generous advice from other 6-Metre owners, concensus was that moving the mast further aft, coupled with larger foretriangle and proportionately smaller main sail, would be beneficial for the Oslo. In yet another fortunate turn of fate the original Oslo drawings, forwarded from the Johan Anker archives at the Norway Maritime Museum, also included a revised sail plan drawing from 1929 for then-owner Frederik Scott of Chicago. Reaffirming our 'modern' recommendations the second Anker sail plan moved the mast back 0.2m (around a foot), increased the height of the foretriangle, and shortened the boom. Further evidence of the new rig came in the form of an entry on the Lloyds register, noting a new set of sails from Ratsey Sailmakers in New York. Josh reviewed the drawings and actual location of the mast base on the Oslo and confirmed the mast had been moved aft to match the 1929 sail plan.
With the 'new' old rig dimensions in hand and one last round of comments from our 'technical committee', a revised rig plan was ultimately agreed and is in manufacture by Mainstay. As importantly, the dimensions have been supplied to prospective sailmakers for revised sail quotations and an order for the first sails will be placed shortly.
In addition to mast and sails, progress has also been made on deck gear. Four all-bronze self-tailing two-speed winches have been ordered from Mauri Pro Sailing, also taking advantage of a very favorable price proposal for these Harken winches. Two of the original small, one-speed bronze winches will also be re-installed to complement the modern winches. While the choice of self-tailors will not be wildly popular with some Metre boat purists, skipper and crew will no doubt appreciate their practical aspects over maintaining historical fidelity.
At long last we managed to make our way to Ashland, Wisconsin, to visit the Oslo and to make key decisions with Josh regarding deck layout and configuration. Our children, like their parents before them, bemoan the long trip and remoteness of Escanaba before our periodic pilgimages to family reunions; I suspect they would be less critical after three flights and a 4.5 hour drive to even smaller Ashland.
Following flights to Washington (from Amsterdam), Detroit, and Green Bay, we had a relaxing drive to Ashland through rolling, frozen farmland and boulder fields left from the glacial era. JW Swan Boatworks is located in a large warehouse at the edge of Ashland, and late in the afternoon we parked next to the shrouded remnants of the original Oslo mast and made our way inside. The Oslo loomed ahead, propped up and partially replanked but looking like a dinosaur skeleton, while Josh walked over to greet us from the coachroof stand. We spent a few minutes walking around the boat and then made our way into Ashland for dinner. Like Escanaba it is a former timber and iron ore town that is slowly recovering, with a host of older buildings in the town center, much charm under the rust, and a huge ore dock dominating the waterfront. Coming over a rise into town the broad frozen expanse of Lake Superior lay beyond the waterfront, and in the approaching darkness lights could be seen on the far side of the bay. Josh chose a favorite local cafe, the Deep Water Grill, where we enjoyed local Whitefish and chatted further over the Oslo and its history.
Josh also related that in addition to the visit by Cousin Barbara and her husband Tom, mature local gentlemen periodically drop by unannounced to see the the old wooden boat. There is also some discussion about the mysterious owner who lives in Holland, or perhaps whether the owner is actually an imaginary Harvey-like 'friend' of Josh.
The next morning I stopped to view the ore dock from a park near the town center, and as the sun rose I could make out shapes on the ice -- some moving, some quite large. In addition to people walking on the ice near the shore the ice fishers moved around their campers, cars and tents further out, and in the distance cars were seen driving at speed across the lake. Any future complaints about sailing through the winter on the North Sea will be tempered by an appreciation for how short and precious the sailing season is on the Great Lakes.
We spent the morning looking at the Oslo, discussing future tasks and layout with Josh and his apprentice Kevin. We also made several key decisions that had been long delayed, involving hull treatment and propulsion. The key question for the hull was whether to paint the hull freeboard (the part above the waterline) white as she was originally designed or sailed, or to varnish the hull (finish her "bright") to bring out the wood planking. Some restored boats from this era are finished bright and also add teak decks, which give them the look of a pocket yacht, but after some consideration we have elected to paint her the original white with Anker coverstripe, with period-original canvas covered decks (the original anti-slip material). Besides appearing original Josh correctly pointed out that the hull and deck paint will also highlight the fine woodwork for the deckhouse, combing, and other brightwork.
We have also been vexed by the choice for auxilliary propulsion, as many 6-Metre boats are not equipped with any motor while some are fitted with small inboard engines (as was the Oslo in the 1930's). Following the lead and recommendations of other owners we will not install an inboard electric or deisel motor and instead will utilize a small removeable outboard motor that mounts on an unobtrusive and tasteful bronze bracket. This saves weight (and cost), eliminates through-hulls, simplifies the restoration, and hopefully helps appease the purists after we elected to go with aluminum spars.
Part of the visit was spent playing in and around the deckhouse jig, complete with a mock-up measuring-stick tiller, to determine cockpit sole (floor) height, approximate locations for winches, and sizing of the hatch and companionway. The latter are oversized to make a sufficiently wide opening for crew during racing, yet part of the cabin can be closed off from the elements during passages or pleasure trips as in my Grandfather's Oslo.
Despite a forecast snowstorm we chose to return to Green Bay via Escanaba. This is not exactly a direct route but well worth it to visit with Aunt Martha and my cousins Greg and Michael, as well as to quickly pay homage to Oslo's home harbor and her yacht club. It was a race against the snow, which fell fast and and quickly accumulated on the road, but fortunately we followed a somewhat fearless lumber truck the last 20 miles into Escanaba. We also confess to stopping for a pasty on the way, an Upper Penninsula specialty that remains popular and root of many debates on proper ingredients, size, and texture. As a clear indication we had left the northern Wisconsin Lutheren belt we noted they were also selling rutebega pasties for Lent. I opted for the traditional meat version, and while it was indeed a fine pasty it was nowhere near the perfection of my mother's version.
Before leaving Escanaba for Green Bay we gave Aunt Martha an original rose-head copper nail from the Oslo, with two others jingling in the pocket for my mother and Aunt Nancy. In a few short months, during the brief Escanaba sailing season, the three sisters will have a chance see the rest of the restored Oslo as she is relaunched in Escanaba.
[See the new photo gallery for trip photos]
The original wooden Oslo mast now lies in state outside the boatshed. Unfortunately time, the environment, and previous repairs and modifications have exacted a grave toll and it is no longer sound. After careful consideration of a range of options, including a period-appropriate wooden mast from Sweden and several new aluminum spar proposals, we are pleased to announce that Mainstay-Yachttech will be fabricating new spars and standing rigging for the Oslo. Yachttech came highly recommended and has created some beautiful and competitive spars for several 6-Metre classics, including Gallant and Saskia II.
The spars will be painted to better match the boat and era, while providing the performance, durability, and trim capabilities of a modern aluminum mast design. Yachttech was highly responsive and helpful through the proposal process and we very much look forward to working with them.
The pace at which Oslo is returning to form has quickened and now a host of significant decisions loom ahead. Fortunately Chris will have a chance to finally see the Oslo during a visit next week, when (after he clambers all over her like an over-excited schoolboy) he and Josh will finalize deck layout and other open items.
One of the major decisions early on was to restore the small coachroof that was added in the mid-1930's. While it may give pause to some purists who would prefer to see Oslo emerge precisely as crafted by Johan Anker in 1925, the coachroof is not only practical and affords a modicum of protection, but it is also elegant, compliments the lines, and integral to the boat my family and their friends remember in Escanaba.
There are new photos in the Gallery, highlighting the progress in February. The replanking is proceeding, while between laying planks Josh and his help have repaired the keel, fabricated the deck beams, and recreated the coachroof beams and coaming. As noted previously, the replacement of planks and floor timbers is done in steps, allowing the original and replaced timber to stay in place and hold the Oslo's form as new sections are replaced.
The lead keel ballast was in generally very good condition except an area that was blistering outwards. Likely some water entered a small crack, and many years of freezing and thawing separated a section of the lead. The repair was straightforward as the damaged section was chipped out and cleaned, some fasteners inserted to give the new lead some grip, a simple 'dam' was set up to hold the newly poured lead in the correct shape, and the old lead was preheated just before the pour to ensure a seamless bond.
The photos also chronicle progress with the coachroof and coaming (edge of the coachroof, extending back to the cockpit). A jig was set up to help establish the correct dimensions and to hold form as the different parts are fastened and bent into shape. Coachroof beams were cut to the original shape and camber, and single pieces of pre-soaked mahogany were cut for the coaming. The coaming sides were then bend into shape on the jig, so that they gracefilly follow the curve of the side decks.
Time now for some fundamental decisions. The first concerns the spars (mast and boom), with competitive offers for new aluminum rigs as well as an opportunity to use a pine rig of similar vintage shipped over from Europe. On one extreme the purists would hope for a restoration as close to original as possible, while on the other hand the pragmatists promote the range of benefits of a more modern aluminum mast. The choice must be made shortly to meet an ealry summer re-launch and there are strong arguements for either, influenced by her planned future participation 6-meter classics races as well as pleasure sailing on Lake Michigan or the Ijsselmeer.
Another open question concerns external propulsion, again with many helpful and creative options forcefully put forth by the 6-Metre community. When the coachroof was added in the 1930's a small inboard Gray's gas engine was also fitted, which helped with getting in and out of harbor, motoring through calm, and potentially evading traffic or obstructions. Fortunately marine engine technology has progressed consierable over the years, with small diesel engines as well as electic motors linked to small folding propellers as leading options. Another common solution is to fit a bracket for a small outboard and this will also be weighed (literally too), though fitting an inboard at this juncture of the restoration is much easier than a later retrofit.
We are now also looking at deck gear, primarily the winches and blocks. As expected the purists advocate the use of period-appropriate but undersized bronze winches, while the pragmatists promote the use of modern two-speed winches including self-tailers. The all bronze versions of modern winches are painfully expensive, so it is a question of straining and struggling with historically accurate gear and experiencing the same tough brand of racing my grandfather enjoyed, or spending a bit too much and fitting modern bronze that will never look quite appropriate but are much better for racing as well as day sailing. A classic battle beween heart, mind, and cost.
Hopefully the decisions will be made easier next week when I meet up with the Oslo and Josh in Ashland. We look forward to the cold, clear midwest air, perhaps softened by a small glimmer of spring, as well as enjoying the bounty of America's dairyland (Dutch friends, think Beemster).
During the last month Oslo has begun to rise up from the boatshop floor, with planking just starting to cover her skeleton of frames. The new deck frames have been prepared and will follow planking, with spars and sails soon to be ordered. Some further sleuthing has also helped uncover more about Oslo's early years in America, with further clues and leads on how she made her way to the Great Lakes and eventually Escanaba.
Josh has just provided a set of new photos, found under "Restoration January 2011" in the Gallery section. The New Year began with the last of the re-framing, in the distinctive and more complicated aft end. Josh noted that most of the original aft frames had failed earlier in Olso's life and had been repaired in several different manners. The frames had been installed as single bent sections and the exteme curves and stresses were excessive. For the restoration the frames were 'split' most of the width by sawing a 'kerf', and after repostioning they were re-fastened with copper rivets (copper and bronze are corrosion resistant and used in place of stainless steel in most retorations).
The new floor timbers (first photo below) were then installed; these are braces between the keel and the lower sections of frames and planks that provide additional hull stiffness. These were fabricated based on original lines and existing timbers, dressed with a chamfer ( beveled edge to make a better joint) to match the originals, and primed (the orange color in the photos). The timbers take considerable load and were installed with bronze bolts, and underneath the bolt heads a dab of a ubiquitous modern marine sealant - Sikkaflex - was used in place of the original cotton wrap. We trust Josh was careful, as anyone who has used Sikkaflex knows that once you have it on your hands it has a magical ability to reappear on clothes, the floor, in your hair, and anywhere else it is unwanted.
Late last year Josh obtained African mahogany stock for replacement planks, which had been first soaked to restore some moisture content, and then 'stickered' -- a method of arranging planks to promote even drying. With the framing finished and the floor timbers in place, re-planking could now begin. This is especially satisfying, as the Oslo is begining looking like a complete boat again and the hours of preparation are again paying off in steady progress.
The first three rows of planks were cut from stock and re-sawn into their final form, using Josh's ancient band saw (the one that attacked his thumb late last year, ensuring he was indeed putting his own sweat and blood into the Oslo). The photo above shows the placement of the first replacement planks, which precisely conform to the restored original lines of her hull. The planking thickness must also meet the exacting specifications for the 6 Metre class, as the boat will eventually be used for racing in the growing Classics Division, and Josh and Chris have received helpful advice and class rules from a growing number of the 6 Metre fraternity.
In the same period we have received further proposals for spars (mast and boom), sails, and continued to look at auxilliary motor options. A mast decision will be made shortly as it will need to be fabricated (or shipped, as an existing mast is also under consideration), and sails will then need to be ordered to match the new rig dimensions. Good news is several options are available for both mast and sails, and the support and interest in 6 Metre boats and Oslo is encouraging.
On completing the history puzzle, progress has been made in piecing together Oslo's early years in America. Since 1764 Lloyd's of London has maintained a shipping registry that includes vessel types, dimensions, machinery, and ownership. During the early 20th century this registry was still actively used for even smaller 'yachts'; and after an inquiry to Lloyd's (and parting with a few British Pounds), we soon received a helpful package with registry information from 1927, when she was purchaed by a new owner in Chicago, until 1956 when the last known owner failed to re-register her. Further details are found under the 'History' tab, but of some interest is the ownership by Princeton Class of '00 Frederick H. Scott, and confirmation of the installation of a Gray's marine engine and addition of the small cabin top by the next owner in 1935.
There is a special feeling when a boat or house renovation finally turns the corner from dismantling, discovery, and dispair, to taking form again and moving "the right direction" toward completion. As Christmas approached the Oslo began rising up again from the shop floor, and just ever so starting to look the very lovely boat she once was. Fortunately Josh is patient and meticulous, with much time invested on planning and preparation of stock and jigs, allowing the rebuild to proceed quickly and without problems.
As described in an earlier installment, the keel was dropped out and repaired, while a set of internal bracing ("station moulds") were positioned inside the hull to provide a template for the as-designed hull shape and to brace the hull while the frames and planking are replaced. The hull repair also involved some 'Dutchmen', a word that embodies how history and cultural differences drove the coinage of nautical terms. The word describes the practice of cutting in healthy wood on a timber that has damage or areas of rot, rather than replacing the whole section, and while the practice may have earned English respect and acceptance, it refers to Dutch...frugality (like "Dutch date").
The photo gallery for December shows bracing and internal moulds in place and the newly repaired keel repositioned, and selected planks removed to provide access while the many new frames were installed. A jig was built beforehand to steam-bend the white oak frames into the correct shape before reinstalling into the hull, and each frame was replaced with two adjacent frames in place to help hold the form. This is a more careful approach than taking out all the frames and then reinstalling new ones from stern to bow, and helps preserves the hull lines. It is also, in Josh's words, "an interesting mix of ballet and wrestling". The opposing upper ends of the installed frames are also tensioned with lines to help give the wood 'memory'.
Just prior to bending the frames a new rudder was built using the old rudder and drawings as guides. Unfortunately the old mahogany rudder could not be saved, and the new rudder was fashioned from air-dried and tight grained white oak. It was pinned with bronze and the original bronze rudder shoe was re-fit.
During the coming weeks the floors and planking will be installed, and the deck beams will be made. Josh waxes about the tight-grained Victoria Island douglas fir he found for the latter, which is being milled and planed to match the original beams. We are also helping Josh (and perhaps confusing him at times) as we look at auxilliary motor possibilities, mast and rig options, and the many bits and pieces still needed after the hull restoration is complete. Fortunately the wooden boat community continues to weigh in with good advice and recommendations via e-mail and online inquiries, and there is much support and growing entusiasm over the return of the Oslo.
As Oslo's hull takes form again, a decision looms on the spars (mast and boom) and standing rigging. The existing mast (below) is split, ravaged, and patched, and cannot be restored. The purists, either those who have painstakingly restored their own wooden boat but as often someone playing 'fantasy restoration' without the expense, advocate the use of wood for the new mast, while many restored boats and modern 6s employ reliable and easily maintained aluminum spars. There are also cost differences, as well as some potential sail trim benefits to a tapered aluminum mast.
Fortunately the 6-Metre community is well supported by several mast makers, and it is now a matter of selecting the best design and offer. For example, Mainstay Yachttech Ltd. in British Colombia has produced spars for champion 6mR Gallant and others, while similarly Offshore Spars in Michigan, renowned for work on high-end yachts, also has a soft spot for 6-Metres and has had its share of racing success.
The rig design needs to be finalized before selecting the sail wardrobe and sailmaker, and we are working toward a selection by the third week in January 2011.
In addition to the original plans and old photographs, Oslo is fortunate that her sistership, Oslo II, has been continuously maintained since it was built, and her owner has provided a wealth of information and help. Oslo II (N22) was built for Crown Prince Olav after Olso shipped to America, and he sailed her to a win the the 1926 Cowes Regatta -- then and now one of sailing's most important competions. We will also be competing in the Cowes Regatta in 2011, albeit in our modern boat, the First 35 Rebellion (see http://www.brutsailing.com/).
Amazingly, Oslo II has remained in the same American family since 1937. In the last month Peter has forwarded additional photos as well as a description of her winch locations and running rigging -- which in turn has helped in specifying our needs to possible mast makers. She remains very much original, including manny fittings and the rig plan.
Oslo II sails out of Puget Sound and is a stunning boat on the water, as shown in the photo below.
After getting the Oslo situated in the shop, the next step is to install 'station moulds' -- wooden forms that have been built based on the drawings and measurements, that will hold the hull in the correct shape as frames and planking is removed. The gallery provides a sequence of photos as the station moulds are added added.
Port Huron and Ashland are far, far away from our home in Den Haag, Netherlands (Holland to the rest of you), not just in distance but in accessibility. No knock to either, but a visit requires some planning, time, and several changes in transportation. From purchasing her hull through initial restoration work we relied on recommendations, references, phone and e-mail contact, and an abundance of good faith. The wisdom of our choices was tested on 24 July, when my cousin Barbara and her husband Tom diverted to Ashland for a day from somewhere comparatively nearby..
Barbara is a good judge of character, while Tom is a guy and an engineer by training, hence scrambling around an old wooden boat and looking at all sorts of cool tools in a big woodshop had some appeal. It took some time to prise out a report and photos, but Barb noted that Josh is a great guy, and they loved being the first to see Oslo in her unrestored state.
The remoteness has deterred others of the Moran/Schram clan to decend on him, but a real inspection looms in the Spring...
After progressing ruther with another restoration, an beautiful Rozinante ketch, Josh rearranged the shop floor to make the restoration home for Oslo. First the keel was dropped -- keel bolts loosened and the keel separated by wedges and hammers. The keel rested on a small wooden 'sled', while the hull remained on its own wooden sled. The keel and hull were then dragged into the shop.
Before all of the fun begins with things like scarphing joints and steaming frames, it is essential to analyze the original plans, measure the boat in its present condition, and create an accurate set of measurements and plan for rebuilding the hull. Fortunately Josh is meticulous, and benefitted from the original plans, other records from Norway, and a very interested neighbor who speaks Norwegian!
After a false start with one shipper, and delays due to winter, ice, mud and generally nasty midwest conditions, the Oslo was picked up in mid-May and trucked from Port Huron to Josh´s shop in Ashland. The unloading is shown below, and captured in more detail in a gallery album.
After notifying extended family of the fate of the Oslo and that we were planning to restore her, help came in the form of old photos, recollections, and clippings. The photos are important in helping verify the location of deck equipment, as well as dimensions for some of the modifications made to her after she came to America.
Cousin Michael forwarded this clipping from the Escanaba newspaper archives that has proven very helpful in recreating the coachroof and combings. Grampa John is shown working in the cockpit, readying her for launch.
The previous owner forwarded several old drawings of the Oslo, but it would be a great benefit to locate the original plans and construction drawings. Unfortunately the famous Anker & Jensen yard had ceased operation shortly after the death of Johan Anker in 1940, but nearly all their records were preserved by the family and eventually donated to the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
A short e-mail to the museum in early January produced a swift response -- the Oslo was indeed commissioned by Crown Prince Olav, and they possessed the original drawings as well as some photographs and clippings. Would I be interested in copies for a nominal cost?
A few weeks later a large envelope arrived from Norway, with the full sized drawings, news clippings, and photos - a time capsule from 1925, providing key information for the upcoming restoration. A subsequent e-mail included racing registry measurements, also much appreciated. Our many thanks to the Maritime Museum, and we are certain to pay them a visit next time we visit Oslo.
Though still flush with the excitement of finding the Oslo, the immediate practical concern was finding the right person to restore her. A repeated theme has been the support of the close-knit wooden boat clan, which in this case came in the form of recommendations from several boatbuilding organizations and schools. A few great candidates in Michigan and Wisconsin surfaced, but one in particular, a young graduate of the Yacht Restoration School (YRS) in Newport, RI and former instructor at the Great Lakes Boat Building School, seemed the ideal match.
After some correspondance and telephone discussions, we offered the project to Josh Swan and J.W. Swan Boatworks in Ashland, Wisconsin. Josh combines much skill with enthusiasm and systematic planning, and soon arranged for shipping in the Spring, when he would be nearing completion on his current restoration project.
Several days after the stunning news that the Oslo still existed the first photos arrived from the Port Huron owner. Admirably he did not sugarcoat the issues -- she no longer had a deck or coachroof, and the hull required substantial work. We chatted further with the owner, who appreciated the idea that the Oslo was returning to a family that had earlier owned her, and that we were willing to undertake the restoration.
A notional amount was agreed for the boat, but it brought a more pressing question to the forefront - where to restore her, and by who?
In early December 2009 my mother gave me two of my Grandpa John´s photo albums, which covered his boats and sailing journeys from the 1920s to 1938. My recently late Uncle, Judge Jim Moran, had owned the albums after my Grandfather died and she and her sisters thought it was best to pass them on to the most active sailor (only active sailor?) in the next generation.
The albums covered his early sailing years with the Ghost, and then in 1935 the Oslo appeared. More importantly, there was a photo of the Oslo under sail, with the sailnumber ´N17`. I immediately searched again, now googling with a sail number, and had a hit with the US 6 Metre Association. Oslo was listed as a missing boat, perhaps last located in Ohio -- the Ohio location also agreed with what my mother had last heard from a friend in Escanaba. On Christmas Eve I sent a short note to the association secretary, who responded on Christmas Day that he would check with the Port Huron 6 Metre owners.
,A short e-mail arrived the day after Christmas, 2009. It opened simply -- "Merry Christmas, the Oslo is safe".
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Having resumed boating several years earlier, my interest in the fate of my Grampa John's early boats continued to grow. The extended family had heard the stories from him and our parents over the years, about the Ghost, his first race boat, and especially about the Oslo (never just "Oslo", but "The Oslo".
The apochryphal story was that the Oslo was once owned by the King of Norway, and was one of the fastest sailboats on Lake Michigan. There was naturally some skepticism that a small wooden sailboat in the remore reaches of the Upper Penninsula (actually, my kids find all of the Upper Penninsula to be a remote reach) would have once been owned by European royalty, but it made for a good story and we created mock ships out of cardboard with "Oslo" scrawled on the back.
My generation grew up sailing on the "Lucky Star", which my Grandfather bought as a successor to the Oslo and to provide more cruising comfort. The Lucky Star was of slightly sketchy origins herself. She was a beautiful 44' yawl with Sparkman and Stephens lines, built in the 1930's by an otherwise idle Detroit boatyard to alleged 'unofficial" S&S plans. My mother and my aunts and uncle all remembered the Oslo with varying degrees of fidelity and fondness, Uncle Jim appreciating her speed while the sisters remarked on her lack of any comforts.
In mid-2007 we began periodically searching online for any trace of the Oslo or the Lucky Star, soon learning that any search on "Oslo", Escanaba, the Great Lakes, or sailboats in general yielded thousands of unreleated hits but no connection to our Oslo
We posted a topic on the Wooden Boats forum in December 2008 and again in mid 2009, and also made an inquiry via the Escanaba Yacht Club. The wooden boat community is tight knit (and quirky), and very much willing to help, but hopes were flagging in the absence of any responses or leads. We suspected the Oslo was long gone, either used for firewood or returned to nature, until...