L. Francis Herreshoff

 At Work in the Castle Workshop

 At Play in his Gull-wing Mercedes

 

 

At left above, "Skipper" Herreshoff is pictured in his workshop on the third floor of the Castle. Not only did he do all of his design work in this office, but stocked the large room with tools and machinery for making miniature brass saluting cannons which he became famous for. He made precision brass cannons for clients throughout the world.

Skipper Herreshoff, the nickname given to him by the local Marbleheaders, purchased the Castle in 1945 from Waldo Ballard, a local Marblehead artist who designed and built the Castle during the mid 1920's. During the next 25 years Herreshoff designed such classically beautiful yachts as Ticonderoga, the sleek 72 foot clipper-bowed ketch that broke all kinds of records for her speed and agility, and larger Cup racing designs including J and M boats. One publisher describes L. Francis Herreshoff's design as follows, "His designs are marked by clean, sweeping lines and simplicity of hull and rig that show they have been drawn by a true artist." (Sensible Cruising Designs, McGraw Hill, Inc.) This statement is certainly clear to anyone who has seen Ticonderoga ("Big Ti" as many call her). Ticonderoga is a masterpiece of artwork, never mind speed. It is symmetry at anchor and symmetry in motion. No reverse-transome modern stern, no plastic hull and no aluminum mast.

In comparing L. Francis' designs with the design wizardry of his famous father, Nat Herreshoff, one author captured the distinction best when he said, ". . . whereas the work of the father emphasized engineering perfection, the work of the son emphasized artistic perfection." (Ibid.)

The above right picture shows Herreshoff in one of his many sports cars which he loved to tool around town in. I remember very vividly as a youngster seeing him driving around in his red Ferrari. I think it was a 1964.

Herreshoff was a prolific writer, widely known for his regular articles in nautical periodicals such as Rudder. In addition, he published a number of books including, The Common Sense of Yacht Design, The Complete Cruiser, Sensible Cruising Designs, and a biography about his famous father titled, Capt. Nat Herreshoff, The Wizard of Bristol.

L.Francis Herreshoff was well known for his great dismay over the introduction of fiberglass boats back in the 1950's. The Skipper loved wooden boats and saw a more natural relationship between wood and the sea, than "plastic" and the sea. His nephew, Halsey Herreshoff of Bristol Rhode Island, tells the story about how, while a student at MIT, he visited his uncle at the Castle in Marblehead and brought with him a new book on designing fiberglass boats which he presented to his uncle as a gift. However, when Halsey departed later that evening, the Skipper handed him the book on fiberglass boat design, politely adding, "Please take this book with you . . . I won't be needing it."

L.Francis Herreshoff was quite a character, and about as opinionated as one could be. He knew what he liked, and didn't seem to give a damn about what anyone might think of him. In a Boston Globe interview in 1967 (June 11) he is quoted as saying, "Almost all the people today who have any money in this country have been here only a generation or two and have little education, little taste, little sense of beauty." And in regard to the plastic hulled, aluminum masted sailboats which dominated Marblehead Harbor (and still do for that matter), he comments, "The harbor looks to me just like floating swill." When asked about up and coming young boat designers, he abruptly responded, "At the present time there isn't one designer in the whole world that's any Goddamned good. No one knows how to draw. No one has any decency."

Finally, carved in his wooden drafting table (which naturally he built himself) is the following statement which pretty much sums him up:

 

Let's call it the Republic again.

Let's have law and order again.

Let's have God-fearing judges again.

Let's say the Lord's prayer again.