The Nautical Center of the Port Washington Public Library archives property and brings presentations to the public about our nautical heritage here in the Port Washington/Manhasset area, and other surrounding communities. On Saturday, Oct. 16, this group of dedicated members of the Nautical Center presented a very special program on the waterfront near the intersection of Mill Pond Road and Shore Road. The occasion was to celebrate the success of the Star boat class by presenting to the public a star boat keel permanently mounted on the exact spot where it was originally built back in 1911 - the Issac E. Smith boatyard. Many people and much time was dedicated to bringing this project to completion, but it was a labor of love, given to the residents of our peninsula, to help keep alive the rich nautical history that is unique in our lovely little corner of the world. Stretch Ryder, the chairperson of the Nautical Center, and who was instrumental in getting this project off the ground, was the host that clear, sunny Saturday morning. After introducing dignitaries from the Town of Port Washington North, the Police Department, the Commodores of several yacht clubs, and two active Star boat sailors, Elliot Oldak, Annapolis, MD, and Steve Andrews, Centerport YC, Stretch had this to say, "Special thanks go to Nancy Curtin, director, Lee Fertita, heart and soul of the Nautical Center. Today we honor my friend and colleague Norm Geller, recently departed, who was a constant supporter and worked his magic in the background. I would speak to him often about this and many other projects; he was an inspiration, an innovator and an ally. We will all miss him deeply. Thank you Julie for being here today. Finally, thanks to the Dayton Family, the patriarch Walter 'Duke' Dayton, and his wife Marion. It was Duke's idea for this monument and his persistence that got it done. This Star Boat is approaching its centennial celebration in a few years, and has a storied lineage. This monument represents an important building block. The Stars have a rich yacht racing history locally and around the world, and many of our greatest sailors learned their skills on this yacht-and it was birthed right here on this very spot. Some of America's best skippers and crews have sailed and still compete today in the Star. I fell in love with the Star when 19 years old, and one of the greatest memories I have is in competing in races around the world in this boat. Some people you know from sailboat racing sailed in the Star class: Lowell North, Malin Burnham, Dennis Conner, and most recently Paul Cayard and Phil Trinter, a Port Washington resident who couldn't be here today, who represented us in the Olympics and finished 4th. It is right that this boat is aptly named Star, because it has produced a galaxy of stars and it started right here in Port Washington."
Saturday, October 16 at the Star Boat Keel Ceremony: (left to right) Walter "Duke" Dayton, Manorville, NY, Elliot Oldak, Annapolis, MD, Stretch Ryder, Steve Andrews, from Centerport.
Duke Dayton, who came up with the idea to have a monument to the Star class on the very spot where it all began, spoke about how he managed to find a Star boat keel. This is not as easy as it appears, for most sailors who own Stars are actively sailing them and are unwilling to donate the keel from their boats. Those who know Duke know he is a walking history book for sailing, and his comments reflect his knowledge of the Stars. He said, "Many thanks to Stretch for this could not have happened without him. We knew we had to find a Star boat keel for this monument. I was out on the north fork of Long Island and came across a field behind an old farmhouse, and saw this star boat, got out of the car, and climbed up and new instantly that it was a Purdy Boat Star. After some negotiations got the keel back to Port Washington in my son's truck. After some research I figured out that this Star was hull number 1943, built in 1940 by the Purdy Boat Company. Paul Shields was the owner and her name was Spitfire. Paul is the brother of Corny Shields, father of Shields Class, a great sailor and yachtsman. This boat - you can tell by the way the keel is feathered - was a competitive boat. And here it is back in Port Washington where it was born. Introduce two Active star sailors who are going to unveil the keel today. When I was active in Star boats, there were 5-6 fleets on Long Island Sound: starting at the west end with the East River Fleet with (Charlie Ulmer who was the mainstay behind that fleet), western LIS centered around Larchmont and American YC, southern LIS Adrian Iselin- I crewed for him as did Werner Pleus, and the western central fleet in Huntington Bay that is still active today."
Elliot Oldak, who grew up in Port Washington and sailed out of Knickerbocker YC is actively sailing a Star in Annapolis where he lives today. He's been sailing Stars for 25 years, a boat "ahead of its time, with a big mainsail, lots of power. It has been said that once you sail Star boat upwind you never want to sail anything else. Port Washington was a great town to grow up in. I remember going to Purdy's boatyard and crawling around a couple of Stars when I was a child. There is such great sailing on Manhasset Bay, it would be very nice if star class came back." Steve Andrews, from Centerport YC, who grew up at Noroton YC, started sailing a Star when he was 13 years old and is on his 8th Star boat today. "Once I started sailing a Star I never wanted anything else." These two Star sailors had the privilege of unveiling the monument. The plaque reads: At this location the first 22 Star Class boats were built by Ike Smith in the winter of 1910 to 1911. The plans were drafted by Francis Sweisguth from the office of the world famous naval architect, William Gardner, who was a resident of Port Washington. From this small boat, and under the leadership of Commodore George "Pop" Corey, from the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, and Commodore George Elder from the Port Washington Yacht Club, grew the world's most famous one design racing sailboat. The Star was chosen for the Olympic Games in 1932. The Star Class World Championship continues to be one of the top international sailing prizes in the world. Presented by Port Washington Public Library, The Nautical Center, 2003."
Alan Dinn, whose grandfather on his mother's side, was Ned Purdy, the president of the Purdy Boat Yard until his death in 1933. While Ike Smith built the first 22 Star boats, the Purdy Boat Company, located in the area that is now Bayview Colony, built about 32 Stars during the 1930s when the country was in a depression. According to Dinn, " The Purdy Boat Company build mostly power boats, but during the depression there was no demand for them, so they built Stars, which kept the company alive until Aphrodite came along, and built the company back up again. I think this is a wonderful addition to Port Washington to have something that ties nautical history in a visual way and brings home what this town meant to the nautical history of the whole country, and the world. When you look at the Star class, that's a boat that is still raced internationally, one of the most successful classes in history, and this is exactly where it was born." Mr. Dinn has written what has been called the definitive history of the Purdy Boat Company, called "Boats by Purdy." For more information on the Purdy Boat Company, visit: www.members.aol.com/purdyboats.
News and photos of the Manhasset Bay Fall Series next week.