Twenty-five years and 85 boats since they began in Petite RiviÃ©re, Nova Scotia, Covey Island Boatworks continues to build proven, traditional yachts. And that pattern carries on in their recent launch of Annie J, a 48-foot pilothouse ketch. The new yacht is based upon Walrus, a 1925 motorsailer drawn by the father of sensible cruising designs, L. Francis Herreshoff. The original Walrus, also noted as design #19, was built in 1929 by George Lawley & Son Corp. of Massachusetts.
Annie J was built for a Connecticut owner who had owned a 38-foot Spencer Lincoln-designed ketch that was built by Covey Island in 1984 and also named Annie J. After seeing Kelly B (Covey Island’s first Walrus) at the Newport Boat Show, his desire for more accommodation space below and a larger pilothouse led him back to the Nova Scotia yard and Herreshoff’s design. As with many of Covey Island’s boats Annie J’s hull is wood/epoxy construction built with Douglas fir, epoxy and E-glass.
The new Annie J is true to Herreshoff’s concept with an improved accommodation plan, modified keel/ballast and rig. Belowdecks Annie J has a good-sized master stateroom with shower and head forward, and a double stateroom and head aft. All of the joinery is mahogany offset by bead board painted white in the Herreshoff style. Also below is the galley, located midships to port with plenty of room for stores to starboard. The galley’s granite countertop is trimmed with a stout mahogany fiddle and corner handholds. The look is handsome and practical. There is a Force 10 three-burner stove and Sea Frost refrigeration. The configuration of the companionways and ladders leading from the pilothouse and in the space below are complimented by opening deck hatches for guaranteed light and great ventilation throughout the boat.
A large pilothouse distinguishes Annie J. It is larger than the house built aboard the original Walrus. The result is a delightful space that houses not only a ship-like helm station but a convertible raised dinette as well. Great visibility from the pilothouse will assure comfortable passagemaking in foul weather – another important concern of the owner.
On deck Annie J is handled easily by a couple. The rig has been kept simple and employs Lewmar, Profurl and Leisure Furl equipment for ease of sail-handling at the push of a button. Harken blocks, a Forespar vang, and New England Ropes keep the running rigging moving smoothly.
Herreshoff was quick to point out that Walrus was a “50-50 cruiser or motorsailer, but she really seems to be a power craft with auxiliary sails.” He went on to say that the design would make “a fine type of cruising vessel €¦ make good passages in any ordinary weather” He felt the rig would add stability and speed. But sea trials have proven Annie J to be much more. Dorian Steele, the yard’s logistics coordinator and spar builder commented after sea trials “Everyone was surprised by how well she sailed, including the boatbuilders, spar builders, sailmakers and sailing crew. She sails at a comfortable 8 knots with 15 knots of breeze. The addition of the mule balances the boat very nicely and makes her a comfortable boat offshore.”
With a short cruising season under its keel Annie J has exceeded the owner and builder’s expectations. After wintering over at the yard in Nova Scotia, Annie J will return home to the waters of Long Island. The owner’s long-term cruising plans have yet to be decided, but wherever they take him, Herreshoff’s sensible design will be up to the task.