November/December Issue 244: A ferrocement schooner


Rachel and Ebenezer, possibly the first ferrocement coasting schooner working in the schooner travel business, began as an idea in the mind of an engineer at Bath Iron Works in Maine. The idea was to gather a group of workers at the shipyard to finance, design and build a ferrocement schooner that could be enjoyed among them all or put to work in Camden, carrying passengers in the burgeoning passenger schooner trade.

The idea of a ferrocement hull was not a novel idea, as ferrocement boats had been originally built by the French as early as 1848. The framework of a vessel of this type consists of a shape, usually a rounded bilge boat, formed of rebar and covered with wire mesh, tightly bound together to conform to the vessel’s hull and subdivisions. The building was done at the Long Reach Shipyard in Bath, which launched Rachel and Ebenezer in 1975.

Captain Fritz Williams, an original investor, bought out the other interests and started in the windjammer trade from Camden, Maine. After one season, Captain Williams sold Rachel and Ebenezer to Dan and Sue Hallock, who had an interest in schooners to daysail out of Greenport, N.Y. The Hallocks ran Rachel and Ebenezer for a few years until about 1984, when Eben Whitcomb — a prime mover in the building and sailing of the schooner Harvey Gamage — purchased Rachel and Ebenezer from the Hallocks.

Whitcomb operated first from St. Thomas, then from Key West in the winter and from Greenport in the summer. As an aside, I sailed on Rachel and Ebenezer from Greenport and was so impressed with the village that I moved there permanently in 1994.

The schooner’s time in Greenport was eventful. In 1985, it was on a mooring during Hurricane Gloria and broke its mooring lines, coming ashore on Shelter Island with only minimal damage, to land in a sandy spot where it was dug out by heavy equipment and towed free. At the end of the second season in Key West, Whitcomb and his group sold Rachel and Ebenezer and the vessel was moved to Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan to do day cruises under the name of Malabar. After a few years, the vessel was sold again and worked in the Florida Keys as an adjunct to a Boy Scouts sailing program. As of this writing, the vessel has lost its Coast Guard certificate and is in sad shape, neglected at the Key Largo Yacht Basin.

Let’s join Captain Ken Hamilton, master mariner, on a passage going north to Greenport from Bermuda. It’s May. Captain Hamilton, being a minimalist, relied on his noon sites and advancing lines of position.

We are doing an upper limb shot of the sun at Local Apparent Noon. Height of eye is 10 feet. We, of course, will be using the 2017 Nautical Almanac. The day is May 15, the DR is at 38° 15’ N by 65° 20’ W. We need to calculate the time of LAN for our noon sight. At the time of the sight the Hs is 71° 05’.

A. What is the Ho? 
B. What time in GMT is LAN at DR?
C. What is the latitude?

A. Ho is 70° 45.7’
B. Time of LAN is 16:16:01 GMT
C. Latitude is 38° 17.1’ N

By Ocean Navigator