Monday, February 08, 2010

A Lucky Visit to Norwalk's Oyster Dock

I've been to the dock in Norwalk where the oyster boats come in maybe 10 times over the past six years and although I love the old boats, I've never been asked spontaneously to go out on one (the one time I did go out on one, it was planned in advance, here). Matthew Housekeeper, who blogs at Soundbounder, had better luck. He emailed me about it the other day and is starting to put it up on his blog, here.



Blogger Sam said...

Tom the other website mentioned the old draggers as being "sloops" but to me they were always schooners ... since they were built on a schooner design, except starting about 1920 many were built or converted to large diesel engines and the new hulls were quite stockier (and not quite as cute looking IMHO).

I don't know if there are any true schooners left in the fleet. They'd haul out the main mast, install a huge diesel, and put a rounded wheel house over the stern. The foremast was left intact, for trawling, dredging, and hauling cargo using a heavy boom. Early diesel conversions also were fitted with one or more smallish sails (jib, fisherman's sail, and aft staysail), not for speed but to help stop the rolling action of the boat.

A real schooner of the time also had a rounded stern, compared to most modern trawlers that have squared-off ones. These were built out of huge, thick timbers, a lost art today because of all the compound curves.

So I guess you could call it a sloop, but to me it more resembles the ubiquitous coastal schooner of the day, about 60 to 80 feet long. They were fat and slow as compared to 120-foot Gloucester schooners that raced to George's Bank, but were extremely seaworthy.

One Yankee invention was for "coastwise" commercial schooners that did not have such as deep keel and draft, especially in Long Island Sound. Many would perhaps only draft 5 to 6 feet instead of 12 or more for the larger, faster schooners. The dragger, which you can still see at Norwalk and Point Judith, is still at its job ... some over 70 years old.

1:03 AM  
Blogger matthew houskeeper said...

Hi Sam,
The HOPE has one mast, and was not modified, while a schooner has two or more. I will hopefully have some pictures of her posted next week.

Thanks for the post!

8:31 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Aye, Tom, but old dredgers aren't classified like sailboats (one mast or two) because they can't sail at all. I was referring to the hull design, I suppose, and that modern day dredgers started off as cut-down schooners! -sam

8:14 PM  

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