This Rhodes-designed hull, with its beautiful overhangs, awaits new paint and a spring launch.
single GM diesel engine drives a four-bladed prop, and
with fuel consumption of 2.5gph, she can cruise 1,000
miles. She was still cruising the Southern California coast
under the name Sea Shell in the 1980s. (You can learn
more about Sea Shell and many other motorsailers in the
excellent book John G. Alden and His Yacht Designs by
Robert W. Carrick and Richard Henderson.)
Not many of these early motorsailers are still in use
today, but occasionally one of these classics comes to
market. A recent search of YachtWorld.com turned up
a 60-foot Rhodes design built in 1964, a 58-foot Alden
built in 1975, and a 30-foot Garden built in 1980.
A SERENDIPITOUS ENCOUNTER
On a late May tour of boatyards in northern
Wisconsin, I turned the corner at the end of a storage
shed to find an immense hull on jack stands, fully rigged,
about ready to receive a fresh coat of bottom paint and
return to the water. I saw movement in the pilothouse
and hailed the occupant. An elderly gentleman returned
my greeting, and after a brief conversation, he invited
me to climb a very steep ladder.
I introduced myself to Rod Johnson, who for the last
10 years has owned, maintained, and sailed Barlovento, a
72-foot Rhodes centerboard ketch constructed in 1959.
She had been built of steel by the prestigious Abeking
& Rasmussen for a member of the DuPont family and
served as a social centerpiece in the waters of Newport,
Rhode Island. Her cabin house was original, but the
enclosed steering station aft had been added in the
1960s. Because she was about to be launched, her
interior was filled with the customary piles of boxes,
bags, gear, and supplies. It would not have done her
justice to photograph her interior in that state, but suffice
it to say, her classic elegance lurked beneath the
Rod told me about Barlovento’s past and his ongoing
commitment to preserving a piece of yachting history.
“Many friends and family have told me that it might just
be easier to appreciate the importance of the past, rather
than trying to perpetuate it,” Rod said. “But I feel it is
important to keep her afloat and continue to sail and
power under her original name.”
Visiting this beautiful example of an early motorsailer,
although modified, reinforced my desire to know more
about the current state of motorsailers and their future
possibilities. It also reminded me of the ongoing debate
about just what exactly constitutes a motorsailer.
WHAT IS A MOTORSAILER, ANYWAY?
Back in the early 1900s, when auxiliary sailboats
began to be equipped with lighter, more powerful