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HomePride of the Fleet

Pride of the Fleet

Published: Thursday, 08 May 2014 16:36 

Pride of the Fleet

by Charlie Bessant

Recently, I cruised the moorings at the finish of The Governor’s Cup, an over-niter from Annapolis to St. Mary’s River, my home waters. Thirty to forty yachts ranging from comfortable fifties to courageous twenty four footers spotted Horseshoe Bend that afternoon, and my curiosity took the pleasure in cruising each sloop and yawl in a stiff south easterly breeze. I was reaching with the number one eased and the main twisted off, its boom gliding over anchor line after anchor line, transoms sliding past five feet higher than my rail and not fifteen feet away. I was cautious but curious and mindful of the probity in my little day-sailer spit-polished and prideful in its first season after a complete refurbishing, the first since its hull was laid in 1964. It did not go unnoticed. Sailors lounging after the long race came to their life-lines, gave me ‘thumbs up’, or shouted, "What boat is that?...Oh, an Ensign, right. Beautiful!" It happens all the time. My comings and goings are a regular show. There is hardly a moment while sailing "Talisman" that I am not conscious of how beautiful a show it is.

However, there is more to Ensigns than meets the eye and, all tactics aside, it is good to remember just what makes our boats valuable and worth restoring.

"In 1958, during a casual meeting between Carl A. Alberg, the famous navel architect, and Thomas A. Potter, a lifelong yacht salesman, a discussion of the postwar boom in pleasure boating lead to a collaboration with Pearson Yachts. The result was the popular Pearson Triton Class, the first mass produced, family oriented sailing auxiliary. The secret to its success and the success of the other Alberg designs at Pearson, of which the Ensign is one, reflected another trend in the early sixties, fiberglass hulls."*

Constructed in the same yards where Captain Nat Herreshoff, the "Wizard of Bristol", created so many successful America’s Cup defenders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, our hulls were hand laid by as many or more than 12 men at a time. And, as anyone who has put in a speedo recently will testify, they can be as thick as 3/4" at the keel. Over built and over strong by current standards, Ensign hulls, like Ensign sailors, might only fear another Ensign on the course. By "Talisman’s" example, they may be sailed for 28 years, let sit at moorings unattended for another four, then stripped to their gel coats, and found to not have a blister or separation below the waterline.

Integrity and provenance makes the Ensign a valuable classic. With such foundations, the rest may be left to experts like Dave Brooks, who did meticulous work on "Talisman". Modern finishes and materials together with the combined experience of thirty-six years of a competitive class makes a refurbished and restored Ensign a far better looker and sailor than the day she left the yard.

I think you will agree with the coast guardsman I over heard telling his crewmates as I past his dock while basking midst the bright work, "Now, that’s the way to go!"

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