Bolero: The Untold Story of Her Years in Fort Lauderdale

Bolero Under Sail (Click for CCA PDF Write-Up)

When I saw Bolero on the cover of the December issue of Cruising World, I immediately called up my friend Gordon. Bolero is a famous 73′ Sparkman & Stephens 1949 wood racer built by Henry Nevins of which a model version lies in the lobby of the New York Yacht Club. Gordon had owned Bolero in the late 1980’s living aboard her while berthed above the tunnel in Fort Lauderdale. He was shocked, “Again?” She had been refit just 10 years ago. It gave us a chance to chat about the new work done to her. Here is Bolero’s missing history – the exclusive insider story from Waves.

Untold History
Gordon purchased Bolero in 1985 out of the Annapolis Sailing School. The previous owner had profiled Bolero once at a New York Yacht Club race, then donated her. When he first saw her, she had a couch on her fore deck. About all the sailing school students did was drink and party on her. He sailed her down to Fort Lauderdale.

Cruiser World's Feature on Bolero

Notable problems were the rotted caprail, combings, and mast steps. Gordon redid the mast steps. He had her slipped have way upriver the New River over the tunnel. To get to the Riverbend boatyard, he had to motor her down to Cooley’s Landing and unstep the mast there to get her 90-some-odd spar under the infamous power lines that so annoy us sailors. He remembers the rigger helping him had to haul him up the rig for some reason. When Gordon was way up there in his Bosun’s chair, the rigger, a big, burly fellow said, “Hold up a minute Gordon!” He walked over and barfed overboard, then retook his turn at the monkey grinder, and finished hauling Gordon up.

Mostly he worked on her and contributed a lot of finances like everybody else has that has owned Bolero. He only sailed her three or four times and not enough to really get going and have a crew familiar with how to manage her. She was not a simple boat and needed not only a lot muscle but a good deal of familiarity and crew coordination to sail right. He tried to enter her in the Antigua race but because of her aluminum spars she did not qualify. They had not even heard of Bolero back then. I wonder if the Antigua race would let her in these days?

Gordon sold her in 1988 to a foreign fellow. The foreigner redid her deck by putting down a plywood layer and a teak veneer on top for a real smooth, impressive look. Gordon was invited by the owner to see her after this new deck was put on. The Cruising World article notes how there were layers of decking, and this must be what they were referring to.

Thoughts on the Most Recent Refit
Gordon laughs about the Bolero Alumni Club who decided what were the correct restoration choices, “Hey what about me? No one asked me. Probably a slice of history they want to forget. I must of slipped through the cracks.” The biggest mistake they made was to glue together the double planked mahogany over cedar planking. A wood boat has to bend and settle a bit. The correct orientation is tar paper in between. The hull might not settle right with that epoxy? Oh well, no doubt they know what they were doing.

A feature that we question is the choice to restore Bolero to a cedar deck. Gordon did not remember ever seeing signs of cedar. The deck looked like a normal inch thick teak deck when he owned her. Not to mention that cedar is a poor choice for decking, too soft and not as durable, though lighter. But what is a 1,000 pounds difference on a 90,000 pound displacement boat?

Other thoughts:

  • The electric chair in the deck house seems out of place.
  • But they did a great job refitting this nav area, which was in poor condition in the late 1980’s.
  • The rest of the interior actually looks similar her beautiful condition long ago.
  • What happened to the monkey grinders?
  • Does she have the same aluminum spars?
  • She should have lime green cushions aft the cockpit.
  • The black transom looks great!

Some days later, Gordon called me back after going to Pike Street Market and purchasing the CW December 2010 issue. He had note to a fellow nearby, “I used to own this boat.” The fellow just looked at him like he was crazy. But Gordon has the photos, line drawings, and even an engine room key of Bolero to prove it (if any alumni member or press reads this, please comment below to get in contact). That led Gordon and I on to talk about his real love Royono, a topic for another article.

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