The Wooden Schooner: Untold Stories on the New River, Fort Lauderdale

Please feel free to look back on my first untold story on the New River about Bolero’s years in Fort Lauderdale in the 1980’s.

Wood Schooner

I received a call one day a year or so ago from a fellow in Oregon looking for a wood schooner. He had seen one of our ads in Wooden Boat Magazine. We do not get many calls these days for wood schooners. I had an immediate candidate for him – the 55′ wooden schooner many of you pass daily between the Wiggles and Little Florida along the South Fork of the New River. At that time she had a brokerage sign on her from a now defunct firm. Her asking price was $49,900. I could tell even on the unlikely chance that I could pull off the sale that there was little money in it for a professional yacht broker like me, but the whole situation had an air of intrigue that I could not resist. Every boat has a story, and what a hell of a story has the Wooden Schooner of the New River. Please read on the hear what at happened to my Oregon prospect and the results of my investigation.

Custom Schooner Between Little Florida and the Wiggles on the New River, Fort Lauderdale

I called up the listing broker, Al, who was a long time broker we had done deals with before who operated under the name “American East Yachts.” We chatted and oddly the vessel met my client’s needs in every way. He was looking for a project, so her wayward condition was a positive if the price was right. Her lines have a sweet style as any of you know from passing her daily along the river. She has beautiful overhangs, a long bowsprit, and smoothly integrated cabin top. Always the optimist, I thought this may even turn into a sale that will help my Oregon fellow fulfil his sailing dreams. He planned to sail her back to Oregon where he had property to refit her. I made an appointment to scout out the schooner that afternoon, printed her specifications off the MLS, hopped into my car, and headed toward Riverside.

I had already learned a little about her lineage from my talks with the broker. But a mile from my office, I received a call from the owner, Pete. I pulled over and listened to his tale. She was custom built in Cuba to unknown lines for a wealthy Cuban Senator in 1950. Her frames were sawn Cuban mahogany which is a very hard, dark wood — nothing like the common soft Honduras mahogany. Her planking was inch and a half thick long leaf yellow pine with typical carvel construction. The original fasteners were bronze though Pete has replaced many with stainless steel over the years. He had owned her for decades, extensively chartering her in the Bahamas. The decks were inch and a half thick Cuban teak while the cabintrunk had been fiberglass over. He had recently awlgripped the cabin trunk.

Wooden Schooner Dockside

After our talk, I told him I would be there in a half hour and set off again. What a rich life he had lived on her I thought as I drove. The overly romantic introduction to her specifications captured his spirit:

An ocean vessel wanting to ply the caribbean or the south pacific islands, with you in charge. After a long and peaceful trip, the sails are trimmed and you are headed for the anchorage in Tonga, located in the lower South Pacific. As the anchor drifts to the bottom in the crystal clear water the sounds of island drum music and singing floats across the water. Before departing your sailing vessel to go ashore, your sailing mate comes up from below in an island sarong with rum punch. What a way to relax as you live your dream on your ocean going Schooner.

The slip lay in the area between the North and South Forks. At that time the 11th Ave swing bridge was closed for repairs, so I took Davie Boulevard. I pulled up to the secluded property and walked up to the front door. A beautiful 1970’s vintage Jaguar Vanden Plas was parked under the carport while along the portside of the property was what looked like a old wood Chris Craft under cover. I knocked but did not receive any answer so walked around and started evaluating the Wooden Schooner.

On Deck of the Wooden Schooner

She needed work no doubt as the photos show. Her decks were worn through so the bronze fasteners poked through. The hull looked sound and varnish passable. The freshly awlgripped cabin top helped quite a bit. Looking at her dimensions, her spars struck me as shorter than expected ( usually we estimate bridge clearance at 110% of boat length ). This short rig put this gaff rigged schooner squarely into the island boat category to me and less of the advertised ocean going schooner. The 10-foot bowsprit made her 65-feet overall. Down below was dark and musty. The gimmy engine had an unusual rack and pinion steering arrangement supposedly from a Cuban pick-up truck.

The next day, I forward this information on to my prospect in Oregon who still was interested and even with the bad teak deck thought she was a good candidate for his refit dreams. I coordinated a conference call between the owner and buyer to sort out more details about the construction and history of this Wooden Schooner. That is when I met the colorful owner in person, a story for another day.

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