Monday, 31 December 2007

Bristol Rose... a short history.

Over the past 53 years you could count the number of rash decisions Robert has made on one hand. Living in a good neighborhood on the US East Coast, raising 2 children, working for the same company for 21 years… in short, life was fine but getting dull, on the road to…well, where? He couldn’t help wondering, is life about working towards security and retirement and ultimately just maintaining the status quo? How long could this last?

In 2004 while taking a Sunday afternoon drive to the Chesapeake Bay a spark was ignited. Who knows, maybe Bristol Rose sailed past that fateful afternoon as Robert and Trish happened upon a late summer festival at the John H. Downs Park. As they ate hotdogs and enjoyed the Bluegrass band, their eyes traveled with the boats across the Bay to Rock Hall. A plan was hatched to buy a boat of their own. This boat need not be fancy. Maybe a little center cockpit fishing boat. Big enough to get out and catch some of the striped bass the Chesapeake Bay fishermen get so excited about. “Stop right there big boy, if you are getting a fishing boat look forward to lots of quality time by yourself!” exclaimed Trish.

Old Coot, found hanging around the Chester River, MD

We relocated to the USA in June 1996 with our two children Owen and Elliot, from Sydney, Australia. Like many Australians we’d spent a lot of time at the beach. Although we felt a strong affinity to the water, our collective sailing experience was limited to OPBs (other people’s boats) and the occasional Hobie Cat rental down at Balmoral Beach on Sydney Harbour. We couldn’t have imagined it then, but perhaps we were destined to one day be at the place we are now in our lives.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
In another time and place Charles and Anne Brackett had plans of their own. They’d done some sailing on their 38’ Shannon and in 2002, planned to build their 43’ dream sailboat, Bristol Rose. Bristol Rose was designed by Walt Schulz and built by Schulz Boat Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. She was launched in October 2002 and the Bracketts sailed her to the Bahamas where she spent the next few years of her life.

Bristol Rose receives her bottom paint, Schulz Boat Company, Bristol, Rhode Island
After months of book and online research, as well as time spent climbing over the OPBs waiting in boatyards for new owners, we bought our first sailboat, Sandpiper in early 2005. Sandpiper is a 1979, S2 9.2A sloop and she opened our eyes to a lifestyle on the water that fitted us very comfortably. Just to be sure we could handle a 30ft boat on our own; we took sailing lessons with Getaway Sailing in Baltimore. This gave us the confidence we needed to begin sailing in the unfamiliar waters of the Chesapeake and to eventually take off on a two-week cruise down the Bay.

Quiet Boatshed on St. Leonard Creek, MD

We also learned from Matt, our affable sailing instructor, how to tie lines like a sailor (power boaters go round and round and round in knots), and how to laugh at anyone silly enough to be caught out sailing with fenders still hanging over the rails. Most importantly, Matt taught us that sailing is “all about lookin’ good!” Thanks Matt!

The Francis Scott Key Buoy, Baltimore is the site where Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner, the morning after the Brits trained their cannons on Fort McHenry. "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there."

We have always been travelers, always inquisitive about the world and the many cultural differences that make travel so addictive. We’ve both worked on 3 of the 5 continents. Even as we’ve traveled across over half of the 50 states of the USA, we’ve marveled at the cultural differences from one state to the next. We’ve both experienced life in various parts of our homeland, Australia, from north to south, east to west. Sandpiper turned out to be the perfect boat for a family to explore the nooks and crannies of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. We’ve spent weeks aboard, exploring from the waterside industries of Baltimore to the islands and inlets all the way to Crisfield on the Maryland/Virginia border.

Container Terminal, Baltimore Harbor
Was it the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” or maybe that Christmas read “An Embarrassment of Mangos”? Who knows, but more research came into play, for the boat that would take them to far away places.

In 2007 the decision was made to sell the much loved Sandpiper and buy the “dream” boat. Now, looking for a dream boat has nothing to do with being practical, this is all about romance and escapism, and above all else, “lookin’ good”. Our dream boat would be special; not brand new but one that previous owners had loved and cherished. She had to be an American design but with traditional lines, be sea worthy, sail well, have a good reputation, be big enough to live on for a year or more yet small enough for two of us to handle.
We did the research, hung out at the Annapolis Boat Show, read books about the cruising life and along the way, fell in love with Shannon boats. Sure, we looked at other boats, but we always came back to the dream of maybe one day owning a Shannon.

Boat stands at Quality Boatyard, Tiverton, RI
As if by fate our search came to a happy ending with Bristol Rose; it was meant to be. When we first stepped below, Robert knew what Trish was thinking – Ahhh, American cherry wood interior! A standing joke is that Trish would have every piece of furniture in the house made of cherry, if she could. The closing date on our offer was 11th August, Robert’s Birthday. Bristol Rose’s tender is named Rosebud; we named our pets after flowers, Rosie Bud and Daisie Dog. The “signs” were stacking up. Bristol Rose not only met, she far exceeded our expectations of a previously owned, well-designed, much-loved and cared-for sailboat. She is a special boat that we feel is perfect in every way.
First look at Bristol Rose

Bristol Rose is a Shannon 43, hull # 51, launched in 2002. She is the second-to-last of the 43’ hulls made by Schulz Boat Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. Walter Schulz’s experience working with boats began when he was still at school. In February 1975, he began construction on his own design, Shannon 38 hull number one, in the same building that now houses the Herreshoff Museum. The boat was unveiled at the Annapolis Boat Show in October 1975. In the Fall of 1985, the first Shannon 43 was shown at the Annapolis Boat Show. Schulz named his Shannon yachts after the Shannon River in Ireland, where both his grandmothers were raised.

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff (1848-1938) revolutionized yacht design and produced a succession of undefeated sailboats for the America's Cup between 1893 and 1920. (Wikipedia)

One of the four boats built by Bill Koch's America3 Syndicate for the 1992 challenge.
When we visited the Herreshoff Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol, RI in 2007 on our search for our “dream” boat, we learned about the legendary boat building skills of the Herreshoff brothers. It seems clear that Walter Schulz has been greatly influenced by the Herreshoffs, as well as some other greats in sailing. “Also I never build a boat without twin headstays. With them you can wing and wing or have roller furling on one and hank-on jib on the other. I mean what the hell do you do when you roll up your furling jib? How can you run up a smaller headsail? I copied the system of Chichester’s boat when he was in Newport long ago. As soon as I saw that on Gypsy Moth I said to myself, ‘That is going on every boat I build’, Walter Schulz (Ferenc Máté, The World’s Best Sailboats, Vol I).

Herreshoff boats
Bristol Rose has the unique Shannon Sketch sail configuration. She is equipped with sails made by Clarke Bassett of Kappa Sails in Westbrook, CT, auxiliary power provided by a 75hp Yanmar diesel, carries 200 gallons of water and 100 gallons of Diesel.

So what’s it like owning a Shannon? The first thing you notice is a lot of rubber necking. If we are in a slip people stop to admire her. We are often asked, “What type of boat is that”? Our favorite was when a woman walking past stopped and asked, “Is that really a Shannon?” She had never seen one up close but like us, dreamed of owning one.

An earlier vintage Shannon called Sandpiper, caught our eye on the Chester River.
There’s an air of romance around the Shannons, thanks in large part to the character of the man, Walter Schulz. On a trip up the Patapsco River to Baltimore this Fall a large power boat was bearing down on us as we crossed the shipping channel. The power boat slowed down as she came near, while the passengers took pictures of Bristol Rose. As they powered past us we noticed the Australian flag flying proudly. Small world! They might also have noticed we were flying the green and gold, Boxing Kangaroo!

Bristol Rose at anchor, proudly flies the Boxing Kangaroo, as well as the Star Spangled Banner!
The people at Shannon make their owners feel like members of a large family. It was a delight to meet Walt, Bill Ramos and Walt’s daughter Erin Schulz at the Annapolis boat show in 2007. Trish proudly wore her Shannon cap, thanks to Bill, for the rest of the day. No ordinary hat; you can't buy one anywhere. As Bill explained, you have to own a Shannon to get one of these. Walt Schulz has designed over 20 Shannon models and the company has launched over 335 boats. Even though we had just recently bought a previously owned Shannon, they knew who we were. The Shannon Owners website keeps a record of current Shannon owners and there is a great exchange of ideas and helpful information from one to another. Walt is quoted by Ferenc Máté: “….I like to hear where they are. I like to keep track. Before I go to bed I listen to the weather, and when I hear that there is such and such a storm blasting where one of the Shannons is cruising, I can smile and feel good and sleep well that night. I get a great kick out of that.”

Walt Schulz launches Bristol Rose. "Every boat Shannon launches, I launch with a few drops of blackberry brandy, some on the bow for good luck and a few drops in the water for the gods."

1 comment:

  1. Interesting history & great pictures.