Yacht Restoration Can Be Habit-Forming
Bob Tiedemann has been rescuing and restoring vintage wooden yachts for nearly three decades. His first project was a 1937 America's Cup 12 Meter, Gleam.
"Everyone thought I was crazy," says the Newport, R.I., resident who, with his wife, Elizabeth, owns Seascope Yacht Charters.
But vintage yacht charters proved to be successful and the Tiedemanns soon added another 12 Meter, Northern Light, built in 1938, to the fleet.
The Tiedemanns now have a collection of six vintage sail and power yachts, all available for charter for corporate teambuilding and other private affairs. "My favorite thing was crawling through boatyards. I came up with the idea of chartering to support the restoration work," says Tiedemann.
"Each one has been a progressively more difficult restoration," he adds.
His most recent project was to restore a 40-foot harbor launch, Fawan. The boat was built in 1911 and may have once been owned by John Jacob Astor IV, a wealthy entrepreneur who died in the Titanic while returning to the United States after a lengthy honeymoon abroad. The restoration work is being done at Newport Yacht Joinery in Portsmouth. The joinery specializes in wooden boats.
Tiedemann found the double-ended launch near Lake Seneca in Geneva, N.Y. It was owned by two couples and hadn't been in the water for some time.
"It was definitely time for a refit," says Tiedemann, the son of a naval architect who studied engineering.
The initial stage of the restoration included a new keel, floor timbers, frames, stem, planking and refinishing. The boat was launched June 11 and was available for charters this past summer, although more restoration work will be done during the off-season. Tiedemann also will restore the interior.
Even in her weathered condition, Fawan's heritage as a yacht of the Gilded Age is evident in her mahogany deck, etched-glass windows, the magnificent sideboard and other details.
As with any restoration project, Tiedemann begins by researching the vessel's history.
"The research has been fascinating," Tiedemann says. "We're trying to get to the bottom of it."
He would like to find out more about the vessel's original design, its builder and its previous owners so he can restore the yacht close to its original condition. He has only a few clues. A drawer in a sideboard in the cabin is signed, "G.C. Laurence July 14, 1911. " The initials "C.O. Case" are scratched in the flagpole.
Tiedemann traced the boat back to 1928, when it was found in a boathouse on Sebago Lake. Maine resident Phil Kennard remembers riding on the boat as a boy. Kennard says his father, Frank, restored the boat for Clarence 0. Case and then was its captain. Case died in 1944. Tiedemann says Kennard vividly recalls details of the boat, such as the etched-glass windows. Kennard also recalls a brass builder's plaque but Tiedemann did not find the plaque. He says it's probably in someone's basement, attic or shed.
According to Kennard, the boat was originally built for John Jacob Astor to motor out to his steam yachts near his Hudson River estate, Ferncliff. Astor owned the 232-foot Nourmahal and the 262-foot Noma.
Astor divorced his first wife in 1909 and bought Noma the following year. He soon met 18-year-old Madeline Talmadge Force, and married her in a brief ceremony at the Astor family estate in Newport, Sept. 9, 1911 - the same year the launch was built. Madeline was not accepted by society so the couple went abroad. When Madeline was pregnant with their first child, they decided to return to the United States. They were passengers on the Titanic when it sank on its maiden voyage iii April 1912. Madeline escaped the sinking ship on a lifeboat but her husband died.
Others say the boat was owned by Thomas Avery Lamb, a wealthy businessman who owned property on Sebago Lake. When Lamb died in 1924, he left a boat to his wife, Hattie, who may have then sold the boat to Case.
When he's finished restoring Fawan, Tiedemann will renovate L'Allegro, a 62-foot express cruiser built in 1918. Tiedemann found the vessel in a boat junkyard near Boston.
"She's another time capsule. Her entire interior will have to be replaced, " Tiedemann says.
More information about Seascope Yacht Charters is available at www.seascopenewport.com. Phone: (401) 847-5007.