Mad dogs, Ducks and Pilgrims

No other country looks after seagoing amateurs, tyros, and nitwits as does this country. If you get in a jam and you’re not too far away – and you can go a mighty long way – you’ve only got to holler for the [U.S.] Coast Guard.

aprilThis was not posted on a maritime chat board in response to the Australian father-and-son duo that, in mid-February, departed Jamestown, R.I., in a long-dormant 43-foot sloop bought on eBay, bound for Australia. The above sentiments were, rather, expressed by voyager, adventurer and author Alan Villiers in 1938, in “Adventure” magazine. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The Aussies sailed straight into clearly forecasted blizzard conditions, including 52-knot (60-mph) winds and 25-foot seas 150 miles south of Nantucket – yes, to be rescued by the Coast Guard. For details of this escapade, see Bob Muggleston’s interview with the boat’s owner on page 20.


In the October/November issue, we asked readers for details about specific boats and designs that refused to slip into the cracks between the dusty folds of the editor’s cerebrum. Among these were the centerboard Duxbury Duck and the one-ended, keel/centerboard Duxbury Pilgrim, indigenous designs of the first half of the 20th-century that thrilled a boy for whom Duxbury (Mass.) Bay was John Masefield and Winslow Homer rolled into one.

Our first response was from Duck owner Matt Murray, of Kingston, Mass., who wrote:
“The Duxbury Ducks are a John G. Alden design with an overall length of 18 feet and a beam of six feet, four inches [and a maximum draft of two and a half feet, perfect for Duxbury Bay]. Our boat, Merry Wing, was built by George Shiverick back around 1928. Shiverick was a well-known builder of boats in the Plymouth, Kingston and Duxbury area. He began building boats in the 1895, on the Jones River, in Kingston, Mass., and built and designed over 350 boats until he retired in 1940.

“Our restoration began back in 2008, and continued until Merry Wing was launched and sailed last fall. The boat was restored by an enthusiastic group of many different folks, working one night a week at the site of the original Shiverick yard, on the Jones River in Kingston, Mass. It was great to restore this boat at the same place that it was originally built. We felt that Mr. Shiverick would have been pleased to know that a boat he built 85 years ago would be once again sailing the waters of Duxbury Bay.”

Our first response regarding the Pilgrim design came from a childhood Duxbury acquaintance, who wrote: “Dwight Smith, owner of Long Point Marine ( in Duxbury, has a Duxbury Duck and a Pilgrim in his shed. He would be the source of information about the designs.”

We tracked down Dwight as he was driving down the Florida Keys, and he put us in touch with Sherman Hoyt, who told us: “The Pilgrim is 27 feet overall. Roughly eight were built, in the 1920s and ’30s. It’s a mini-J Boat. If you saw one out of the water, it made you cry. The Pilgrim Invader, in Long Point’s shed, is owned by a local couple; the Duck, Drake – stored on a sand floor so it doesn’t go out of shape – is mine.”

Another Pilgrim, High Hat, is owned by Reuben Smith’s Tumblehome Boatshop (, in Warrensburg, N.Y. Because High Hat is a ship of childhood dreams, we called Reuben, who told us that the Pilgrim was designed by Crowninshield & Burbank as the Duxbury One Design Class. Three of the original eight exist today: Invader, High Hat and a hulk owned by a Pembroke, Mass., boatbuilder. Reuben also gave us the elusive Pilgrim specs: LOA 26′ 9″, LWL 16′, Beam 7′, Draft (board up) 3′, Sail area 350 sq.ft.

“The Pilgrim was the first boat with a triangular, hollow mast,” Sherm Hoyt said. “It has a hell of a lot of sail, is a very powerful boat, and [with its draft] never did well among the Duxbury flats. It has a self-bailing cockpit, a lead shoe on the keel, and was self-righting. Most were galvanized-fastened, but Shiverick, who built only one Pilgrim, copper-riveted pine planking to the frames.”

“I am also restoring a 1957 Beetle Cat,” Duck rehabber Matt Murray added. “I hope to finish it soon: It has been a long, but fun, project. After three years, my wife is hoping to get her side of the garage back soon.”
The more things change . . . .

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