It takes a lot of work to maintain a yacht of any age. When a yacht is more than 100 years old, it takes far more work. Furthermore, it takes a special owner to devote the time, attention, and of course money to preserve a piece of the past. The owner of Vagrant is one such person, about one year from having his classic Herreshoff schooner back in his hands. This, after one year already of major refit work at Royal Huisman.
Actually, “refit” is an understatement. The yard’s Huisfit division is truly reconstructing Vagrant. Built in 1913, the 109-footer (33-meter) showed some usual signs of age upon arrival at the yard last summer. In addition, as much as her steel hull was intact, corrosion afflicted some sections. Stripping her down and sandblasting further revealed other plates were too thin.
Remarkably, however, much of Vagrant’s all-teak original interior was, and still is, intact. During a recent visit to Royal Huisman, we saw paneling and several curved ceiling panels in the joiner shop, awaiting restoration. The wood will go back into the guest and owner’s accommodations and relaxation areas. There will, of course, be some changes, to accommodate the electrical plugs and other conveniences of modern-day life. Panels will also conceal newly installed air conditioning, heating, and other units. Royal Huisman’s joinery shop is further creating all-new paneling for the crew’s quarters.
If Harold Vanderbilt, the financier and avid yachtsman who originally owned her, could see her now, no doubt he’d be impressed. He signed the contract for Vagrant in 1912, for the then-princely sum of $70,000. She was hull 719 of 1,100 vessels designed and built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Rhode Island. Among other remarkable builds, the Herreshoff brothers were responsible for five America’s Cup defenders. Each was victorious, too.
The Vagrant rebuild will wrap up next year. At that time, she’ll carry new aluminum masts from Royal Huisman’s sister company, Rondal. In keeping with current times, they’ll handle inside furling for the fisherman and mainsail. Dykstra Naval Architects and Rondal are collaborating on the new sailplan.