Friday, January 4, 2008

Jon Moore and the Spray

Just don't ask him anything about the Internet:

Talk to Jon Moore about his boat, the Spray, and you’ll get the story of a lifestyle that is as rare as the vessel he sails.

In 1892, the aging Chesapeake Bay oyster sloop named Spray was given to, and rebuilt by, native Nova Scotian Captain Joshua Slocum in preparation for the first solo circumnavigation of the world. A replica of the Spray, with the same name, is moored in Northeast Harbor and is being refurbished by Jon Moore, a man much like Captain Slocum.

Moore’s Spray was built in Tremont by Ed Davis. Moore came across the boat in 1999 as she sat on shore at John Williams Boat Co. in Hall Quarry. She’s documented with a homeport of Boston, just like the original Spray of 1895.

“There are only 8 or 10 boats in the world that could be considered an authentic replica, which this could be one of,” said Moore. “All of the others are modified versions.”

Moore had wanted a Spray replica ever since reading “Sailing Alone around the World,” an account of Captain Slocum’s voyage, in the early 1980s.

“That boat is a very famous boat. My hull is the exact design of the boat that Josh Slocum sailed around the world,” he said.

“The reason Slocum used this boat was because the vessel is so well balanced that it would steer itself, even downwind,” Moore stated. “At that time they didn’t have a lot of advanced technology and electrical stuff for self-steering. The boat was so well balanced that he would set a course and go weeks without touching the helm. It really sails like that too,” Moore said. “You get her all set up and then you can go and make lunch. She’s got a lot of character.”

Moore has another name for the Spray. Usually he calls it home.

“We live on her most of the time. We’re not right now because we are doing a refit of the interior,” Moore said. “We rebuilt the interior from the original, which wasn’t much to begin with. When you live on a boat for awhile you kind of get a take of exactly how you want things.”

“We” is Moore and his wife, Christine, and son, Lewis.

Changes are happening topside as well.

“I am putting a Chinese junk rig on her right now. Originally, it was rigged as a yawl, but it was a regular Bermudian rig,” said Moore. “Then it was rigged as a sloop for awhile. I am putting a Chinese junk main on her because I am quite familiar with the rig because I have designed and built them before.”

“You get her all set up and then you can go and make lunch. She’s got a lot of character.”

— Jon Moore
The original Spray also was retrofitted with a yawl rig after problems Captain Slocum faced in the Straits of Magellan (at the tip of South America), according to historical accounts.

The mast that’s on Moore’s Spray right now is made of a black spruce tree that Moore carved last year.

“I did a lot of masts up in Newfoundland on work boats,” Moore said. “I’m coming at it from that angle, more of a work boat approach rather than a yachty-type approach. I primarily lean toward sailing vessels that have the ability to do something more than just look pretty.”

Moore is a self-employed marine surveyor and a self-professed “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” A marine surveyor determines if a vessel is safe to use in conditions for which it was designed and what repairs need to be made to it.

“I do little projects like one with this fellow that bought a Friendship sloop and he is interested in learning to build and restore boats. I am helping him rebuild it as a tutorial to teach him boat work as we rebuild his boat,” he said.

Moore makes it clear where his heart lies.

“I do a lot of sailing, delivering a lot of boats, and expedition or wilderness cruising,” he said. “I lived off the coast of Newfoundland and my wife and I did a lot of wilderness cruising up there. We took old boats and made them seaworthy enough to take trips.

“We weren’t into immaculate reconstructions or anything like that. We were into getting boats seaworthy and doing something with them.

“I appreciate what guys are doing with yachts, but I am not in the furniture business.”

Owning a wooden boat does not mean you need to marry it, according to Moore.

“I survey boats all of the time and I run into people all of the time and they say, ‘Oh, a wooden boat, so much maintenance.’ It’s really nonsense,” Moore said. “It’s only really maintenance to the degree that you want to make it a museum piece. You don’t have to have it like that.

“I’ve taken old boats off a beach and four or five days later will have them operating,” he said. “I used them for the season then at the end of the season I put them back on the beach where I found them. I fished with them, I sailed them, and they worked.”

Harking back to a day when self-sufficiency was key to survival, Moore takes a utilitarian view of boat maintenance.

“In Newfoundland, if we had to do something, we’d put the boat on a beach, we’d pop a plank out and put a new plank in, on the beach, in the middle of a snowstorm. We didn’t have to have special shops and sheds. We did it with hand tools and it might have been a little crude, but it worked and we carried on.

“So, that’s where I come from,” said Moore, chuckling. “I’m not really yachty, per se.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sailed on here with Ed Davis in the early 1980s. I have pictures of her as she was then.