Gull’s Freedom: Fishers Island 24

Photos by Alison Langley

Photos by Alison Langley

After reaching 80 years old and being passed down from fathers to sons, this Fishers Island 24 called Gull has a new lease of life…

By Chris Museler for Classic Boat Magazine

Venetian Harbour does not sound like the name of a place that should exist next to America’s bustling submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. But a five-minute boat ride around the corner from the cavernous dry docks, steel girders and massive naval ships finds a narrow strip of protected water only a few hundred metres long surrounded by shingled summer homes and a diminutive police station where the officers wave to everyone.

There is not a lot of ‘guarding’ going on in Groton Long Point, certainly not since WWII, but the prize possession of Venetian Harbour is a string of 14 low-slung wooden sloops separating the in-bound and out-bound boats there for more than 80 years. The Fishers Island One-Design, a fine Charles D Mower pedigree design and indigenous to this sliver of water off Fishers Island Sound, is a boat passed down by generations since the DuPont family originally commissioned the class in 1923.

Charles D Mower and A Sydney Dewolf Herreshoff both worked on classes for the Fishers Island fleets, and were contemporaries in many ways. Mower is best known for his A-Class catboat racers and for being a chief naval architect at the Henry B Nevins boatyard, the builders of America’s top racing yachts from the 1920s through the 1950s. Only 16 Fishers Island One-Designs were built to Mower’s design, all in 1923. Two perished in the hurricane of 1954. For a time, only three boats were sailing in races at Groton Long Point and others were moved to other venues around Connecticut and New York. Today the remaining 14 have made their way home and are now still sailing out of Venetian Harbor.

And now, at what seems to be a turning point in the fleet where the varnish can be seen flaking off the tops of the sloops’ masts and the waterlines are hidden by the weight of the sea in their hulls, Chris Christian’s Gull has had a major restoration and has just spent the last season serving as a brightly appointed Phoenix, calling to her sisters and other classics for a spruce up and to join her on the waters they all know so well.

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