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1932, 30 ft. Cruisabout
The following is a reprint of a letter originally published in the January 1979 issue of the Cruisabout
My Richardson, RBOA #165, the “Marion D”, was one of the many that Frank Homan of Amityville sold in the 1930s to pleased buyers on Long Island’s Great South Bay. I grew up in this area and remember as a child in the late 30’s that the Richardson, with her sleek lines and fine bow entry reminiscent of a World War I Destroyer, was one of the most prevalent cruisers on our Bay. However, the memory is complicated by the fact that local boat builders took to copying the lines and layout of the Richardson and so added some ringers to that misty memory. There are now very few of the originals and their clones left in the area. I note a couple of RBOA members with Long Island addresses. I would like to get in touch with them. Perhaps we could expand the Long Island contingent.
I’ve had the fortunate experience of being an owner, either part or whole, of the “Marion D” for many years. My father, the late Horace Darling, bought her in 1955, from a local owner, whose name entirely escapes me. We shared the maintenance, love, labor, and dollars for many years. He died in 1975. I guess I have experienced most of the problems that can befall a Richardson owner, especially those problems caused by neglect. Until I joined the Association I had never regarded her as an antique. She was part of the family and took her turn for attention in the prevailing order of things. Some years-for example, when I spent my weekends in the “60’s” as a Reservist on big, shiny U.S. Navy Destroyers-she got very little attention. I paid for that. She knew my affections were divided. Little spots of dry rot broke out all over her. That happens whenever I seem not to be attentive enough. I think they are all self-destructively jealous.
I’ll never know what slight caused her to sink in the Winter of 1976-77. The fact that the ice around her was ten inches thick wasn’t the reason. She was snug inside a boathouse. Other boats made it through that bad winter. She sank in shallow water, just over her gunwales at low tide, but enough to do the job. I sat up with her all night, pumping her out as the tide rose, apologizing. The next morning the guys from the Boat Yard relieved me and began writing invoices. She had made her point.
I spent the next summer rebuilding the sides of the trunk cabin, where rot had previously set in. I knew it was there, but it took the sinking to make the fact perfectly clear and motivating. I took out the windows, the uprights, the planks under them, and a lot of 1930ish plywood in the cabin that the sea water had left looking like wet potato chips. Replaced everything.
Having gotten the message of a jealous lady, this past summer I stripped the varnish on her exterior brightwork, bleached and stained, revarnished, and did all manner of placating work. I hope she is at least partially placated. But I have a long way to go. Nevertheless, people take notice of her now. We both enjoy her admiring glances from poor souls trapped in their bloated, plastic monstrosities.
Actually, that trunk cabin exercise I went through is one that is in store for every owner of an early Thirties hull, unless he pays close, loving attention to the joints around the windows and the uprights between them. The original builders, probably because they were expert joiners, used mortise and tenon joints (I think that is the right phrase). One bone to pick with the late Richardson Company. Those beautiful joints became moisture traps as the hull aged. Instant rot. One answer is to pull out the window sills and get “Boat Life” into every nook and cranny. The contemporary owner has another technological advance on his side: epoxy. If the wood around the uprights rots, it can be replaced with simple butt joints, epoxied together.
I have a problem that perhaps the Association can help me with. I have always assumed that my Richardson is a 1930…simply because that was what my Dad was under the impression was her age. I think she has been sometimes vindictive because we have probably exaggerated her years. She has the “sloped” windshield. This design is later than 1930, I gather, because in a recent issue of the Newsletter a photo showed a 1931 Cruise-About with the straight, vertical windshield design.
Now I don’t know her exact year. I have found the number 231 on a number of wooden components. Can this number be traced to a point in time? Is there any information on hull numbers in your files?
Sorry for rambling on like this, but last year you did ask for communications from members on the state of their boats for your files. Mine is in a state of unremitting jealousy. Since most of us are amateur woodworkers, it would be useful to exchange more information on basic repairs and potential trouble spots on each model. I’m willing to relate mine.
Postscript: Mr. Darling passed away in March of 2002 at age 76. The “Marion D” had remained in the Darling family for 47 years. A notice in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of the Cruisabout indicates that she was sold to RBOA members #686, Anthony & Christine Hagen.