Jim Moores founded Moores Marine in South Florida in 1986 after building commercial fishing boats and dories in Lubec, Maine. One particularly cold winter, he came to Palm Beach County with a box full of tools and learned he could make a pretty decent living repairing and restoring wooden boats built by the old masters of American yacht building. Since then, the company has been designing restorations from the ground up of classic and antique boats—including the eighth presidential yacht, Honey Fitz, a 1930 93′ Defoe that served as the private yacht of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
A member of the Society of Naval Architects and Engineers, Trumpy Yacht Association and Antique and Classic Wooden Boat Society, Jim has established quite a following for his Moores’ Log, a regular newsletter read eagerly by maritime and history enthusiasts alike. Jim has agreed to publish his insightful, intelligent and quite amusing newsletter as part of a regular feature on our own www.seahistory.org website. Here’s Jim’s first log in 2015:
My last letter took you on a journey to the West Coast and back. Well, this month is no different. My wife, Margaret, had a lecture series in D.C., so when she asked me if I would like to join her I looked at my bags that were still packed from the Washington/Oregon trip and then added a few new things and we were out the door. I have a few friends up there that I really wanted to see.
The first was Paul Johnston. We met a few years back and have kept in contact ever since. Paul is a little older than me and at first glance you might think he is a boring middle-aged man, but he is far from that. His title is curator of the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History. He loves diving and was involved in the “Cleopatra’s Barge”, built in Salem, MA in 1816, the first American yacht on record that sunk on April 7, 1824 in Hanalei, Hawaii. This is such a great story I could not do it justice. Paul wrote an article about it called “Million Pounds of Sandalwood” that can be easily found on the web. Paul gave me a behind-the-scenes look at one of our greatest treasures. From installing two early steam locomotives with cranes during the construction of the building to the “USS Philadelphia”, a Revolutionary War boat from 1775, one of the gun boats of the American Revolution which sunk in The Battle of Valcour Island. The water was so cold and deep I was amazed at how well she was preserved.
Paul told me that another one of these ships was found quite a while back and she has been left down while new preservation techniques are being perfected. I guess they have achieved success and she might see the light of day soon. We meandered into the blueprint archive room as he rattled off names of the designers. John Gardner stood out. We slid open a case and there were these amazing illustrations of the blue-nosed schooner, which were used for a book. Below that was one beautiful hand drawn original after another. Then he showed how they digitalize them for preservation and printing. Now, this might sound a little boring, but it wasn’t. I was amazed as to the great details taken to preserve American history. Paul is not your average curator; he rides a motorcycle year-round to work and then back home. I said “rain” he said “rain coat”. Ok, that was easy. “Cold” was replied to with “heated suit”. Then I thought I had him – “seeing out in rain and snow!” he smiled and said “Rain-X and an extra pair of shoes in my desk!”
Paul is still a very active diver as well as writing and running one of the greatest museums in the world. After lunch we headed down to the “Sequoia”, the Mathis Trumpy, 1925. We were met aboard by Capt. Matt Vilbas; young and enthusiastic, he has big shoes to fill. There are still things that are being resolved and the “S.S. Sequoia” has been in a holding pattern. She is charting on the Potomac and is still docked at Gangplank Marina. Paul has never been aboard, so this was my way of thanking him for such a great day. The yacht served from Herbert Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter before being sold. There are great photos of moments in time that shaped our history on board. There is a lot of her history online.
Margaret’s and my social schedule was full, staying with Margaret’s brother Chris Zehren and his wife, Andrea, my cousin Liz Moores, and then Maldwin Drummond, a yachting friend that spends his time between Florida, D.C., and Maine. Maldwin, who loves classic yachts, has owned many through the years and shares his passion of restoring and using them. We met at the Chevy Chase Country Club for lunch. Enjoying a great glass of Pinot Noir, our conversation revolved around what was coming.
Back in Florida we had launched “Aurora II” preparing for Ocean Reef’s Vintage Weekend. Last fall, in backing out of a slip, a log that was lodged under the boat came into the prop and shaft. It made such a noise that I thought the transmission had blown up. Then the massive log floated out. I knew then that the prop was mangled. Well, it bent the inside and outside shafts as well as the aft shaft strut. The “Aurora” was leaking a little, but I have run her on one motor and we were busy, so I held off on hauling her out until this past August. What a mess it was! Almost everything was bent. We straightened and replaced so much it was a major running gear refit. The good news, however, is that the “Aurora II” is running smoother than ever, kind of like sipping bourbon on the back deck on a hot day (personally I am not a bourbon man, but I have always liked that expression).
Ocean Reef’s Vintage Weekend. Each year I really look forward to that date: the first weekend of December. Coming right out of the shipyard to head to the show we wanted to take the ocean down to Key Largo, but the wind was blowing 20+ knots out of the North and there were white caps everywhere. Instead we traveled the ICW all the way to Biscayne Bay, “Aurora” making great time as the sun went down. We were nearing Angelfish Creek when thunderstorms and nightfall came upon us and we decided to anchor and go through the cut in the morning. We found a spot that looked good and dropped the hook. The wind was still blowing, so I decided to sleep in the main salon. Just as sleep filled my eyes I decided to take one last peak – much to my surprise when I sat up it looked like I was looking into someone’s living room. We weren’t aground, but just seconds away. Waking Capt. Sabin, we fired up the motors, hauled anchor, and headed to Pumpkin Key. In the morning the sky had cleared and bright daylight was all around. We pulled anchor and slid through the creek, cutting through the emerald waters with the bright sun reminded me of the Bahamas, it was a good day.
After tying up and starting to get “Aurora” cleaned, I saw this beautiful long, sleek, dark blue hull with a varnished cabin slide effortlessly through the water. The name on her was appropriate: “Stiletto”. The next day there would be a lecture on design by Halsey Hersoff about his grandfather’s yacht company. It was a very interesting slide show with interwoven movies. “Stiletto’s” predecessors were built of steel and steam powered originally designed for the Navy in the late 1800’s. You know a great speaker because when he’s done he leaves you wanting more instead of falling asleep. There were a total of three speakers and they spoke about such a wide variety of subjects throughout the weekend.
Steve White spoke of one of his restorations; then there was a lecture about “Glacier Girl”. She was a Lockheed plane that crashed on a glacier in Greenland and buried for more than 50 years under 260 feet of ice. It was 10 years from start on the ice to finish with the plane flying today; there is a great video on YouTube, “Saving Glacier Girl from World War II.” Between that and all the other stuff it was a very full and fun weekend. On Sunday the seas calmed and I got some great photos of “Blue Mist” and “Shirean” just off Ocean Reef. Trying to get them to slow down was the hard part, but I finally got a few good ones of the two together.
The 1917 Consolidated (“Blue Mist”) shot off like a rocket; Owner and captain, Alan Zwickell was taking the waterway while Lou Jezdimir’s “Shirean” and my “Aurora II” would take the ocean. Lou headed to Ft. Lauderdale and Capt. Alan and I headed back to North Palm Beach. There were cruise ships headed out of Port Everglades as we passed. Lou’s “Shirean” was dwarfed like a small dingy as he passed the last one coming out. The sun was setting and the full moon was rising, the sky was clear, and as I laid on the couch in the main salon I had one thought: life is good. The sea cleanses our mind and soul, and with the calming sounds and rocking of the ocean I felt at peace.
Now that I am back we are finishing a caulking project down in Ft. Lauderdale. Rigging a Rhodes yawl and finishing a project for Mike Rybovich. In North Carolina Nate has a Huckins 58’ built in 1973 and named “B.F.B.” and a major refit on a New York Launch and Engine Company, 60’, built in 1914 named “Grace”.
Each year I try to give back to our community of classic yachts, this year is no different. I am proud to help start the Palm Beach Vintage Regatta Feb. 20-22. The idea is simple – bring classic yachting back to the Palm Beaches with the support and blessing of the city and local businesses. I am excited that it really is going to happen. We are even investigating the return of the Palm Beach Cup, which would be a vintage powerboat race. For this year we have the city docks with planned events from coffee and croissants at the Green Market to cocktail parties and dancing to the wee hours in the morning for the young at heart. Take a look at pbregatta.com and come be a part of something great in the making.
I want to end this letter with thanks to all my close friends and family; to the people that believe in us and trust us with their beautiful boats. The biggest thanks are for all the wonderful people that work with us and make it all possible. My final thanks are to friends that read the Log and smile and think to themselves “that crazy guy.”
Till next time,