THE GLOOSCAP II
Part 1 by Heather McBriarty
One of my earliest childhood memories is standing in the driveway of our home in Burlington, Ontario, with my parents, Gordon and Alice Baird, looking at a huge pile of scrap lead. My father's boss at Slater Steel Co. in Hamilton had grown tired of listening to Dad talk about building a boat and had the pile delivered with a message "Here's your keel". It was the summer of 1968 and Dad would spend the next two years building the boat he was told was impossible.
In the 1920's, John Hanna designed a 30 foot Tahiti ketch, meant to be an ocean-going vessel, and easily sailed single-handed. His design was published in the magazine Mechanix Illustrated in 1935. Hanna declared the double-ended ketch, the "most sea-worthy design... dry... easy in her motion; she is remarkably easy to handle, and obedient to her helm". My father admired this design, but with a large family, he needed more space than a 30-footer could handle. His plan: increase all the measurements by 10%. Speaking with marine engineers and boat builders, he was told he could not possibly do this; it would destroy the proportions, ruin the design. It was never a good plan to tell Dad he could not do something he thought he could, so in that summer of '68, he built a mould for the keel of a 33 foot Tahiti ketch and began to melt lead on a homemade furnace, one ladleful at a time.
By early spring of 1970, the nearly completed ketch was ready to move out of the garage where she had been built, lovingly, meticulously, plank by plank by my father and a few friends who came on occasion to help. There was one small snag: the boat filled the garage to the roof rafters and nearly side to side; there was no way she would fit out the door. Dad - ever the engineer - simply removed the entire end of the garage and slid the boat out into my mother's garden. She never let Dad forget he killed off her asparagus completely with bottom paint drippings! On my sister Alanna's birthday, in June, 1970, the Glooscap II (named after my father's first sailboat) was ready for launch. Dad was determined to make the yacht club Sail Past in his new boat, and did, albeit without a mast. There was a huge crowd present - friends, family, most of the neighbourhood - as she was lifted onto a flatbed and slowly progressed down the road, followed by a parade of cars and kids on bikes, to the wharf at LaSalle Park on Burlington Bay. My mother had the honour of smashing a bottle of "champagne" across her bow. Visitors were offered glasses of bubbly and Canadian Airlines booties, as shoes had to be left on the wharf - some things never change! The Glooscap was then taken across the bay to her first home, the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, where she would stay for the next two years, and where Dad would get well known for his "all girl crew" - my mother, my sisters, Daphne, Alanna, Cindy, and I (as much use as a 6 - 8 year old is!).
In 1971, Dad submitted his revised plans to Mechanix Illustrated, who enthusiastically accepted the article for publication and presented him with their coveted Golden Hammer Award. They sent a photography crew to shoot the Glooscap under full sail on a day of dead flat calm, but the pictures turned out beautifully and the article was published in March of 1972.
In the fall of 1971, our family moved to Saint John and the following summer, the Glooscap II made her journey to join us. I was on the crew for the first leg to Montreal, but as Daphne needed to be home to start her new summer job - teaching sailing at the RKYC - I was sent home by train with her and our mother. The Glooscap II, with Dad, Alanna, Cindy, and some friends recruited as delivery crew, continued on, coming down the Hudson River, through New York City harbour and up the coast. This was before GPS and chart plotters. Loran C was for the rich. Dad had charts and his navigation skills, honed with the Canadian Power Squadron, to guide him. As is often the case, it was a foggy trip up the coast and in the Bay of Fundy. At one point, after running aground on rocks in dense fog, they tied up to a navigation buoy, waiting for the fog to lift or the morning high tide to make continuing safe.
My favourite story of that trip, though, is from the last leg up the Bay. The fog was too thick to see shore, so Dad plotted their course, stopping to listen for the foghorns along the way. Each time, right on cue, they would hear whichever one they were expecting to hear - except once when there was no sound at all. In typical fashion - without arrogance but absolute confidence in his calculations - Dad said, "Let's assume we heard it and keep going on this course." At the next expected check point, Dad shut off the engine and paused to listen for the next foghorn. Sure enough, it sounded through the fog. Dad's chart plotting was dead on. He reported the unmanned foghorn to the Coast Guard, who indeed found it had broken. In those days, boats in the area relied on CB radios rather than VHF. Dad was concerned about the Princess of Acadia hitting them in the fog, so he radioed with his VHF to a taxi company in Saint John, who then relayed their position to the ferry operator by CB. Sure enough, a little later, she ghosted past them on the way in. Only a day or two later than expected, the Glooscap II arrived safely in the Saint John harbour and made her way to the RKYC where she would spend her next 39 years. We had the pleasure of sailing her on the Saint John and Kennebecasis River systems for the next five summers before Dad, sadly, sent her on her way to a new owner. He was very pleased when, shortly after, the Glooscap ended up in the care of someone who would love her as much as he did.
Part 2 by Ernest Hamilton
As I write this I have owned GLOOSCAP II for 33 years. I remember when she arrived at the RKYC in 1972. I was invited aboard and I was impressed with her; but I never imagined that I would end up owning her for over half of my life.
Five years later I completed a 14 month cruise to Florida and the Bahamas on a Paceship P23. As much as I loved that little boat, with her sitting headroom, my back and I were in desperate need of a bigger one. Of course, I had given lots of thought to my next boat. In fact I had commissioned the design of a 42' cutter, intended for single-handing, that was to be built of wood in Nova Scotia.
I had grown up on wooden boats and although I had a fibreglass one, wood still appealed to me. In the meantime, John Schermerhorn, the then Commodore of the RKYC, had persuaded Gordon Baird to sell GLOOSCAP. He found, though, that she was not suited to the day-sailing that he liked to do. After I had returned from my southern cruise, casual conversation in the boat-yard led to his offer to sell her to me. I had not forgotten my impression of her serious cruising boat potential, acquired years before. A deal was done.
Although I bought her with the idea of keeping her only until I could build the larger boat, I soon found that she suited my needs very well; and she was of a size that I could easily maintain and single-hand. I also came to the happy realization that she was strong and very well built. It was not long before I was engaged in projects to make her the comfortable cruising yacht that she has become.
I asked Bill Mouland to inspect the boat with me when she was offered to me. A year and half later Bill, his wife Anne and I were returning to Saint John after watching America's Cup races in Newport, RI. Approaching Marblehead in a stiff northerly, we agreed that GLOOSCAP was in dire need of a new main mast. Originally she had a gaff-headed mainsail and a short (30') main-mast. It was too small in section and in a sea-way it would bend alarmingly due to the lever action of the 14' gaff.
I had gotten to know Gordon Baird quite well by this time and he recommended to me that I have a more robust and taller main-mast made that would allow me to eventually dispense with the gaff-headed mainsail. In 1981 James D. Rosborough of Halifax designed a taller rig for the boat and I sailed her there for the installation of a new (42') mast. I subsequently added two roller-furling jibs and a pretty, if nuisance-prone, main-topsail. The late Bill Nace was very complimentary. He said that the tall rig had made GLOOSCAP 'a real lady' (his words).
With this rig, and the help of a number of friends, I sailed GLOOSCAP to Bermuda in 1988 on a summer cruise. She proved her passage-making prowess on the return trip as we sailed from St. Georges, Bermuda to Dipper Harbour, almost a thousand miles, in just under six days.
In 1989 I gave my gaff to Doug Hickman for his schooner RENEGADE and I ordered a three-sided mainsail. I have never regretted the conversion. What a difference a 'Bermudian' mainsail has made to her ease of handling and sailing performance. This is the rig and sail-plan that GLOOSCAP has now; although I'm on my second suit of sails since the change.
Over the years, GLOOSCAP has been re-rigged, re-powered, re-canvassed, re-finished, lived-aboard, sailed hard, enjoyed more than words can describe and, without any doubt, loved. I have cruised regularly on her between New York and Newfoundland; including trips to St. Pierre, Sable Island and PEI. Much of this has been done single-handedly. She lives up to her designer's billing as a great sea-boat.
It is a testament to the skill of her builder and the quality of the materials that he selected that, after 40 years, no structural work has ever been needed to keep her ready for sea; notwithstanding the occasional owner-induced blunder.
Until last summer, Gordon Baird was available whenever I had a question about the boat's construction. He was most generous with his time and (good) advice. Over the years I have gotten pleasure from the occasional word, always received indirectly, that he was pleased with how I was caring for his boat.
I am honoured to be the custodian of GLOOSCAP II.