Sunday, August 3, 2014

An American Pointed-Nose Scow in France

Sometimes it pays off to be in the right place at the right time.  Last week I was visiting my friend who owns a boatyard on the Golfe de Morbihan in Brittany and noticed an amazing looking wooden boat being rigged up.

I inquired about it and ended up getting a ride in it the next day.

It belongs to a French collector who has, over the years, bought more than 120 American classic boats, bringing them all back to France, fixing them up, selling some and puttering around in others. Not only sailboats, but classic Lymans, Chris Crafts and other motorboats, including one similar to the one in Some Like It Hot.

The boat in question is from upstate New York and was built in the 1950's. It is a pointed-nose scow, but I dont know anything about it beyond that - perhaps an alert reader can help.

Notice the curious place of the forestay attachment - just behind the blue tape in the photo below.  And equally curious is the backstay which is attached to a pole angling out of the stern.  As if everything is shifted astern.

The next day I was lucky enough to go out for a ride with the owner, his wife and daughter and, at the helm, a Frenchman who was part of the original France I America's Cup crew and has since been a big part of the French and international sailing scene.   Can anyone identify him?

My job was to trim the jib sheet, with the helm telling me "Choquez, choquez" (sheet out) or "bordez, bordez" (sheet in) and occasionally switching to "Sheet in a beet, pleaze".  In addition, I helped raise and lower the bilge boards on each tack.  The wind was a bit under 10 knots which was fun but if it had been a bit more it would have been perfect.  This was a shakeout cruise and the owner made a number of adjustments.  We did not try out the kite.

The scow is beautifully restored (with the addition of a bit of modern electronics).  Everything is adjustable  and many of the lines are hidden below the deck.   The backstay goes to a pulley at the end of the hollow metal pole at the stern and then into the pole and below deck, coming up near a jam cleat.  Also, since there is no self-bailer, there are two electric bilge pumps which, when turned on, eject the bilge water onto the aft part of the deck to flow over the sides.

While we were out we saw the Indomptable, a dredge fishing boat from 1947 that is a tourist attraction today.  We easily caught up with it and passed it like it was standing still - although I am sure our boat could not have dragged the nets the Indomptable once did.

It was a lovely, incredible day with beautiful weather, some sympathique new friends and a ride I will not soon forget.


  1. When I saw the first photo, I immediately thought it was an A scow, 36 feet and the grand-daddy of inland lake scows. Then I saw the pointed bow. It may have been based on an A scow design, seeing that everything else about the boat says A, including the extended backstay, bilgeboards, twin rudders, and headstay set well back from the bow. Gorgeous boat nonetheless, and you're lucky to have had a ride!

  2. Replies
    1. Very observant Baydog - how can you tell? is that a Melges logo? The jib even had the name "Melges" stamped on it, but I don't believe it shows in the photos. The owner was particularly happy that the American sellers had thrown in the set of sails free with the purchase.

  3. Baydog is right. American A-scow. The A-scow was a development class up till a couple of years ago when a guy wanted to do a different design carbon hull and the class clamped down and made it one-design. The A-scow is now square bow but before WWII there were narrow bow A's being built - mostly from White Bear Lake. The thought was the square bow A was all-around faster but a narrow bow A, if it had its conditions, would light up the course. Of course, the narrow bow scow was the designs that went at it in the early Seawanhaka Cup competition - usually Canadian Duggan designs vs. American Crane designs. I would be very interested if you could contact the Frenchman and find out what he knows about the scow he just refinished. A very interesting piece of Americana. Thanks for posting.

  4. My father sold this A to France! So wonderful to see our boat beautifully restored and sailing again! We had many E scows over the years but there were only a few A's still in existence when my father bought this scow in about 1972-74 from Minnesota and we spent months working on it. Willie Crear, master at the scows, flew in to help us rig it and with my masterful hand at the jib we tipped it over first time out in freezing cold winds and water. We named her the Viking Spirit and sailed her (and a sister A) for many years until my father got Alzheimer's and sold her to the collector in France. We kept a modern fiberglass A. The sails were actually for a different boat, I believe this was a Johnson hull. I wasn't there for the boxing up but heard the wooden mast didn't fit the container, so my brother cut it to fit! ouch.

    1. I am so glad to hear from you and to have been able to bring you news about your boat. You must have some great stories about the scows.

  5. 1957 Johnson Boat Works A scow. The sails were often swapped out. (38') Colorful history. This boat had a "hysterectomy" to help it plane better. Originally called Winnefox then Zinnefox, Ta-Packeta-Ppocketa, then Viking until Dad sold it. I waterskiied behind it.

  6. Is it possible to get a contact with Osotoh, I am writing an article on Winnefox
    Francois Chevalier
    Journalist Author

    1. I have no contact information for Osotho. Perhaps he will see this comment. You could also trying "Reply" to one of his comments andmaybe it will reach him. When your article is written, I would appreciate your letting me know - I would enjoy reading it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...