Kelpie of Falmouth Wet and Wetter

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 28, 2014

Put it in a frame and what is it? Art, accidental and un? Art, modern and traditional? A schooner in a plastic tent?

In her eighty-six years on the water, the schooner Kelpie has touched many lives. In Cornwall, on the last weekend of March, she was relaunched as Kelpie of Falmouth in what promises to be a brilliant new chapter of her own life.

The name comes from a Scottish water horse—mythical, to certain skeptics—a water horse that will grab you and not let go. Whoever has been near Kelpie still feels the grip. And that’s no myth.

Kelpie-2Launched in 1928 from the Gamage Boatyard in South Bristol, Maine, Kelpie was brought through the Canal from Boston soon after World War II, and we told that story as the second part of Changing Dreams in Mid-Stream. For two generations of Southern California sailors, Kelpie is legendary. They knew her outline on the water, her sailplan at a distance against the peaks of Catalina, the gleaming green topsides reflecting in-harbor. A sojourn in Northern California proved less fortunate. Kelpie was looking bedraggled when her new masters found her in Oakland, a few years ago, but their keen eyes recognized just the right bone structure, my dear. Purchased by Captain Charlie Wroe on behalf of the man who also owns the celebrated 1915 schooner Mariette, Kelpie of Falmouth is in the best possible hands.

In Southern California, where she was regarded as the fastest of her breed, Kelpie was rigged as a staysail schooner. Kelpie of Falmouth will sail with a gaff fore, per the original rig. You can follow the story at the open-group Facebook Kelpie of Falmouth and get a feel for the project with this video of the restoration.

Here she is last week emerging from the shed at Gweek Quay Boatyard in Cornwall. All images come from the Kelpie of Falmouth Facebook page.

That transom, by the way, replaces one built into earlier work and replicates the 1928 original. Proper restoration involves studying a lot of old pictures, and then it’s up to the woodbutcher’s craft.

Charlie Wroe’s account of the roll-out mentions typically wet Cornish weather, but imagine being on this deck on May 27, answering the guns for race one of Pendennis Cup 2014.


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