The Mystic Seaport Museum Sailing Center has launched an initiative to gather together examples of classic sailing dinghies to augment its Dyer Dhows and FJ15s.
“These boats will be part of a working fleet,” said Ben Ellcome, supervisor of sailing programs at the Museum. “The boats will be used as a hands-on experience in our sailing classes to develop an understanding of the impact of design on sailing.”
The first boat to be added to the fleet was Blue Jay #5677, which was donated in the fall of 2018 by Peter and Diane Rothman of Old Saybrook in honor of Peter’s late father, Edward A. Rothman. Ed volunteered at Mystic Seaport Museum in the John Gardner Small Boat Shop for more than a decade, until his death in February 2017. The boat has been named Ed in his memory.
Since it was first designed in 1947, the Blue Jay continues to be one of the leading one-design, sloop-rigged sailboats in existence today. It was created by Drake H. Sparkman, head of the New York designing firm of Sparkman and Stephens, Inc., after he chaired a yacht club junior sailing program. Designed as a “ baby Lightning” it became an all-around junior training boat and now has numbers over 7,200. Originally constructed of wood, the International Blue Jay Class Association voted in the early 1960s to allow fiberglass, however, wooden boats are still being made today.
The Rothmans’ boat was built by McNair Marine Inc. in 1971 for Robert Gehlmeyer of Roslyn Heights, NY. Ownership may have changed hands between 1971 and 1998 but the next known owner is Charles Wenderoth of West Mystic, CT. More recently, Brian Carey of Waterford, CT, had ownership, and in the early 2000s, Carey hired Guck Inc. of Bristol, RI to structurally restore the boat. The Rothmans bought the boat from Carey in 2008, and customized the boat and trailer to its current state both cosmetically and in regards to equipment/design.
“For my 13th birthday, my dad got me a Blue Jay,” said Diane Rothman. “We love them. Some kids just don’t want to sail by themselves. For kids who aren’t really gung ho, sailing is more of a social thing. So if you stick them in a boat by themselves, it’s not fun. They might be scared. It’s a lot more fun in a Blue Jay – you can put three kids in a Blue Jay and they will have a ball. They’ll go out there and laugh and sing, but they are still learning. So the Blue Jays have a place, and I still believe that.”
If you have a classic sailing dinghy you would consider donating to the Museum, please contact Chris Gasiorek, Vice President for Watercraft Preservation and Programs for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.572.5344.