The Sturdy Hampton Boat
By Allan O. Goold
An Inexpensive Motor Boat Which is the Natural Outgrowth of Conditions at Casco Bay, Maine.
An Extremely Interesting Type of Craft Which is as Distinctive as the Dory.
Motor Boating, August 1911
BEAUTIFUL Casco Bay is the westernmost of the many great bays which break up the coast line of the state of Maine, into a ragged and, to the cruiser, most alluring succession of broad waterways and bold headlands, with thonsands of charming islands, large and small, forming protected channels from point to point, as if placed there on purpose, to encourage the small motor boatman and lend additional charm to this matchless cruising ground.
Casco Bay has become a great summer playground, and is accounted by many not an unworthy rival of the Thousand Island region of the St. Lawrence. But pleasure craft are not alone upon its broad waters, and during the long cold winter, when the boats of the pleasure fleet are snugly housed or shrouded upon their sheltered shores, the sturdy Hampton boats, of the Casco Bay fishermen are braving the storms and the cold off and on the fishing grounds, wresting a not too bountiful living from the icy waters of a storm-swept ocean.
Broad of beam, staunch of build, high-bowed, but not clumsy, the Hampton boat is a wonderful combination of seaworthiness, speed and carrying capacity. Neither is she deficient in good looks, for a good Hampton model is as truly satisfying to the eye of the sailor as any craft that floats. Today, the Hampton boat is universally built with a square transom stern. Her freeboard aft is comewhat reduced, to render possible the convenient handling of lobster pots, or seines, over the side, since at different seasons of the year the service which these boats perform is likely to vary greatly. The rudder, almost invariably of wood, is often hung outside of the transom, although short overhangs are sometimes used, particularly upon boats of the largest size. The Hampton boat is strictly an open boat -- the only protection, in the way of decking, being narrow waterways, all round, of six or eight inches in width, supported by turned spindles upon the thwarts. No forward deck is ever used, since in hauling trawls, the trawl-sheave is set in the railway forward, and the men must have a chance to work close to the rail all around the boat. However, an afterdeck is used to support the comb for the tiller, as well as to afford necessary locker space. Four heavy oak thwarts cross the boat at intervals, the forward one, in the day when every Hampton boat was a windjammer, serving to support the foremast. The two mid-ship thwarts are spaced the length of the centerboard apart, and a bulkhead crosses the hull under the center of each of these thwarts, forming a capacious fish box on either side of the centerbord. Covers are generally provided for these fish boxes, and occasionally also for the remaining compartments. These four bulkheads, of course, stiffen the hull greatly.
Although the present-day Hampton boats rely exclusively upon their motors for propulsion, all the boats are fitted with a centerboard, and with the forward mast-step, at least. The full Hampton boat rig formerly consisted of two sprit sails and a small jib, set flying upon a light temporary bowsprit. The foresail was the principal sail, high-peaked, loose-footed, and with double sheets, trimming way aft of the mainmast. The foresprit, heavy spar, was, in the larger boats, set up with a tackle, and the sails could be made to "set" like the proverbial board. The small mainsail carried a boom, and sheeted down to an iron traveler, or horse, which bridged the tiller. The heel of the mainsprit, a comparatively light spar, was set in a rope becket upon the mast, and was pushed up into position by hand, and occasionally wet, to prevent it from slipping down. Since both sails were of generous area, and the skippers were fond of "carrying on," when racing home to market, the boats carried a cargo of sand-bags, which were piled along the weather wash-board, and added greatly to the craft's sail-carrying ability. Some of the fishermen still talk of a famous race, on a Fourth of July, between the champion boats of Cape Elizabeth and the various islands down the bay. The winner, I think, a Long Island flyer, was said to have carried twenty-eight sand-bags to windward and, since the contest was sailed in a smashing breeze, this extra ballast allowed her to stand up and carry full sail, when her opponents were forced to take off their mainsails. These boats were never reefed, since the mainmast was unshipped in strong breezes, and they then balanced perfectly under the foresail alone. In a gale, the foresprit could be taken down, and with the peak lashed down to the lower mast-hoop, a snug leg-o'-mutton sail was the result. The jib was never used, except in light or medium winds. Under sail, these boats would go to windward wonderfully, and were fast on all points of sailing. The skippers were expert small-boat sailors, and were full of pride in their boats, and this pride, to a great extent, still remains.
The gasoline motor was introduced among the Hampton boat fleet several years ago. It was welcomed enthusiastically in Casco Bay, as it has been everywhere, among those who go to sea, either for pleasure or for profit. From a beginning of one or two motor-driven boats, eight years ago, the conquest of the motor has become complete, and all but one or two of the many Hampton boats, in Casco Bay waters, are now motor-driven. The new boats are all built for motors, and, while the centerboard is still put in, and the forward mast-step, with its iron half-collar, is always in evidence, the mast and sprit lie unused upon the thwarts, while a small foresail is carried, merely as a matter of precaution, in some little-used locker.
The Hampton boats are very nearly uniform in size -- the range being from nineteen to twenty-four feet, with beams of from six to eight feet, and a usual draft of twenty-two to thirty inches. A motor of from three to five housepower is usually installed, and its location is generally between the aft end of the centerboard trunk, and the thwart next aft of it. This compartment is often fitted with board covers, thus affording the machine a little protection. The outfit itself, is the extreme of simplicity. No reverse gear is ever carried. Often a switch is omitted -- the wire from the battery being attached to, or detached from the fixed electrode by hand as it is desired to start or stop the motor. A galvanized tank, of five or ten gallons' capacity, serves for the fuel supply. A magneto is sometimes carried, but I was out in a Hampton boat this summer, which ran on four cells of dry battery, carried over from October, 1909. She had no sail and no reserve ignition outfit whatever.
In build, the Hampton boat is cheap, but strong, and specimens may be seen built upon the lap-streak (clinker), strip, or regular framed and planked (carvel), systems. The lap-streak is the original style of building many of the older sailing Hamptons being of this construction. Some of these still exist, with the sharp or whaleboat sterns, as built years ago, but these are now seldom seen about the bay. The modern method of building is the edge-nailed strip construction, in which the strips are laid up over molds, and nailed through and through, beginning at the bottom and working up. This is a method giving a very strong, smooth job. at a very low price, and requires no calking. The frames, spaced wide apart, are fitted in after the hull is finished. The strips used are about an inch square, and are of white pine. The timbers are usually of oak. In model, the Hampton boat is a craft of tradition. She never was designed. No "lines," so far as I have been able to learn, are ever drawn for Hampton boats. The builders (mostly fishermen themselves), know instinctively, how to shape the hull, and just how strong each part should be. Seven dollars a foot is a usual price for a well-built hull, among the island builders.
A peculiarity of these boats, is the shapely drawn line of their habitat. Beyond the Kennebec River they are not known.