Sailing with history: Mattapoisett Boatyard helps transport rare sailboat

Feb 26, 2022

MATTAPOISETT — For more than 100 years, a wooden sailboat built in 1914 for one of the country’s most prominent families docked peacefully at a harbor on an exclusive island off Cape Cod, almost never seen by the general public.

But damage to a plank on the boat created a hole in the boat _ and a need for the venerable vessel to be restored.

That’s when Dave Kaiser, co-owner of Mattapoisett Boatyard, stepped onboard.

Through contacts on the island, he was asked to accompany the boat by land and sea from its home port on Naushon Island to Newport, R.I, where a year-long project would restore the historic vessel.

This was no ordinary sailboat. The vessel is one of the very first Herreshoff 12-1/2's ever built, constructed in November 1914 for the Forbes family by Nathaniel Greene Herreshoff, a renowned boat designer. 

The vessel is one of the inaugural creations in a line so successful that they remain in production to this day. 

Since the Forbes family took ownership of the boat, it has been docked at Hadley Harbor on Naushon Island, a private island in the Elizabeth Island chain. About 30 people live on the island, which has been owned for more than 150 years by the prominent Forbes family and is not accessible to the public.

To accompany such history, Ned Kaiser said, was “an honor and a privilege.’’

To begin the boat’s inaugural trek away from Naushon Island, Dave Kaiser took the private ferry, the Cormorant, which transports residents and guests to and from the island. When Kaiser arrived, he helped load the boat onto the ferry and accompanied it back to Woods Hole.

From there, he remained with the boat as it was trailered from Woods Hole to Newport, R.I., where students of the IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Newport, R.I., a marine trades post-secondary school, will restore it.

The restoration process will take time, Kaiser said, because the vessel is being repaired “down to every screw.’’ 

For veteran boaters such as the Kaisers, the experience was “pretty cool,’’ he said. The boatyard is no stranger to Havershoff vessels, but he said that “to be able to handle one of the first ones and to be able to go to Naushon’’ made the experience special.

“It’s not every day that you get to see a yacht that’s never left the island,’’ boatyard yard manager Peter Asci said. “I thought it was a very cool opportunity.’’