Saturday, February 1, 2014

OD - OY Review: The Duster




In continuing my series on U.S racing/home-built dinghies that were featured in the January issue of the One-Design and Offshore Yachtsman during the 1960's, this post features the 14' Duster, a class originating out of the Riverton Yacht Club, just outside Philadelphia on the Delaware River. A flat-bottom, pram bow dinghy designed to be home built, originally planked and then converted to plywood, the Duster spread throughout New Jersey. It sported a large cat rig, the mainsail even larger than the main on the Finn dinghy.

The beginnings of the Duster sailboat as detailed in the history of the Riverton Yacht Club (from their website);
1933 First Duster Class boat build on third floor of 301 Main street by Jim Merrill and his father Commodore E.K. Merrill. The project was financed by the club, and the Duster could be rented by the hour. John Ayers built the next Duster "Zypher" under the direction of Mr. Merrill. Jim Story and Charlie Knight built "Quacker". As the boat caught on, five more boats were built over the next winter in Mrs. E.W.J. Hunn's cellar at 300 Howard St., under the supervision of Mr. Merrill. The new owners were Bill and Herb Parsons "TOMATER", Bert Shoemaker "COBBLER", Tom Coe "GINGER", Ted Hunn "SNITHER", Lloyde Gladney "SPRINTIN SPLINTER". 40 Dusters were built over the next 10 years. Duster fleet # 1 was chartered, Knute Hunn was the first fleet captain. 1946 September 7th - 8th. The 1st Duster National Championship was held at Riverton Yacht Club. John Knight was the first national champion with Barbara Lippincott as crew. 1947 September 6th - 7th. The 2nd Duster National Championship was help at Riverton Yacht Club. The winners again were John Knight skipper with Barb Lippincott crew.
The Duster became closely associated with the Lippincott family, the famous boat building family out of Riverton N.J. Brothers Bob and Howard Lippincott built world-class wood Stars, Lightnings and Comets with Bob winning the 1950 Star World Championship. I learned all of this because, in a twist of fate, Barb Martin, whose mother was a Lippincott, decided to attend Miami of Ohio University just shortly after Kurt Finnie and I had formed the sailing team. Barb immediately became the lynchpin of our heretofore non-existent Miami of Ohio's women's team, adding such rock-star racing ability that we qualified out of the Midwest for the Women's Collegiate Nationals (our other skipper, now Sue Ronshagen, being a converted crew).

All Lippincott children were brought up sailing Dusters, there was a bunch of them spread out over several families. It came about in the summer of 1971 (if my memory serves, which it sometimes doesn't) there was an extra Duster available for their nationals held at some lake in northern New Jersey - I assume this lake was somewhere near Tillerman's old stomping grounds for his Sunfish sailing. Barb Martin gave me a call offering me the Duster and I jumped at the chance.

The two day nationals turned into a drift-fest. I never got out of the leeward bilge, sailing the whole weekend tilted onto the leeward chine to reduce wetted surface. My memories of the weekend, though considerably faded, were of a great time. I got to meet many of the Lippincott clan, though again, the faces and names are now gone. My impression was they were very down-to-earth, just as you would expect from a boat building family.

My thoughts of the Duster as a sailboat? I always wondered what a Duster would be like to sail in a breeze. The mast is not too far from the bow, the mainsail is huge; I wonder if you would have to hike off the stern when going downwind in a breeze. Certainly with that flat bottom, the planing performance would be a blast.

If  one was looking to build a nice sailing dinghy for the lake one couldn't go very wrong with the Duster. Good light air performance, nice long cockpit to hold two comfortably, three in a squeeze. The added freeboard compared to a Laser or Sunfish makes the Duster more of a sit-in rather than a sit-on small dinghy. I think plans are available.

In another twist of fate, the father of one of my daughter's good college friends owned two Dusters. The Duster it seemed hadn't completely disappeared, chased into history by the Laser (as had happened to many of the U.S singlehanded classes around during the 1960's). The class has now collected itself at Lake Naomi, an exclusive resort community in the Poconos. According to this father, the "Duster Nationals" are still held every August on Lake Naomi. Two pictures of Dusters sailing on Lake Naomi.







From an email from Rob Hulit:
"I had the pleasure of owning Duster # D-126. Built in 1949. I bought it as 14 year old kid in 1968 for $ 50.00 (included a trailer) from the Kelly Family on Long Beach Island NJ . Spent the summer sanding & painting and replaced the old cotton sail with Dacron made by Merrill Sails Delanco NJ. They would race them at the Brant Beach Yacht Club back in the early days. The Kelly`s taught me to sail, so I owe them a huge thank you. The boat would fly. Sailed it for about 15 years down at Brant Beach and she finally dry rotted badly and had to let her go. I'll always remember those endless summer days sailing that Duster from Sun up to Sun Down !

32 comments:

Dieharddinghysailor said...

Interesting class, nice job, unearthing the story....

George A said...

Tom Lippincott sailed a Duster at the first of the two Wooden Boat regattas held at Rock Hall:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4273883632460433399&postID=7841567105774495221

The second day of racing it blew pretty good and Tom had to work a bit but he did a great job of keeping that beast flat.

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. I could tell a good story about the sailors from Lake Naomi.

Tweezerman said...

Tillerman,

Please do. I know they have a Laser fleet there.

Anonymous said...

I sailed Duster 355 for several years. Now I sail a Hunter 42. I remember sailing against the Lippincotts.

Iggy Nelix said...

Hi. I'm a Duster sailor on Lake Naomi in Pocono Pines and can confirm that we continue to hold Duster Nationals each August. The 2015 Nationals ("70th annual", due to several hiccups entire over the years) were just last weekend in fact! The air was light and shifty as is often the case in mid-day summer sun on small mountain lakes.
My family has 4 Dusters: 2 wood and 2 of the late 60's fiberglass hulls. My father now sails my grand-father's wooden boat (pictured above with an alternate sail#278).
[Upon reading above, i gather that i may be the brother of your mystery source. i am happy to provide additional information as needed. and we do, in fact, have plans and access to molds and even leads on some existing 'dry' boats.]

Iggy Nelix said...

Current Duster Race Schedules are available via the Lake Naomi Sailing Association Organizational calendar

Tweezerman said...

Iggy,

Good to hear from you. I would certainly like to feature more Duster material as you can provide as they are great little boats. I put a comment over in Google Plus for contact information.

RLM

Rex Merrill said...

I am the nephew of Owen P. (Jim) Merrill, and recently got Duster plans from the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. I became disconnected from my boat-building heritage in my teens, but would like to build a Duster. I have some experience building a stitch-and-glue kayak and cedar strip canoes, but I don't know where to start with a plywood sailboat. Any advice out there?

-- Rex Merrill

Tweezerman said...

Rex

One of the better books out there is the one written by Glen L Witt - the company that sold lots of boat plans way back when.



Boatbuilding with Plywood from Amazon



Can also find used copies on the Internet as well.

Soup Camel said...

Rex,
Let me know how that build is working out. Drop me a line @ hunnroland@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I grew up sailing Duster #259 in Fayson Lakes in Kinnelon, NJ. Fayson Lakes had a robust fleet of Dusters in the 1960's and early '70's. Virtually all were "kit boats" that my dad built along with friends. Hull 259 was built around 1960. Often they would build two or three at a time and then flip a coin to see who would register a boat first. I've often wondered what happened to #259. I remember sailing several times in that boat in the Poconos. Now in NC I try to explain what a Duster is/was to my sailing friends down here. I appreciate the pictures that have been posted so I can show friends what I grew up sailing. I'm glad to hear the fleet is alive -- especially some of the older boats!

George

George A said...

I have a Merril Classic Moth sail in my collection of Moth Boat junque to good to toss out. Small world. Did that Duster ever get built, Rex?

Rex Merrill said...

George,

My uncle Jim (O.P.) Merrill made your Moth sail. He had a shop in Delanco, NJ. The Duster project hasn't gotten off the ground, looking for an indoor space for winter building in Wisconsin and trying to develop enough confidence to start.

Unknown said...

Somehow a wooden Duster ended up on Salmon lake in Belgrade Maine. As a young teenager I loved sailing it for a for a few summers in the early ‘60s. Now I sail a 34’ Sabre off of Connecticut

Unknown said...

I have a plank wood duster that has been in a barn. I rescued it not knowing what it was, just thinking it was too cool to let go to the dump. It was received from a man who owned a distillery in Philadelphia and knew the lippincott family. If anyone is interested in a duster , or can direct me to more info, I would greatly appreciate it

Soup Camel said...

Any idea what number that duster is? Knute Hunn was my dad and Ted my uncle. I lived in yhe house where they built Dusters in their youth. The Merrills were their neighbors. There is a story that when they needed to step a mast for fit, they cut a hole in the living room floor and lifted the mast up the stairwell, then dropped the mast down the hole to the basement.

Unknown said...

I am actually in the process of looking for the sail and markings in the hull. So far I've found a few penciled in labels on the wood, which I think is absolutely amazing.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately no such luck yet with the number or name of the boat. I will post as soon as I have more info

Soup Camel said...

Is there paint on the boat? What color? My Dad's was #21 and I think Ted's was #14. #2 was John Ayres. If you don't mind, how about a pic? You can email it to hunnroland@gmail.com

Unknown said...

The outside is completely white and the inside of hull was garnished and cleared. The mast is black. I will send you an email

Unknown said...

Varnished*

Unknown said...

Email sent

Jim Tichenor said...

My father bought a Duster in about 1956 that was rotting in some yard in Philadelphia. All the spars and the sail were in great shape inside. Not knowing about racing rules at that time he stripped off the rotten planks and we replaced the bottom with plywood and SS screws The ribs and other interior were oak if I recall. I was 15 at the time. We sailed it for two wonderful summers out of Quaker City YC, across the river from Riverton YC. Then my father bought a 2- foot Navy whaleboat that had been converted to a ketch and sold the Duster. Unfortunately I don’t know the number and have no pictures of the Duster, but my memories were of great fun sailing. For the person asking above, because of its pram bow it handled well even in a stiff breeze out on the river. The only drawback was that when meeting waves head on the bow slammed a lot. But if you could quarter them all was well. I would love to come by a set of plans if someone can oblige. Jim T in Philly

Jim Tichenor said...

The Navy whale-boat was 26 feet, not 2.

Rex Merrill said...

Plans are in the archives of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.

Sailor Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Who is this? I lived at 300 Howard in "Hunn's Mansion". Roland Hunn. I remember all you mentioned except the "The Spirit of 76". And I thought Billy L. was bones. The Star fleet at the club was amazing. Howard, Robert and Stan Lippincott were among them. My Dad sailed #3892 that belonged to Morris Ligerman from Philly. Dad wsscteaching him how to sail. Doctor's orders. LOL. Fritz Steiner slso sailed a Star. There were a bunch of them in the 60's. All those folks grew up together in Riverton and lived at the Yacht Club in the summer. It was a special place.
Roland Hunn

VermontGlennn said...

We had two Dusters flying the waters of Lake Willoughby, Vermont from the mid 50's to the mid 70's. Original white plywood trimmed with dark green for the camp (Songadeewin of Keewaydin) colors. I acquired the craft when the camp closed, bought a new mainsail and summer campaigned it until I bought a Flying Dutchman. Then I got older and was gifted boats I could drink various forms of grog aboard whilst entertaining compatriots.

The Duster hangs in my barn awaiting for me to get old enough to take her more seriously. And yes, I have the plans.

Will look up #'s of two Dusters, have old movies of them somewhere.

Tweezerman said...

Thanks VermontGlenn for your story. You can contact me through my Profile here. From the main page, scroll down to the About Me section on the right side. Click on "View complete profile". On the next page, hover your mouse over "Email" and my email will show up in the lower left corner t......ing@gmail.com

Marty said...

I might as well put in my two cents. I grew up in Riverton. Basicly on the Yacht club. I lived two doors from Ted (Spider) Hunn. I remember helping Mr Hunn build 2 dusters in his basement with his son Mike. I got Duster #366 around 1972 from Mr Peterson (Cinnaminson, NJ). A friend of my Fathers. I sailed it, what seems to be, every day till 1979 when I gave it to a friend on Midway Ave in Riverton. I don't know where it went to after that. I'm in Florida now. That would be a great boat here on the Indian river (really a bay). Light winds in the summer and shallow waters. I would love to know what happened to ol' Duster #366.

Soup Camel said...

Marty,
Ted was my Uncle. I have to admit I'm a bit jealous to find out he was building Dusters in 1972. Of course, I was away at school at the time so I wasn't around for that. I do know that he and my Dad (Knute) built Dusters in the basement of 300 Howard in the thirties and forties. Sorry I missed that experience with Ted. He was a heck of a craftsman with wood. Dad was a machinist. I took after Ted and have a business building cabinets. Must be in the genes. -Roland Hunn