Special Presentation: L. Francis Herreshoff Yacht Designer


Although we normally do not have a speaker in December, The Center for Wooden Boats has been fortunate enough to be able to present acclaimed yachting historian Roger C. Taylor to talk about the recently-published Volume I of his biography of L. Francis Herreshoff. The talk at 7 pm Thursday, December 10, in the Boathouse at South Lake Union will be followed by a book signing.  

Herreshoff lived from 1890 to 1972. Though not prolific, he designed yachts that will always be considered classics. Beginning his career in the shadow of his famous father, Nathanael G. Herreshoff, he emerged to become a designer who would come close to the perfection of form in yacht design. Despite his exquisite designs and wise, published writings on the subject, L. Francis never achieved the popularity of a John Alden or an Olin Stephens, yet his influence on yachting, now and in the future, deserves its place alongside those leaders.

As a young man, Roger Taylor was acquainted with L. Francis. As the founder of International Marine Publishing Company, he published Herreshoff’s Sensible Cruising Designs and An L. Francis Herreshoff Reader. Taylor is a professional mariner with unusually wide experience, including a working familiarity with boats built to many of Herreshoff’s designs. He also is the author of seven books on yacht design and seamanship.

Mystic Seaport commissioned Taylor to write Herreshoff’s biography and made available to him the L. Francis Herreshoff Collection at the Museum. Taylor’s research has been painstaking and thorough. He has studied the entire collection of plans and letters, has conducted dozens of in-depth interviews with Herreshoff’s relatives and friends and with owners of Herreshoff boats, and has consulted published yachting books and magazines.

In the book, Taylor brings Herreshoff’s personality to life, with its artistic and scientific genius, prejudices, omniscience, shyness, quiet friendliness, inward pain, and generosity. He presents a gallery of plans and photographs of Herreshoff’s yachts, with expert descriptions and commentary on the details of the designs. He shows how Herreshoff went about his work, what his daily life was like.

Because of the desirability of presenting plans, photographs, and detailed text on each one of Herreshoff’s complete designs, as well as telling a comprehensive story of his life, Taylor has broken the work into two volumes. Volume 1 takes the story up through the design of the J-boat Whirlwind, a contender for the defense of the America’s Cup in 1930, a definite turning point in Herreshoff’s life and work. Volume 2 will complete the story and will be ready for publication two years after Volume 1.

As always with our speakers, the presentation is free; donations are welcome. Light refreshments will be available. The book is available at the CWB Gift Shop for purchase now – it would make a great holiday gift – or you can email store@cwb.org to reserve a copy to purchase at the December 10 book signing.

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One thought on “Special Presentation: L. Francis Herreshoff Yacht Designer”

  1. christine & Jim Alkire says:

    Greetings and thank you for featuring this speaker. We are the owners of Natoma, the Diddikai shown at the Festival last summer so we are particularly delighted to be coming to the presentation. Roger has sailed aboard and enjoyed our Herreshoff, which is currently at Bell Harbor Marina downtown Seattle. The Center may be hosting her at your dock as a Visiting Vessel in March.

    Best and keep up the good work!
    Christine and Jim Alkire

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