Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rushton dinghy

This blog has been dominated by boats from just one half of the blog title "Boats East and West."  Its time I posted something about a Western-style boat, and this one is very special.  A few years ago I saw a boat sitting upside down in a front yard just a few miles from my home.  It was obviously a lovely boat, so I stopped and got reacquainted with the owner, someone I hadn't actually spoken to in several years.  He wanted to get rid of the boat and said that several people had stopped by offering to take it and restore it.

The boat was obviously special, and from my museum work I knew that this boat was NOT a candidate for restoration.  It was obviously very old, and so it was truly an artifact.  It was also clear that while the boat was basically intact, restoring it would involve a complete rebuilding, replacing most of the original material.  In short, the boat was more valuable left as is.

It took several conversations with the owner, but amazingly he remembered me and my museum work and so he sold me the boat.  After getting it home and turning it over I discovered the builder's tag.  The boat is from Henry Rushton's Canton, New York shop.  I have a reprint of Rushton's 1903 catalog and this boat is clearly identifiable as one of his five sizes of dinghies.  I've been told that this style of tag dates the boat to before 1890.

As I looked at the dinghy dimensions I realized that the Rushton catboat I built several years ago had to be the same hull as the largest dinghy listed: 15-feet long with a 5-foot beam.  Having rowed the catboat I can say its too big for a good rowing boat so Rushton must have repurposed that model for his catboat, giving it a deck and coaming in the process.  You can read more about this boat at the Rushton catboat page at my website, as well as the link at the bottom of that page for a series of articles I wrote detailing the boat's design and construction:

Since getting the boat I've done some more research on Rushton's dinghies.  There are some historic photos online of the Rushton shop and several show dinghies in the varnishing room and one photo showing one being rowed on the DeGrasse River just outside the shop.  I took the lines (measured) of my boat and plan to loft and fair the lines to give me a table of offsets.  Obviously I would like to build it.

The boat has a lovely whitehall shape and its incredibly light.  The thwarts and floorboards are missing, along with one of the oarlock sockets.  The boat has lifting rings fore and aft that seem like add-ons, so this boat must have hung in davits at one point.  The details of construction are too numerous to list, but suffice to say that the quality is exquisite, with many very interesting elements.  Its been a real pleasure and an education to study its construction.

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