Knee-Deep in History

How a mast gets a tall tale.

This week I received copy of the now out-of-print book “Knee-Deep in Shavings”, by Norman C. Blanchard and Stephen Wilen. The Blanchard family had a long boatbuilding and maritime history in Puget Sound. Blanchard was friends with Ben and Jack Seaborn, and familiar with Circe’s early days up to when Jack Seaborn sold the boat to Stan Keck.

It is interesting to compile historical recollections. People’s stories vary over time, and with different perspectives. Sometimes sussing out facts is left to interpretation too.

Circe once had a much taller mast, originally built at about 90 feet. Raye Cooke cut the mast down to 68 feet, 9 inches sometime before 1959. It was replaced again at that height by Michael Gifford in 2002. The story I heard was it had broken, twice, and was eventually trimmed and rigged at the height where it broke.

Norman Blanchard tells a different story, and perhaps a little less flattering, in his book “Knee-Deep in Shavings.” He says, “Much to Ben [Seaborn]’s disgust, he [Ray Cooke] cut the top of the mast off. I think that he was always kind of afraid of the boat. He just never had it in him to be a natural, really top-rate yachtsman.”

Both stories can be true, and incomplete. Putting the pieces together, if anything, is an interesting tale.

In telling this to Michael, he replied, “the mast at 70 ft is still powerful and most definitely the boat is more stable. However, I never sailed the boat with the larger rig.”

I am not sure anyone now alive sailed Circe with the larger rigging. It must have been a site to behold. Today, even in a light wind, Circe grabs the breeze with ease and moves with grace and power.

See: “Knee-Deep in Shavings – Memories of Early Yachting and Boatbuilding on the West Coast”, Norman C. Blanchard and Stephen Wilen, Copyright 1999

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