Wednesday afternoon was bittersweet for Brookings’ Judy May-Lopez as she watched the Tally Ho boat being loaded onto a trailer for a road trip of some 560 miles to Sequim, Washington.
On one hand, it brought back memories of the times she and her late husband, Manuel, spent working on the old boat, finding just the right wood to replace the bow stem, ribs or planks.
Those plans were idled when Manuel died in 2010, and the boat has sat in storage at the Port of Brookings Harbor for the past seven years — until now.
“I’m thrilled that the Tally Ho has found someone who believes in her beauty, and also has the time and expertise to finish her and sail her again,” Lopez said while taking photos of the old boat at the port. “Looking ahead at Tally Ho’s future ... is so exciting!”
The boat has been in storage at the Port of Brookings-Harbor, and is owned by the nonprofit Albert Strange Association (ASA) of the United Kingdom, which has been paying to store it in hopes of finding someone to bring her back to her former glory.
The mission became a little more urgent when the port decided last month to clean up its property, including removing many boats. The Tally Ho went up for auction last month, but no one bid on it.
That’s when 27-year-old Leo Goolden, owner of Sampson Boat Company of Bristol, England, and an Albert Strange member who has spent the past seven years restoring old boats, stepped up.
This will be the largest rebuild project he’s undertaken, he admitted.
“My current boat is a 1947 folkboat I completely rebuilt in the UK, and then sailed to the Caribbean,” he said. “Before that, I was working on new-build traditional boats of a similar size and style as Tally-Ho.”
The ASA was formed to preserve the designs and “little ships” made by Strange — and the Tally Ho is the last remaining example of one of the larger ones the boat designer made. According to ASA secretary Thad Danielsen, the Tally Ho was built by Stows of Shoreham in 1909 as the “Betty” for Charles Hellyer of Brixham, Great Britain, who owned a fishing fleet, but wanted a cruising boat from which he could fish.
By 1927, ownership of the 47.5-foot-long boat transferred to Lord Stalbridge, who entered her in the Fastnet race between Great Britain and Ireland in storm conditions so inclement, one racer turned back — allowing the Tally Ho to win.
Later, she served as a cruiser for an English family, and in the late 1960s was brought to the Pacific by a New Zealander. After an “encounter” with a reef, Danielsen said, and a rebuild in Polynesia, the Tally Ho began work as a Brookings-based deep-sea fishing vessel — The Escape — until the mid-1990s.
The boat was abandoned at the port, which assumed ownership and then sold it to a Brookings resident and fisherman: Lopez. He started restoring her in 2008 — as an artist, the Tally Ho would be his largest canvas — with the hope of commemorating Brookings’ fishing heritage.
When he died, the dream died, too. And the Tally Ho has been wrapped in protective coverings in a corner of the port yard ever since.
Goolden first saw a photo of the Tally Ho under full canvas racing in the Fastnet race — and a second photo of her entombed in a tiny port in a tiny town more than 5,000 miles away. He was smitten.
“It struck me that this could be a project worth taking on,” Goolden said. “If she was in the UK, she probably would have been restored by now, but I think most people are put off by the remote location in terms of yacht infrastructure.”
For him, however, the Tally Ho is located in a part of the world where timber is plentiful, and the cruise from Washington back to the UK would be “one of the most exciting things about the project for me,” Goolden said.
He expects to have to repair or replace 50 to 80 percent of the sawn frames, the garboards, 10 to 40 percent of the planking, parts of her stem and centerline, floors and knees, all the deck beams and planks, deckhouses, hatches and the cockpit, the rudder, the Sampson post and the knights head.
“Etcetera, etcetera,” he said. “Then, she needs an engine, tanks, systems, interior ceiling sole bearers, a sole, bulkheads, cabinets, bunks and a brand new rig and sails and deck gear — and so on.”
Work needed on the stem, sternpost and deadwoods — basically, the frame of the boat — will be the most challenging part of the rebuild. The lead keel alone comprises the bulk of the vessel’s 40,000 pounds.
“And before that is possible, the first difficult job will be to get the concrete out of the bilge,” Goolden said. “The keel timber appears to be in good shape, and I am just hoping that there are no nasty surprises when I take the garboards off.”
Goolden said he has no illusions about the intensity of taking on such a project.
“It is an enormous project that will take a lot of time and money to do well,” he said. “However, I have been looking at building a brand new boat, and so this project is a chance to build an almost-new boat, but with a proven design, a valuable history and a public following that could help funding and running the project in the future.”
He hopes to attract volunteers, students and apprentices to help on the boat and expand their knowledge, as well.
Not including labor, the project could cost $80,000 to $200,000, he said.
“It definitely won’t be cheap,” Goolden said. “I have been saving hard for the last couple of years, but I will definitely need to go back to work from time to time and look at funding options, if Tally Ho is to be completed in a reasonable timeframe.”
“On Leo’s webpage, he refers to the ‘Northwest coast of the U.S.A, to look at a very exciting and very scary project, which might change everything…’” Lopez said. “I can only guess what he is referring to — and I look forward to reading more.”
After the rebuild
Goolden thinks it will take one to two years to refurbish the vessel, but it’s too early to pin down a finish date because he often takes breaks to work on yachts overseas to fund restoration work.
And he’s not sure what he’ll do with the Tally Ho when he does.
“I hope to cruise her slowly back to the UK to eventually compete in the Fastnet race again,” he said. “And the journey back would be an exciting one, whichever route is taken.”
He hopes the vessel can become a platform from which people can learn traditional sailing and navigational skills, whether on a charter or charitable basis, or just with friends and family.
“There will be many challenges along the way,” Goolden admitted. “I’m sure in the tough times it will be difficult to stay motivated, and being so far away from my family and friends will be very hard. However, I find that people always appreciate and are attracted to projects like this, and I am sure that many friendships and alliances will be made, which will get me through the lonely winters.”
Sampson keeps a blog about his sailing adventures at www.sampsonboat.co.uk, in which he plans to include photos and videos of progress on the Tally Ho.