My Boat | MV Wander

MV Wander on Harney Channel. Photo by Aho'i Mench.

Gary and Merridy Shinn weren’t necessarily looking for a classic boat, but their search for an affordable motorsailer led them to a 74-year-old vessel with a fascinating history and a look that still turns heads. They bought Wander, a 29-foot Todd Dry Docks 1933, in 2007 and homeport her in Everett.

Tell us about your boat’s name.
The original name was Maskee (or Maskie) and later changed to Justroamin, then Kwiat and back to Maskee, none of which resonated with us. With one foot in retirement, we wanted something that would reflect our goals and objectives — to just “wander.”

“Not all who wander are lost” — J.R.R. Tolkien

Tell us the story of how you found your boat and what makes it special to you.
We were looking for a motorsailer. We realized we weren’t actually sailing as much as we used to, and a pilothouse with inside steering would let us get in out of the weather without going all the way to the “dark side” of owning a powerboat. However, the boats we had looked at (Nauticats, etc.) didn’t meet either our criteria or our budget.

I accidently found an ad for Maskee on the Yachtworld website. She was exactly what we were looking for except that she was 74 years old. But the price was right and we could use the proceeds from our other boat to give her some much-needed upgrades. But, the previous owner warned us, “I hope you don’t might getting a lot of attention with people asking about your boat.” He was right. She is a special boat.

Gary and Merridy Shinn on the day they bought MV Wander

What’s the history of your boat?
The boat was designed by John G. Alden (note that Alden’s draftsman was the then 30-year-old Carl Alberg) and built at Todd Dry Docks (surreptitiously) for the president of the company, C. W. Wiley, in 1933. Three sets of plans for design #494 were sold, but only two boats were actually built. A sister ship, the Mary III, was built in 1931 for Chandler Bowditch by George L. Chaisson of Swampscott, Mass. Chaisson was also a longtime builder of the famous Swampscott dories.

Originally designed as a sloop with a small cabin and open cockpit, with an engine box and tiller steering, she is carvel-planked cedar on steam-bent oak frames. After Wiley’s somewhat controversial death in 1935, she fell off the radar screen for 25 years. Having never been registered or documented, she has no records about her whereabouts that we can find until David Dirksmeyer bought her at Marina Mart in 1960. Dirksmeyer was a Boeing machinist and spent several years designing the pilothouse, converting the tiller steering to dual-station wheel steering and lengthening the mast and standing rigging so the boom could swing clear of the house. She was now a true motorsailer.

The teak and mahogany house was built at Tripple & Everett Shipyard in Seattle. He commissioned a new suit of sails from Franz Schattauer, who had opened his sail loft just a few years earlier. Those beautifully crafted sails are still serviceable today.

MV Wander's cockpit shows the great woodwork

What do you like best about your boat?
We love the fact that she is one of a kind. The trademark John Alden shearline and well-proportioned pilothouse addition give her a profile that sets her apart from other boats in the Northwest. Her simple and cozy layout is perfect for the two of us.

What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it? Would that have changed your mind?
We just this past two months replaced the tired old Perkins 4-107 with a new Yanmar 3YM30. If we had known that the Perkins only had a few short years left in her, we may have had second thoughts.

How does your significant other feel about the boat (be honest)?
“Coolest boat we’ve ever had.” — Merridy

The boat as it appeared around 1960

What’s your favorite story involving your boat?
Shortly after joining the Classic Yacht Association, we cruised to Longbranch on Filucy Bay in South Puget Sound for a rendezvous. It was a July weekend and we fully expected to see at least a half-dozen or so other vintage yachts there. But, as it turned out, it was just the Lake Union Dreamboat Winifred, our boat, Wander, and the 97’ classic motor yacht Olympus. The normal CYA potluck on the dock quickly turned into cocktails and dinner on the fantail of Olympus as the setting sun pink-washed Mt. Rainier in the background. The evening was capped with the reading of old Olympus log book entries from the 1940s. A five-star day for sure.

Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.
On Labor Day 2009 we motored out of the Everett marina in the morning in the rain, bound for La Conner. There were small craft warnings for Puget Sound and Hood Canal, with a range of 10 to 25 knots, but I thought if the wind didn’t hit the upper end of the range we would be okay. It was dark and ugly and wet, but we were doing fine until we got to the upper end of Saratoga Passage and made the turn around the north end of Camano Island.

The wind increased and the waves on our stern got bigger and closer together. I had thought earlier about putting up the jib but now was glad I didn’t. I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel or my eyes off the next wave for fear of broaching. I couldn’t leave the helm for a second. At one point I was experiencing something strange with the steering and was worried I might lose the rudder. Later we figured out it was one of the small ice chests I had stupidly left in the wet cockpit that morning that kept sliding back and forth and kept getting caught in the wheel.

We surfed white-knuckled for about two and a half hours until we finally got around Strawberry Point and into the entrance to the La Conner channel. I’m sure the wind was closer to 35 knots than 25. Just 20 miles to the north, they cancelled the PITCH Regatta for the first time in history with sustained 40+ knot winds and 50+ gusts. But I found out what a seaworthy little boat she is. Thank you, John Alden.

Owner Gary Shinn happy aboard his boat in Friday Harbor

Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?
We’re hoping to finally make it to Canada next summer.

If someone gave you $10,000 that you could only spend on your boat, what would you do with it and why?
Easy. Have her stripped down, refastened and recaulked.

How long do you plan to own the boat? What would it take to get you to part with it? And what advice would you give to the next owner?
Hopefully we’ll have her until we can pass her down in the family. Advice? Learn how to enjoy and appreciate varnish.

If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why?
Like I said with our last boat, “This is our last boat.”

What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had?
What we’re doing now. Answer: We just recently made the decision to continue Wander’s evolution by removing the mast and moving her into covered moorage. The main intent is to help preserve her for many more years than would be possible with her living outdoors in the weather. Even with a full boat canvas for winter, the sun and the rain in the summer take their toll and it’s hard to keep up. We also are resigned to the fact that we’ll probably never sail her again, so the plan is to cut down the mast, leaving enough for a small steadying sail and hinging it so we can keep it under cover.

That’s my story. Thanks for asking.

We’re always looking for boats to feature – powerboats, sailboats, racing boats, wooden boats, work boats and others. If you’re like us to feature yours, drop us a line at tips@threesheetsnw.com and tell us a little about it.

13 Responses to My Boat | MV Wander

  1. George Chaisson June 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Greatc article. George L Chaisson was my greatuncle, my grandfather, his brother, worked with him and did most of the designs for the boats they built. George was Joes older brother and immigrated to the US from Cape Breton Nova Scotia Canada around 1895 and sponsored his brother Joe a few years later. They both died in the early 40’s. Fiberglass killed the business. Now wood is coming back.

  2. Aaron A. Barnett February 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    My Uncle owned this boat from about 1975-1986. I have many wonderful memories from this great little boat.

  3. Ahoi Mench February 1, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    This is a great interview. Wander is every bit a beauty and owning a 73 year old boat myself I am quite aware of what it takes to keep an old boat looking so fine. I am privileged to know Gary and Merridy. I told Gary yesterday I want his boat and then, “heck, I want your life.”

    Aho’i

    • Deborah Bach February 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      Aho’i, how is the Pia restoration going? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

      • Ahoi February 3, 2011 at 10:38 am #

        Hi Deborah,

        I’m not sure what I see is a light at the end of the tunnel. It looks like another train.

        The planking is complete and the numerous graving pieces or “Dutchmen” fitted, fastened and faired. Much refastening has been accomplished in way of butts particularly. Because the garboard butt was slightly sprung and had spit out some of the cotton caulking I discovered the garboard butt and five above it are fastened to the grown floor timbers which extend quite a ways up the hull and bolt to the sawn frames. Most butts on Pia are copper riveted to butt blocks and American build boats use butt blocks almost exclusively although fastening systems differ from one another. The fastenings to the floors are iron and out of eight on the first butt I was able to extract only two and they were barely pins. The rest were just rust clad holes and I was able to poke my ice pick all the way in without resistance. This was true of four other butts in planks above the garboard (the plank closest to the keel). There has been little to photograph since December but I am hard at it evenings and every weekend. The interior bulkheads are repaired and have a coat of varnish. This weekend I turned my attention to the cockpit combing, a tedious job to be sure. Meanwhile I’m soaking the keel bolts with Kroil in hope of being able to remove them when the other work is completed. I did discover, however, the bolts are headed like a rivet on the bottom end rather than the typical nut. Old bolts are by far safest to pull out from inside using jacks and a heavy bar. This avoids the tendency in old bolts known as “passing like two submarines in the night” whereby in attempting to drive the bolts out the thinnest part shears and wedges tightly against the other end, a very bad outcome. So I’m still thinking about how I’m going to go about extracting up to 43” iron bolts passing through an iron keel and oak keel timber and floor timbers.

        And then there’s the engine…
        And the mast and boom….
        And my Nutshell Pram…

        Best to you,
        Aho’i

  4. John Parker January 31, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Great Article!! Lived in the Pacific NW for 30 years, now living in Hawaii. I miss Puget Sound boating.

    Aloha,

    John

    • Deborah Bach February 1, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      The boating here is incredible, John. But there’s a lot to be said for being able to jump off your boat into warm water – my ultimate boating fantasy!

  5. Greg Gilbert January 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Wonderful story on a beautiful boat and two great people. Merridy and Gary are the perfect caretakers for WANDER. Also, they’re great company at a rendezvous somewhere.

  6. Jennie Dahlby January 31, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Nice story. You need not spend $10,000 on a refasten–Mark Lehrdal is your man. He does a lot of CYA member work.
    I have a collapsable mast I took off of my boat that is now in my garage. The previous owner used it for additional sail power. Take a look at the Friendship II pics on the CYA website and see if it is something you could replace your mast with and still “kinda” sail.

  7. Dave and Heidi (Hays) Walters January 31, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your stories in this article. Heidi and I saw you in Edmonds a few summers ago. Thanks for the tour! Hope you make it to Canada in the summer.

  8. Dylan Lippert January 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    We always love it when Gary and Merridy visit our marina. their beautiful boat really is a reflection of them and all of their wonderful traits!

  9. Jan Nielsen January 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Its nice to see them in a really cozy boat and having fun. If Gary would stay within the lines when coloring we could gave him colors beside varnish

  10. Craig Spencer January 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Good article and beautiful boat. Love the articles about such classic old craft. I’m a true fan of the pilot house. Not just for the bad weather, but for protection against the sun as well.
    I don’t need to fry anymore.

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