Nellie Juan was designed at Moncks Bay, Christchurch N.Z. by Howard Cox in 1966. On a trip to Suva, Fiji in 1978, I discovered this vessel at anchor. She had been built in Suva at a boatyard as a traditional cutter with a cuddy cabin and hard dodger. I located the builder, he gave me the address of the designer who I contacted straightaway. Mr. Cox had died a few years earlier, however his wife sent me the complete construction plans for a paltry 75 dollars.
Ten years later, Pat and I met Dale Nordlund. We rented his barn/boatshop on Mats Mats Bay to build our boat. A curiosity in the Bay that day was a pocket cruiser anchored yards from Dale’s home. The boat was Calypso, a 26’ ketch we had previously owned and sailed from Portsmouth R.I. to Port Townsend, via Panama and Hawaii.
Standing on a Cordova, Alaska street corner, watching the July 4th parade. in 1982 we had traded Calypso straight across, for a seine jitney we needed to catch hatchery fish that year. The boats were exchanged on a handshake right there and then. We took Calypso’s appearance as a fortuitous sign. With Dale’s shop as the first step, more steps followed in short order. We built a loft floor and Pat took on the challenge of laying down the lines. The floor was tucked away, clear of the construction area while offering easy access to the project.
Pat laying down the lines
Milo delivering lumber from
“Edensaw,” a fledgling purveyor of local and exotic lumber was contacted where we met Kiwi, Charlie and Artie at their yard. Serious mud, an understatement; over topped our “XTRA-Tuffs” at their original location. We bought enough rough fir and teak, to build Nellie Juan. The order included a 28’ 8x12 for a keel, another timber of this size furnished the dead woods and sternpost. The order included enough bending oak for the frames and a hefty chunk of ballou for the stem. Milo delivered the order which was stacked and stickered in the shop. This wood was destined to dry for two full seasons, while spring, summer & fall would be spent fishing on the Copper River and at Port Nellie Juan in Prince William Sound. The many months spent at Shipyard Cove at the mouth of the fjord gave rise to the naming of the boat we had planned. Nellie Juan was the name of captain Samuel Applegate’s schooner, which was contracted to study fisheries in Prince William Sound prior to the Alaska purchase. He had named this glacial fjord after his vessel.
Stickered for 2 years
With the lumber acquired and the lines being drawn, two more components are sorted out. A solid mast was called for and the Copper River Delta provided the perfect solution. A small logging operation had felled an unused spar, a 50’ sitka spruce. The prevailing weather conditions on the Delta produce small, spiral grain trees. This particular tree was well over 150 years old. An accurate number of rings was never achieved, as the rings were so tight.
Loggers deliver the mast
Greg Meyer and Sylvia Lange of Cordova were most generous when they loaded the mast on their 90’ crabber Snug Harbor in Cordova and brought it south to Mats Mats Bay. An impressive sight, the Snug Harbor making its way up the narrow channel to drop the mast off at Dale’s doorstep.
Mast is Debarked in Cordova
Lead is the next item on the list. 7000 lbs. is acquired when an ad is spotted for salvaged lead pigs from the dismantling of a NOAA ship. New years day, 1990 was selected for the pour.
Preparing ground for lead ballast pour.
Folks help move the mold into position under the rain protection. The mold is placed in the ditch to support it with mother earth.
Once in position, the fire is lit.
Fill pipe is dropped into mold
The mold is full
Cooling the molten lead
After 24 hours cooling, the ballast is moved into the shop and the mold is removed. To the left of the ballast is the keel timber which will be placed on top and thru- bolted to the lead
The sternpost is set on the keel timber
The mast is made square, then 8 sided, then 16 sided then rounded to the finished dimensions
Ray Speck took the reins and resposibility for the construction of Nellie Juan & is the builder of record. Here, he sets the stem & stem knee on the keel timber.
The transom is bolted to the sternpost
Ray sets the transom on the sternpost
Lines are picked up for stations which are made then checked for accuracy.
Ray installing ribbands
Shelf prepared for installation
Bending oak frames
Aft stations are positioned on the keel.
Pounding frames home
Ray, Tim Lee & Dennis
Frames securely clamped
Ray Speck & Dave Fish
Frames, Ribbands & stations looking FWD.
Extreme Bend for reverse curve.
Frames will be cut down and planking will begin.
Deck framed, great cabin aft. The break in the sheer line will be recaptured by the bulwharks.
Looking Aft; framing finished, floors installed, ribbands & most stations removed.
Sheer plank fastened.
Fasteners. Nellie Juan was designed with bronze screws specified, however, due to a previous experience in the North Pacific Ocean on Calypso, galvanized boat nails were the choice for Nellie Juan. Calypso endured a mid-September storm on her crossing from Hilo to Port Townsend that convinced the crew of the inherent holding power of the clenched nail. In the middle of the night they were thrown from their bunks, waking mid-air as their boat was free falling off a wave. The fall lasting long enough to consider what was coming when we hit the trough. The mind’s eye saw Calypso exploding into ten thousand shards. Calypso belly flopped into the trough taking a tremendous blow to her undersides. She held. Square nails set in round holes and clenched over on the inside of the frames. Bombproof. Additionally, costs were greatly reduced, as galvanized fasteners were used throughout, to include the decks being nailed with these beauties.
Lofting the planks
Ray & Tim Planking
Setting a square nail. there is a second person inside the boat bending the nail when it is set.
Fashioning the plank
Ray clamping a plank in place
Cutting the garboard plank w/ Dave Thompson
Shaping the Garboard plank
Steaming the Garboard plank w/Ward Kilham
Installing the Garboard plank
Dave's corking lesson
Teak Deck FWD
Teak deck looking aft w/wheelhouse mock-up started
Teak deck FWD from below decks
Dave's corking lesson: painting the seam
Wheelhouse construction w/Roger Beechy, Pat & Dennis
Ward built NJ's rudder
7000 lbs. lead ballast
Bill Campbell fashioned rivets and welded pintles and gudgeons w/ Kathy Campbell
Amy Sandich paints NJ's name. Richard Wilmore (not pictured) added the guards, he later built her Fwd hatch.
NJ receives her primer coat
NJ Leaves Dale Nordlunds @ Mats Mats Bay heading to Port Townsend harbor.
NJ is set on the lowboy.
NJ arrives in Port Townsend
NJ in the travelift slings, ready for launch. Pat, Dennis & Louise (Dennis' Mom)
NJ is launched
NJ's Bowsprit is installed
NJ's Mast arrives, rigged & ready to step
Mast is stepped. Jo Beechy & crew look on.
NJ's mast is stepped. w/ Jo Beechy
Ellen Faulkner & her "Sound Sails"
NJ on the tide grid in Cordova Ak.
NJ Launched (minus anchor chain & Fwd lead ballast)
NJ's launch called for a celabratory dunking, initiated by Bill Campbell
Bud Dirdle rigged NJ in traditional fashion
NJ's main & gaff booms installed & ready for sails. (boom @ lower left is on neighboring boat).
Springtime in Cordova Ak. finds NJ on the tide grid. A delicate operation setting here. The old grid has carried thousands of boats over the years. It is canted outboard from wear. Lines must be tended with care to counter the effect, so she will not topple.
Nellie Juan anchored in "Shipyard," Port Nellie Juan, Prince William Sound, Alaska
Lets Not Forget, Nellie Juan's faithful friends!
KUUIPO & Cap'n Kitty (aka s**thead)
Clarabelle, Nellie Juan Boatcat