CRANBERRY ISLES — When the 36-foot lobster yacht Huzzah arrives at its new home in Newport later this year, it will fit right in with its teak and holly neighbors. But it also is carrying the history of its nearly 40 years as a working lobster boat in Chatham, Mass.
The former Wendy Jean, built in 1974 by Mount Desert Island’s Jarvis Newman, is currently in the final stages of a complete rebuild at Newman and Gray boatyard on Great Cranberry Island.
“My dad (Ed Gray) and Jarvis are always looking for old Newmans to fix up,” Josh Gray said. The first owner of this boat offered to sell it, so they had it trucked to Maine a few years ago. “We have now rebuilt the boat as a yacht and should have it finished in the next couple weeks,” Gray said. “It is a cool transformation from fishing boat to bare hull and back again.”
When the boat first arrived back at Newman and Gray, “pretty much everything on the boat was bad,” Gray said. “All the wood was rotten, there were three layers of platform because they had just put down a new platform on top when one was wearing out.”
It had seen hard use, Gray said, carrying a lot of fuel and fishing as far as George’s Bank, a stretch for a boat that size. “One time, he blew all the windows out taking green water over the bow,” he said.
The Newman and Gray crew removed the original Caterpillar engine and sold it. They gutted the boat, working on it “a little bit here and there when [they] had some down time,” Gray said.
“These boats were built so well back then, so heavy compared to what you get today.” The fiberglass is more than twice as thick as in modern boats, he said, “so they last forever, basically.”
Another advantage of rebuilding an older boat, Gray said, is more options when it comes to used motors. A boat’s engine must comply with the emissions standards of the year the hull was built.
Newman and Gray listed the boat along with a used Yanmar engine and original running gear on their website, offering to work with a customer on a custom rebuild to a yacht layout.
Before long, a customer came to check it out. “He was looking to have a boat built, and he saw it on our website,” Gray said. “He came up and visited and could see through the scratches. We showed him some other boats we had done restorations on, old working lobster boats. We were rebuilding another Newman 36 at the time. He had confidence we could do it with this boat.”
Renamed Huzzah, the rebuilt boat will have a very different job from her former use in the lobster fishery. It will be one of the race committee boats for the Newport Yacht Club. A varnished mast will allow display of flags and markers to announce race courses. New electronics will help the race committee track changes in the wind.
“It’s a real traditional look,” Gray said. “It has all bronze hardware and the buff color Jarvis loves. The exterior looks more like a working boat. The varnish is mostly in the pilothouse and down below. The interior is finished more like a yacht, with varnish accents and a shower separate from the head. We also put a bow thruster on one side.”