But before you get into the weeds, sit back and enjoy the XO’s telling of the history of our beautiful 105-year-old schooner SSV Tabor Boy…
A History of Tabor Boy
Written by Chip Connard ’19, XO
The gaff-rigged schooner Tabor Boy measures 92’-10” on the hull with a sparred length of 115.’ Her rig height is 95’, she displaces 160 tons, and she carries up to 3,500 square feet of sail. She was built of riveted wrought iron although, in recent years, much of her original hull plating has been replaced with welded steel. She has steel masts and wooden spars, can sleep 24, and is impressively strong and seaworthy. Even more impressive, however, is the long history behind the vessel, a history that has helped inspire us to enter her in the 2019 Marion-Bermuda Race.
Tabor Boy began her life over a century ago in Holland. Records are scarce, but it appears her keel was laid in 1914, probably at Rykswerf Willemsoord shipyard north of Amsterdam. As built, the vessel had no engine or electricity – lighting was by oil lamp, and there was a supply of coal onboard for cooking and heating. In 1915 she went into service as Pilot Schooner #2, serving the Port of Amsterdam as a pilot boat with eight to ten pilots onboard (who had to help crew the vessel). Her role was to maintain position for two weeks at a time, hove-to at the Texel and IJmuiden pilot stations off the entrance to Amsterdam to transfer harbor pilots to and from arriving and departing merchant vessels. She was designed to withstand the brunt of fierce winter gales and was expected to maintain station regardless of conditions. The North Sea pilot schooners earned a reputation as some of the most seaworthy vessels ever built, which subsequently made them and similar designs excellent choices for sail training vessels.
Pilot Schooner #2 served this position with distinction from 1915 until the mid-1920s when she and the other schooners were retired in favor of power-driven pilot boats. Several of the schooners became fishing vessels, but at least two (including Pilot Schooner #2) became training vessels for Dutch merchant marine cadets. Pilot Schooner #2 was renamed Bestevaer (a Dutch blessing for safe passage), and it is probable that during this time a diesel engine was installed for auxiliary propulsion. Her time as a working vessel for the Dutch continued until the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, at which time it is believed that she was captured by the Germans along with one other schooner for use in the Kriegsmarine. Little, if any, known records exist on her use during the war, but she was reportedly located in the Baltic Sea port of Neustadt at the end of the war. The vessel was subsequently returned to Holland, but it was decided she was no longer needed for training merchant marine cadets.
In 1950, Bestevaer was refitted to serve as a yacht and was later bought by an American, R. C. Allen, who had her sailed by a Dutch crew to his plantation in South Carolina. It was soon after this that the schooner’s life at Tabor Academy began. After being contacted by Headmaster James Wickenden about the possible procurement of the vessel, Allen donated Bestevaer to Tabor. In May of 1954, Captain John Carlson, faculty, and a volunteer crew sailed the vessel up the Eastern Seaboard to her new home in Sippican Harbor off Buzzards Bay. A couple of years later, Bestevaer was renamed Tabor Boy, the third vessel owned by Tabor to bear that name.
Tabor Academy is affectionately known as the “School by the Sea.” It has a longstanding designation as a Naval Honor School, taking advantage of its waterfront location to specialize in sailing, seamanship, and leadership training. Students can enroll in nautical science classes including boat design, sea survival, and celestial navigation. Waterfront sports include competitive rowing and dinghy racing. Tabor Boy is used for sail training in the fall and spring, and during the summer, the vessel conducts six five-day orientation cruises for new Tabor students. Aside from a licensed master, her crew is made up entirely of Tabor students when the vessel is underway for no more than twelve hours at a time. This level of responsibility on the students is largely the reason for the long success of the program. It is worth noting that many schooner crew have gone on to successful careers in the U.S. Merchant Marine, Coast Guard, and Navy.
Tabor Boy has made numerous offshore trips with students, primarily to Maine, Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands to support student research on coral reefs. In 1993, the vessel transited the Panama Canal and spent a week in the Pacific Ocean. She also visited the Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.
While Tabor Boy has made many crossings to Bermuda, this is the first time she will be racing in the 2019 Marion Bermuda Race. Wish us luck!