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Chris Bickford | TSCA Brooklyn
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Chris Bickford

I grew up on the west coast before the advent of fiberglass and epoxy in boatbuilding. Both my Dad and Granddad were sailors. I learned to sail wooden El Toro’s & Blue Jays during summer visits to Rowayton, Connecticut. As a teen I visited Sausalito seeking crew positions with racing yachts on San Francisco Bay. The airspace engineer owner of IOC #87 “Cloud Nine“ gave me a chance. I participated in 3 seasons of racing on San Francisco Bay as part of the 4 man crew. We took turns sheeting, winching, driving and setting the Spinnaker at windward marks. During annual haul outs we freshened the hull with 600 grit sandpaper and coats of Woolsey White. Sailing on San Francisco Bay was exhilarating. Once even dismasting under the Golden Gate.

Then I crewed aboard a variety of wooden keel boats in San Diego during my active duty service with the Navy while preparing the ship for Vietnam. Followed by cruising voyages. A week spent aboard Jack Lunds’ Concordia Yawl “Renaissance“ sailing to Nantucket and Cutty Hunk. Another voyage aboard my uncles’ Beneteau 44 which lay at Black Rock Yacht Club.

In the early 90’s I volunteered for the Downtown Boathouse on the Hudson River at Pier 26. A few of us sailors conducted “Free Sailing For City School Kids“ sailing lessons using donated 12’ Escape Dinghy’s made by the Sunfish Laser Company.

In 2009 I was introduced to Sebago Canoe Club and returned to dinghy sailing. In 2010 I started volunteer skippering J-24 keel boats 6 times a month on the Hudson River for the Manhattan Sailing Club. All the while taking advantage of opportunities to also crew aboard the club’s 12 meter “America II“.

I began the serious pursuit of traditional wooden boat ownership through my Sebago club membership and camaraderie with traditional boat builder Jim Luton. In 2009 I met Phil Maynard a member of the TSCA Barnegat Bay Chapter. Phil posted progress pictures of his stitched and glued Melon Seed Skiff built in 2003. I told Phil “this is the boat for me for Jamaica Bay“. Originally Phil built his Melon Seed per the Howard I. Chappelle drawings depicting an 1880 lapstrake Melon Seed with sprit rig and curved daggerboard. Only Phil used a stitch & glue process to form the hull out of 6 pieces of 9mm Ocume. Later changing the sail rig to Marconi and the daggerboard to a pivoting centerboard kept forward of the cockpit. In 2009 I took delivery of Phil’s Melon Seed and built a custom dolly to launch and retrieve it from the Sebago Canoe Club dock. Phils’ Melon Seed came with a pair of “Cleaver“ style oars carved from Home Depot sourced Douglas Fir. The laminated wishbone boom is curved. Remaining outside the cockpit when the sail is lowered to the deck. Over the years I have used “Melon Seed“ to sail all over Jamaica Bay. Even anchoring out over night. The centerboard trunk being forward of the cockpit allows room for me to lay a mattress & sleeping bag on the floorboards.

It’s wonderful carrying on the tradition in American Small Craft by having a working shop and professional tools at Sebago Canoe Club. All made possible by the Sebago Canoe Club & member Jim Luton.

 

Chris Bickford - Melonseed
Originally Phil Maynard built his Melon Seed Skiff to follow traditional specifications including daggerboard and sprit sail rig.
Bickford - Melonseed
Later Phil changed the sail rig to Marconi and the dagger board to a pivoting centerboard.
Bickford - Melonseed
The hull is made up of 6 sections.
Bickford - Melonseed
The Cleaver style oars.
Bickford - Melonseed
The Cleaver style oars.
Bickford - Melonseed
The wishbone curved boom remains outside the cockpit when the sail is lowered.
Chris Bickford - Melonseed
Sailing on Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn, NY
Chris Bickford - Melonseed
Participating in the Sebago Canoe Club Frostbite 2014.

Traditional Small Craft in Brooklyn, NY