Neith: Goddess of the Hunt. And Me

This is courtesy of JR Reddig, AKA Vic Socotra, retired US Navy Intel officer and creator https://www.vicsocotra.com. Purveyor of Glib Words.

This is a story about a boat, so bear with me. It includes the modern manifestation of the Egyptian Goddess of the Hunt and record-setting ocean crossings. It only includes me for a few months, but it may have been a tipping point when something got in my blood and never could get rid of it. The object of my desire (at that time) was a lady 57-foot long, narrow on her beam and foc’sle from which you could do Shakespeare. She was designed by a man named Nathanial Herreshoff and therefore connected to modern sailing history and industry. She is directly responsible for a long association with fairly-narrow and resolute mattresses and the smell of the sea.

“Nat H” was known in the boat trade as the Wizard of Bristol. His story defines his age. He was born in 1848 before the Civil War and didn’t pass from this world until nearly the beginning of the Second World War. He was an earnest man of his time, but wild for innovative and brilliant design and boatbuilding. He had 70 years designing small and large sailboats and did not shy away from the power barges. He pioneered features common in today’s yachts, including sail tracks and slides, bulb keels, fin keels, and hollow aluminum masts. He also built one of the earliest catamarans seen on this side of the pond. So anything he touched has a connection to the way he saw how the waves worked.

He was an end-to-end craftsman and a gifted navigator. He defended the America’s Cup six times, in: Vigilant, 1893; Defender, 1895; Columbia 1899 and 1901; Reliance, 1903; and Resolute, 1920.

So, good bones, good blood. The owners of Neith, named for the Mother of all gods in Rome’s pantheon, at that moment in 1975 were pals of college roommate Jim Forrest. She had returned west across the ocean a bit bereft under command by some mariners of eccentric ways. Their tales still lingered on the piers, one of them about taking detailed navigational information from a thoroughly compromised taffrail log missing one blade. I have tried to live to that exacting standard since.

Ed Callahan was then-holder and had a lot on his plate, a young family and an ocean to manage. Jim was doing professional hardhat diving with his charming future wife Jeanette and there was a great circle of people doing actual things mostly oriented at the water. The boat was not sailable and needed mostly some cosmetic work, but otherwise empty. I spent the summer in a delightful culture of Beverly’s harbor. Berthed next door was a couple guys living on a big old schooner, and there were a string of young people on other boats to share the communal showers and latrines off the parking lot.

The boat that introduced me downstream to some of Nat Herreshoff’s ideas was built after Reliance, in 1907. Her name was Neith. She was special and personal, built for his own doctor. There was a clear and personal interest in her sleek slippery lines.

Neith was purpose-built as a Flush Deck Cutter and gentleman’s weekender. She was named in honor of the Egyptian Goddess of the Hunt. The Doctor and the Goddess parted ways, and by 1920 she was under her third master who attempted to take her east to England. Instead, she left Rhode Island and ran headlong into humiliating hurricane force winds.

She was pushed back and a bit battered. Commander Houghton was her owner and a determined man. He had her re-rigged as a yawl, and after a quick workup, was ready to cross the Atlantic. Under the Commander’s firm hand, Neith cast off in 1921 for a record-breaking Atlantic crossing. Houghton took her out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and brought her to England in 25 days. He wasn’t satisfied with the record passage and wanted better performance from his sails.

From then on, Neith was a continental lady until just a few years before I met her. She spent her first half century in Europe, based in the UK, and raced throughout Scotland and Europe. The Commander campaigned her early and steadily. A sail-lady named Virginia Tweedy was quoted as saying “My grandparents were friends with the Houghtons and my grandfather often crewed the boat when she was in England, including in 1922 when Neith competed at Cowes and won on August 7th that year.”

So, she was racing well but the Commander wanted more. The new yawl rig had done well enough on the passage over, but did not perform as well as he desired. In 1926, he was talking to renowned yacht designer Charles Nicholson, who suggested a Marconi rig might improve the situation. The Commander gave her a Nicholson-style Marconi rig that she wears to this day. She remained in Scotland until 1970 when she returned to the US. She was still watertight when I left her at the end of 1976, but she sank while up on the Connecticut River and was abandoned.

When I was aboard in ’76, scraping old paint and living with the harbor gypsies there were still stories. One of them was about a Scottish owner who kept a bronze Egyptian image of the Goddess on the hearth of his home. It is said that when preparing to cast off or return to port, a salute in bagpipes was sounded and Neith was born from below-deck storage to a place of honor in the main cabin by the foot of the massive mast. It was all bare white paint when I was scraping it, but being alone on her in the night there was the feeling…maybe it was the paint thinner fumes.

That life in Beverly was in keeping Neith’s condition. Solid, but a bit down at the seams. Her lines were as grand as ever, but she needed a good yard period on the stilts. No one was in the financial condition to devote the money for a complete job. But we tried. The lines were fairly decent and the mast true. She was worth saving, which is how a curious conversation occurred back in Michigan, about whether Dad would mind having a Marconi-rig flush deck 57-foot cutter on a brace in the side yard. Dad was kind enough not to howl in laughter at the money pit that implied, and to this day I have never invested in one. He did, though. But that conversation was the last direct interaction with her after one of those autumns that have magic in the air. She had remained in Scotland until she returned to the US in 1970. She was still watertight when I left her at the end of 1976.

Ships can be homes, and I am glad I did not know of her status. Sinking is not necessarily a permanent condition, but altering it would require a significant investment. There was someone willing. He is described as “Third Owner” which with the modifying “unincumbered” word might be accurate. But he made the investment with a vision to preserve her. When they got her refloated, he had Neith restored well enough to participate in the prestigious Herreshoff Rendezvous in 1981.

Since then, the Lady has now been in one family for over thirty years and their standard was to keep her “Original Condition.” A major overhaul was just done a few years ago to keep her that way. In 2014, Taylor and Snediker Yacht Restoration did something any old wooden boat would want. Rather than a comprehensive restoration, this work was done in manner the family preferred. The company says nearly everything from the sheer planks up was replaced, her sheer line was restored to original specs, hull was strengthened with structural upgrades and replacement of structures with any degradation. The result was several awards including “Best Restoration,” “Judges Choice” and the Centennial Society Award honoring vessels over a century old.

So, that is the only other ship I felt a part of that still lives, and why she still commands my interest. Midway is the other one. They don’t have an iota in common. And yet they are part of the same process against powerful and beautiful foe.

Copyright 2021 Vic Socotra

http://www.vicsocotra.com

So, that is the only other ship I felt a part of that still lives, and why she still commands my interest. Midway is the other one. They don’t have an iota in common. And yet they are part of the same process against powerful and beautiful foe. The sea.

Copyright 2021 Vic Socotra

www.vicsocotra.com

This is a story about a boat, so bear with me. It includes the modern manifestation of the Egyptian Goddess of the Hunt and record-setting ocean crossings. It only includes me for a few months, but it may have been a tipping point when something got in my blood and never could get rid of it. The object of my desire (at that time) was a lady 57-foot long, narrow on her beam and foc’sle you could do Shakespeare off of. She was designed by a man named Nathanial Herreshoff and therefore a connection to modern sailing history and industry. She is directly responsible for a long association with fairly-narrow and resolute mattresses and the smell of the sea. 

“Nat H” was known in the boat trade as the Wizard of Bristol. His story defines his age. He was born in 1848 before the Civil War and didn’t pass from this world until nearly the beginning of the Second World War. He was an earnest man of his time, but wild for innovative and brilliant design and boatbuilding. He had 70 years designing small and large sailboats and did not shy away from the power barges. He pioneered features common in today’s yachts, including sail tracks and slides, bulb keels, fin keels, and hollow aluminum masts. He also built one of the earliest catamarans seen on this side of the pond. So anything he touched has a connection to the way he saw how the waves worked in his time.

He was an end-to-end craftsman and a gifted navigator. He defended the America’s Cup six times, in: Vigilant, 1893; Defender, 1895; Columbia 1899 and 1901; Reliance, 1903; and Resolute, 1920. 

So, good bones, good blood. The owners of Neith, named for the Mother of all gods in Rome’s pantheonat that moment in 1975 were pals of college roommate Jim Forrest. She had returned across the ocean a bit bereft under command of some mariners of eccentric ways. Their tales still lingered on the piers, one about taking detailed navigational information from a thoroughly compromised taffrail log missing one blade. I have tried to live to that exacting standard since.

Ed Callahan was then-holder and had a lot on his plate, a young family and an ocean to manage. Jim was doing professional hardhat diving with his charming future wife Jeanette and there was a great circle of people doing actual things mostly oriented at the water. The boat was not sailable and needed mostly some cosmetic work, but otherwise empty. I spent the summer in a delightful culture of Beverly’s harbor. Berthed next door was a couple guys living on a big old schooner, and there were a string of young people on other boats to share the communal showers and latrines off the parking lot.

The boat that introduced me downstream to some of Nat Herreshoff’s ideas was built after Reliance, in 1907. Her name was Neith. She was special and personal, built for his own doctor. There was a clear and personal interest in her sleek slippery lines. 

Neith was purpose-built as a Flush Deck Cutter and gentleman’s weekender. She was named in honor of the Egyptian Goddess of the Hunt. The Doctor and the Goddess parted ways, and by 1920 she was under her third master who attempted to take her east to England. Instead, she left Rhode Island and ran headlong into humiliating hurricane force winds. 

She was pushed back and a bit battered. Commander Houghton was her owner and a determined man. he had her re-rigged as a yawl, and after a quick workup, was ready to cross the Atlantic. Under the Commander’s firm hand, Neith cast off in 1921 for a record-breaking Atlantic crossing. Houghton took her out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and brought her to England in 25 days. He wasn’t satisfied with the record passage and wanted better performance from his sails. 

From then on, Neith was a continental lady until just a few years before I met her. She spent her first half century in Europe, based in the UK, and raced throughout Scotland and Europe. The Commander campaigned her early and steadily. A sail-lady named Virginia Tweedy was quoted as saying “My grandparents were friends with the Houghtons and my grandfather often crewed the boat when she was in England, including in 1922 when Neith competed at Cowes and won on August 7th that year.”

So, she was racing well but the Commander wanted more. The new yawl rig had done well enough on the passage over, but did not perform as well as he desired. In 1926, he was talking to renowned yacht designer Charles Nicholson, who suggested a Marconi rig might improve the situation. The Commander gave her a Nicholson-style Marconi rig that she wears to this day. She remained in Scotland until 1970 when she returned to the US. She was still watertight when I left her at the end of 1976, but she sank while up on the Connecticut River and was abandoned. 

When I was aboard in ’76, scraping old paint and living with the harbor gypsies there were still stories. One of them was about a Scottish owner who kept a bronze Egyptian image of the Goddess on the hearth of his home. It is said that when preparing to cast off or return to port, a salute in bagpipes was sounded and Neith was born from below-deck storage to a place of honor in the main cabin by the foot of the massive mast. It was all bare white paint when I was scraping it, but being alone on her in the night there was the feeling…maybe it was the paint thinner fumes. 

That life in Beverly was in keeping Neith’s condition. Solid, but a bit down at the seams. Her lines were as grand as ever, but she needed a good yard period on the stilts. No one was in the financial condition to devote the money for a complete job. But we tried. The lines were fairly recent and the mast true. 

She was worth saving, which is how a curious conversation occurred back in Michigan, about whether Dad would mind having a Marconi-rig flush deck 57-foot cutter on a brace in the side yard. Dad was kind enough not to howl in laughter at the money pit that implied, and to this day I have never invested in one. He did, though. But that conversation was the last direct interaction with her after one of those autumns that have magic in the air. She had remained in Scotland until she returned to the US in 1970. She was still watertight when I left her at the end of 1976, but sank while on the Connecticut River and was abandoned. 

Ships can be homes, and I am glad I did not know of her status. Sinking is not necessarily a permanent condition, but altering it would require a significant investment. There was someone willing. He is described as “Third Owner” which with the modifying “unincumbered” word might be accurate. But he made the investment with a vision to preserve her. When they got her refloated, he had Neith restored well enough to participate in the prestigious Herreshoff Rendezvous in 1981.

Since then, the Lady has now been in one family for over thirty years and their standard was to keep her “Original Condition.” A major overhaul was just done a few years ago to keep her that way. In 2014, Taylor and Snediker Yacht Restoration did something any old wooden boat would want. Rather than a comprehensive restoration, this work was done in manner the family preferred. The company says nearly everything from the sheer planks up was replaced, her sheer line was restored to original specs, hull was strengthened with structural upgrades and replacement of structures with any degradation. The result was several awards including “Best Restoration,” “Judges Choice,” and the Centennial Society Award honoring vessels over a century old.

So, that is the only other ship I felt a part of that still lives, and why she still commands my interest. Midway is the other one. They don’t have an iota in common. And yet they are part of the same process against powerful and beautiful foe. The sea.

Copyright 2021 Vic Socotra

This is actually part of a larger book- the “Fieldmarshall’s Daughter” chapter comes after this and is an indoctrination to the world of professional lies and living overseas in the Intelligence World, there needs to be a companion piece for Midway days in Japan. It is a fun book.

8 thoughts on “Neith: Goddess of the Hunt. And Me”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.