Of more than four hundred elegant Trumpy yachts built between the early 20th century and 1973, less than 25% are still afloat. Sadly, many of those remaining are in rapidly deteriorating condition.
But Sea Tabby, the 62-foot “houseboat” style Mathis Trumpy yacht built in 1938, is “absolutely timeless,” says her owner, Todd Glaser.
That’s an understatement. In fact it could be said, Sea Tabby is in better than new condition. She turns heads wherever she travels and stands out among the mega yachts and cigarette boats of Miami as she does in the historic waters of Nantucket, her longtime summer home.
Glaser, a Miami real estate developer, uses Sea Tabby as a family yacht for himself, his wife and their four children and frequently, to entertain clients. “This works well, as most of our properties are along the Miami waterfront. During the week, she’s really a floating office,” Glaser says. “But after work, she’s mine. I often go aboard, even if it’s only for 25 minutes, to smoke a cigar and just enjoy her company.” Sea Tabby also earns her keep with occasional charters.
Although he’s been a lifelong boater, Sea Tabby is Glaser’s first wooden yacht. Growing up in Miami he’d frequently watched the Trumpy, Veritas, now Aurora, pass by. “One day,” he promised himself, “I’m going to own that boat.”
That didn’t happen, but after years of looking for the perfect Trumpy, he found Sea Tabby. “I knew when they let me take the helm in the ICW (Norfolk) sea trial that this was going to be my boat,” he said. But he had to convince her former owners (of 30 years) he would make Sea Tabby a truly good home. He purchased her in 2012 and never looked back.
Between 1999 and 2003, Sea Tabby enjoyed a complete restoration, costing well above a million dollars, and truly a labor of love for her owners, Bob Libby and Addison Pratt. Not only did Libby oversee the project, he actually did some of the fine detail woodwork. For example, Libby carved a stunning seashell design (Sea Tabby’s logo) on the side of a settee on the bow. This decorative piece cleverly hides a dryer vent.
Other improvements included HVAC, stabilizers and a new galley and electronics. All modern improvements designed with legendary Rhode Island shipwright, Lewis Sauzedde, were positioned and “hidden” to preserve the vessel’s historic character.
As a result, Sea Tabby appears to be a near-flawless original example of her era. In fact, even the most discerning yachtsman would be hard-pressed to discover some of her age-defying secrets.
But what truly sets this restoration apart is a pioneering technique used by the boatyard to replace ribs and structural members. Ribs below the waterline are constructed of high-density polyethylene, a technique pioneered on New England fishing boats, and quite a leap of faith for classic yachtsmen to try, using (a) anything but wood and (b) a structural technique that had probably never before been used on a yacht of her type.
The polyethylene is easy to form and fasten and the problem of electrolysis, which had been an issue before, has been eliminated. Sauzedde said, “The only way I would agree to this job was if they allowed me to replace the wood.” He seems surprised that they agreed.
Another innovative process involved substituting Dynel and paint on decks to replace the traditional canvas. This reduced costs, and greatly adds to longevity and UV resistance, according to Sea Tabby’s former owners. And no one can tell the difference.
“I loved Sea Tabby as soon as I saw her,” says Glaser, “but this is what really sold me on buying her. I didn’t want a project boat, or a boat that couldn’t stand up to the harsh marine environment we have in Miami. The work on Sea Tabby was already done. And to me, it’s better than new construction.
“Some purists might not want a historic yacht constructed with modern materials,” Glaser laughs. “But I would be willing to bet that if today’s plastics had been available to John Trumpy, he would have been more than happy to use them.”
Glaser and his wife have done some of their own upgrades on Sea Tabby, replacing the traditional salon and wheelhouse carpeting with teak and maple, something her former owners also considered. The effect is stunning.
They updated her spacious aft deck area with more modern furnishings in harmony with their entertaining and family lifestyle, but they saved the original wicker furniture now gracing the porch of their more than 100 year old home on Nantucket.
An unusual feature is a stairway (instead of the usual Trumpy ladder) leading up to her roof. This allows easy access for sport fishing, which is a key component of her new career in Miami, according to Glaser.
According to her resume, Sea Tabby, hull 235 of 448, was built by the Mathis boat building company in Gloucester City, New Jersey and designed by John Trumpy Jr.
The yacht, originally built as Helma for Bruce Dodson, was purchased in 1945 by carpet manufacturer Charles Karagheusian, who renamed her Sea Tabby. After his death in 1977, Sea Tabby had two other owners before 1982.
There’s no question that this fortunate yacht has benefited from the dedication of her long-time owners. Now, more than 11 years and many thousands of miles since her restoration, she is tight, her hull looks great and there are no leaks. This is the ultimate testimony to the quality of the work. What’s more, this efficient and cost-effective structural process could keep many more antique yachts afloat for years to come. We certainly hope so.