PS Advisor: 06/05
What of Pearson Yachts?
We just bought an old Triton, a 28' Pearson boat built in the 1960s. We're going to restore her. How many different models did Pearson build, and did William Shaw design all of them?
New Orleans, LA
Once among the most prominent of all sailboat builders, the pioneering company Pearson Yachts closed shop about 10 years ago. Most but not all of that firm’s boats were designed by Bill Shaw. There were about 50 models in all, including the Countess, Invicta, Alberg 35, Renegade, Coaster, Ensign, Rhodes 41, Wanderer, and Vanguard. The Triton was one of the most successful.
Last we heard, D&R Enterprises (of Assonet, MA, 508/644-3001), run by Rudy Nickerson and Geoff Frias, were selling Pearson parts. There's also a very strong Pearson owners' association and an even stronger Triton gang. Both are represented on the Internet. Just conduct a Google search for "Pearson Sailboats Assn."
How did a "boatswain" get to be a "bo's'on'? What's all that abbreviation about?
Marina Del Rey, CA
According to Francis Parkman, American's greatest historian, and confirmed by Samuel Eliot Morison, the world's best naval historian, it started when Jim Cook, England's greatest explorer, was running low on ink, about the time he and Bill Bligh, his sailing master, rounded Tatoosh Island aboard the Resolution, and headed in for what is now Victoria, B.C. They were, by the way, mighty sick and tired of that northwest coast.
The "lead pencil" (it's really microcrystalline carbon mixed with clay, but that's not a handy name, is it?) wasn't around yet. And besides, Cook was more surveyor than sailor, and was very proud of his "Cook's Journal," as it became known. He wanted this document scribed in ink. He wrote with goose feather quills, an improvement over the split reeds that the Egyptians used when they first made paper out of papyrus. Until the Egyptians developed a smooth writing surface, man was stuck with scratching or smudging up cave walls with graffiti of the time). Later, the smart guys—Greeks and Romans—wrote on sheets of wax, which could be "erased" and used again.
Cook's answer to his ink shortage was to whip a few seaman into making more ink out of cook stove carbon and who knows what else. Cook was not revered as a gentle man. In fact, Hawaiians found him so irritating that they did him in, only a year or so after Cook discovered the Sandwich Islands, of which Hawaii is a part. So much for gratitude, and that's the way it often went (and still does) in the discovery business.
To conserve ink, Cook started abbreviating everything he could in the ship's "rough log" (which later was edited, dressed up, and fiddled with to produce a "smooth" log to impress the folks back home who put up the money).
Instead of North Northeast by Quarter East, he just wrote 025°. And what of "boatswain?" Thanks to Cook, the master of the southern oceans, boatswain (in olden days called "boatwain") is now seen abbreviated as bo’s’on, bo’sun, bos’n, and bosun, or as old timers called it "boz'n". The boatswain's pipe, whose parts are called "buoy," "gun," "keel," and "shackle," remains his badge of office and his duties (basically the physical condition of the ship and its supplies) once included executions. For lesser offenses, he carried and used freely a cane sheathed in a cured penis of a bull, but we digress.