The old ketch 'Caprice' - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-30-2006 Thread Starter
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The old ketch 'Caprice'

Years ago in Salem, Massachusetts, I stumbled upon the ketch 'Caprice' in the Dyer Boatyard off Lafayette Street. It was an absolutely beautiful wooden yacht of 56' on deck, stripped of her bowsprit and spars, with a brand new horn timber installed, but still needing that particular planking to be re-installed.

Old Fred Dyer had just died and he'd left the yard to his son, young Fred, who told me the name of the owner of Caprice, and that he was drunk somewhere in Florida at last reckoning, and that the boat would be sold at an upcoming sheriff's auction. I found the remains of the owners family, and with their blessing, gathered up the newly rebuilt 3-71 engine, all the sails and rigging, located the fabulous spars in covered storage in a Gloucester boatyard, where I arranged to pay the storage and collect them as soon as I had the yacht in my hands.

I also found that Caprice had been built alongside the famous 'Bluenose' in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and from the front was almost identical. I think that put her construction at around 1906.

Along came the auction and what followed was one of the most bizzare string of events I have ever seen in a boats history. Fred Dyer bid a hugely inflated number that he claimed to represent the yards outstanding bill for the boat. None of the other lienholders had anything like that to build, so Fred got the boat and everyone else wrote off their losses. I offered Fred the rest of the boat so he could make it whole, but he wasn't interested.

He hired a demolition company to bring over a D9 Cat bulldozer and crush it to kindling. Along came the man and the Cat, he fired up the bulldozer and removed it from the trailer, then stopped it just short of the boat, stepped down and had Fred Jr. sign the required forms. Fred did, then the man reloaded the bulldozer on the trailer and shut it off. He informed Fred that he'd just signed the boat over to him, and that it was now his property, and he had 24 hours to either destroy it or remove it from the boatyard. Fred lost his mind. I'm told it was a great scene that shoul;d be used in movies.

The next day, 'Caprice' showed up in a wooded area in Topsfield off Rt 97, where pricy house lots were being sold and much pricier houses were being built. It turns out the new owner was one of the lost souls of the cocaine generation who was spiralling around the bowl on what might be the last flush of his life. He'd put the boat on his sister's new house lot, I'm sure, with all the required accompanying promises. Cocaine, however, demends it's own payments, and for the next year, the lead ballast pigs and bronze fitting disappeared little by little as the weeds grew up around 'Caprice'.

Then it disappeared again. I soon found her farther north, in the town of West Boxford, behind a needy little house in a newly constructed scrap wood and plastic shed. I talked to the very young and hopeful new owner, who told me that he and his pregnant wife had gotten a $10,000 home improvement loan, and at the last moment, he'd found 'Caprice' and got her for just that much, and now he was going to fix her up and sail off. I gave him all the information for the rest of the boat, where it was and how to gather it, then walked away shaking my head. Maybe it was Caprice that was spiralling around the bowl for the last flush.

Has anyone from that area ever stumble upon the boat and might know what happened to her? I'm pretty sure she musy be dead and gone, but who knows? Maybe the kid was able to save her.

Hawk
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-21-2009
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Caprice Information

My dad and his friends owned a 57' ketch named Caprice back in the '60s. It sailed out of Gloucester harbor. Gorgeous boat. I remember it well including the reference to the Bluenose. Does anyone have any additional info?

Thank you,
George
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-21-2009
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Run an inquiry on the Woodenboat Rescue website. The Wooden Boat Rescue Foundation
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-21-2009
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Also try the WoodenBoat Forum. Many of those guys keep track of classics.
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-10-2011
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The Old Caprice

Hawk,

I just pulled out some old paper work on the Caprice. Thought you might like to know. Built 1928 at Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The architect was the same that designed the blue nose. Built in Shelton's Yatch Yard in Nova Scotia.

Warm regards,

Brian
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-11-2011
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umm, last post was 2 years ago and the first post was from 2006 :-) Be interesting to see if the OP responds.
Cheers!

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post #7 of 11 Old 07-11-2011
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Good point, but even if the early posters have gone, it's an interesting story.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-11-2011
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I have a few memories of Caprice from when we both sailed from Beacon Marine in the 60's. I recollect she sailed with a jolly crew of bagpipers. And one odd thing sticks in my mind.... her bronze fittings suddenly got dazzlingly shiny, for it turned out they had been gold-plated, causing some wonderment and providing a topic of amusement at the Saturday afternoon beer parties at Beacon when we all quit working on our boats and consumed bushels of lobster bodies. Funny, the stuff you remember.

Never sail closer to the wind in degrees than your age

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post #9 of 11 Old 07-11-2011
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The Caprice was sold a Ed Bryne around 1973-74. I know this because I spent 4 years sailing and working on the vessel when I was in college. Originally, I met Ed when working on a 42 Alden that he bought. The Alden was out of the water in Beacon's yatch basin. The Caprice was in the water along side the Schooner Coronet. Ed initially sailed the boat every weekend of the first two years he owned it. I usually supplied the crew of more than eager college students. The last two years that he owned it he began a serious restoration in Beacons Yatch Basin.

Ed had hoped to sail the Caprice down to the Carribean and live there. In particular he liked the Dominican Republic. He owned a paper mill in Newberryport and had been negotiating starting one in the Dominican Republic. Through a series of bad luck Ed lost the controlling ownership in his own paper mill and was out of business. His wife caught him cheating and sued for divorce. Amidst all this he had a fall which kicked up an old back condition. And then he had a stroke.

I last saw Ed before I left for California. He had owed Beacons a substantial amount and the last few years found him broke. I rowed out to a mooring where he was sitting on the Caprice working away as if nothing happened. The masts were out at that time. Ed was fading fast. His health in disarray, his family and wealth were gone. I read a newspaper clipping about his death around 2003 in Florida after a long illness. It seems he re-married late in life to a Dominican gal.

I came back from California for a short visit in the summer of 1983 when the Caprice was up for auction at Dion's yard in Salem. Stories abounded about the boat. I climbed on board and paid my respects.

If your curiosity is there she was one beautiful boat under sail and one of the finest boats that I ever sailed on. I remember one year during the Marblehead race week we sailed the Caprice into Marblehead harbor during a storm. Ed tacked her about 100 yards from the causeway under full sail. What a thrill.

The particulars were that she was built in 1928 in Shelton's yatch yard in Nova Scotia. Her designer was Billy Roue the designer of the Blue Nose and thus the resemblance. She was galvanized fastenend which represented a series of problems on a boat that old. Typical of some of the old working boats, cement had been poured into the bilge. Time and fresh water caused alot of dry rot. Ed had thought the boat was close to done and was trying to make it out of Glouchester before the winter of 1975, when he found all the dry rot. That was the kiss of death for the Caprice.

Regards,

BJK
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post #10 of 11 Old 07-12-2011
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Sad ending for what sounds like a fine vessel.marc
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