Interview with Josiah William Bailey III, who discusses boatbuilding and his acquaintance with Julian Guthrie, 1987 recipient of the North Carolina Living Treasure award.
Hayes: Greetings, thank you for interviewing with us today, my name is Sherman Hayes, I'm the university librarian at UNCW at Wilmington, William Madison Randall Library, and today is November 21st, 2007. I many times forget that and they tell me that now they don't know when we talked. We're interviewing today, your full name?
Bailey: I'm Josiah William Bailey the third.
Hayes: And we're in Pine Knoll.
Bailey: Pine Knoll Shores.
Hayes: Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina. And my purpose today in talking with you is twofold, I'm interested in you as a person in later in like kind of developing an artistic hobby of boat building but primarily we're trying to use you as a resource to tell us about Julian Guthrie, am I saying that correct?
Hayes: And for context to the people who are wondering who Julian Guthrie is, his intersection with the university that he was named a North Carolina Living Treasure, when was that, back in the-- one of the early ones-- '80s?
Bailey: At one point I thought he might have been the first.
Hayes: I think he was the first, that's exactly right. This is an honor recognizing kind of artists and these craftspeople whose work kind of elevated even up to a fine art form if you can consider a boat a fine art. What's the technical term, a boat right, a boat maker?
Bailey: A shipwright, I suppose.
Hayes: A shipwright. And so anyway we're attempting to get a sense of his importance and what he did and you knew him well that was the whole point. Did you study at his knee so to speak, so let's start with Julian, how did you know Julian and at what point?
Bailey: Well my first awareness of Julian was through my dad as I grew up on the waterfront of Morehead City, my dad imposed upon me his interest in sailing and that was his only hobby.
Hayes: What was your dad's name?
Bailey: He was Josiah William Bailey Junior and he was a CPA and I think he enjoyed the freedom of sailing and being outside to release from the tensions of doing such at times a stressful occupation. And he was a CPA in Carteret County when he had to constantly explain to people what the designation CPA meant. So there were only 2 in the whole county and dad as a child was exposed to Spritsail sail, which are 20 foot skips made with Juniper mostly.
Hayes: Let me interrupt for a second. Would you spell that word because that's the first time most people would have heard what that is.
Bailey: It's like the word bowsprit. A lot of people pronounce it "spr-it." But that's not a downeast way to pronounce it but spritsail sailboats. S-P-R-I-T-S-A-I-L. So you say it like you say the word forecastle on a sailing ship is pronounced folksail. You hardly ever heard forecastle pronounced entirely. It's a mouthful when you're at sea. Spritsail skiffs were shortened to spritsail, you just swallow the last syllable, and we're really good at that in the Eastern part of North Carolina. So the Spritsail skiffs were 20 feet long, made of Juniper and well they were about 20 feet long. I could go on about that but the guys that built them would order the timber for the keel and they'd order a 20 foot keel, well if it came in 19'6 or 20 and a half or at even 21 feet that was the length of your boat, they wouldn't trim it down they'd just built it the way it came. So they were approximately 20 foot boats, open boats that traditionally had been used as fishing craft using nets to catch jumping mullet mostly and I don't have to explain I guess how difficult that would be surrounding a school of fish under sail and leading out a net in a way that would be effective, you know, to catch fish and then haul 'em in.
Hayes: And one person on the sailboat?
Bailey: Well sometimes yeah, one guy, of course it was simplified if you had a crew and but it also cost more to do it that way so I mean they could do it one-- they rigged 'em so they could sail 'em all the way-- they could be in the bough of the boat and still sail the vessel, had long string lines that ran back to the steering mechanism, there was a yolk on rudder. So they were pretty efficient and shallow draft perfect for this shallow waters of Eastern North Carolina. So my dad loved to tinker with sails, he even built sails, did it commercially for a while as part of his interest in sailing and every year he would get a different boat because he experimented-- my dad was interested in different widths of boats and tried to play with the aerodynamics of it and the gentleman that he found on Harkers Island, Julian Guthrie to build the boats for him took approximately two weeks to build the hull, the boat, not counting the sails, Julian didn't do the sails. The boat was ready to go in two weeks from start to finish and he did it in his garage beside, behind his house and Julian built other boats to but he would build a skip in two weeks so you could order a new one every once in a while, you know, just because-- and they cost about $500 that was the price.
Hayes: So the point of the matter I think most people would even recognize, saw an individual was still from scratch building this boat then, this wasn't a factory, this wasn't a machine shop.
Bailey: No this was back when fiberglass was becoming-- people were still suspicious of it, they weren't so sure that it would last with integrity, strength wise and wood is so wonderful to work with, you can replace any part of it and of course it's what they knew. So fiberglass was still under suspicion and so it was wood.
Hayes: So what was Julian's working career span, when was he?
Bailey: Well I think Julian, I think like so many people down east, I believe Julian was employed at the Naval Air Rework Station at Cherry Point and I don't know what his job was there but I don't think that he was there as a carpenter, I think it was some other skill he had and so he probably, was probably building boats for 30 or 40 years I suppose. But I don't really know exactly when. When I met him he was building Spritsail skiffs for us and the other guys.
Hayes: When was that? You were--
Bailey: That would have been in the late '50s and late 1950s and right on up. He built some large boats for us eventually and he was still building into the '70s. I don't remember when he stopped; you probably have a record of that in the museum. But I became aware of him for two reasons, one was that he was the guy that built our boats and the other was as a youngster it was an amazing thing to me that there was a community of Mormons on Harkers Island and Julian was a Mormon and at that time it was like "Wow a Mormon, what is that?" And so I was a Methodist and everybody else I knew were Baptists, so it was really an interesting thing, Harkers Island had a Mormon enclave, or whatever, and they still do; it's very strong.
Hayes: Let's get some geographic perspective for the reader or viewer who doesn't know this East Coast so well, we'll lay out here, where's Harkers Island, where's Pine Knoll, where are we at on the eastern seaboard here, this is?
Bailey: We're all on the outer banks in spite of what the people around Hatteras have done to usurp that name, this is part of the outer banks of North Carolina, we're right in the center of the coast, equal distance, just about equal distance from Hatteras to Wilmington or Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout is kinda in the center of our shoreline, north and south and Pine Knoll Shores is kind of in the center of Bogue Banks where Atlantic Beach is at one end and Fort Macon at the eastern and the western end ends at Emerald Isle near Swansboro.
Hayes: And is the Emerald Isle actually an Isle?
Bailey: No, no, Emerald Isle's part of Bogue Banks, Bogue Banks is about maybe 23, 4, 25 miles long and there's no break in it now, there have been at times after some storms and things. It's only maybe a quarter of a mile wide at places so there's some places that are likeliest to wash through and hopefully that's what will--
Hayes: And to get to Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shore, we went over a long bridge.
Bailey: That was at Swansboro I guess, you came over at Swansboro across the intercoastal waterway. So the intercoastal waterway runs inside of the outer banks, up and down the coast here and on down into, you know.
Hayes: And Harkers Island?
Bailey: And Harkers Island if you take 70, continue on Highway 70, you're coming down on 70, you go to Beaufort, North Carolina which is the third oldest city in the state and then you go, continue on 70 as though you were gonna go to like seal level where the ferry, Ocrakoke Ferry disembarks you would turn off that about 10 miles, a little less past Beaufort heading south to Harkers Island. Harkers Island is maybe 10-12, maybe 12 miles from Beaufort but from the end of Taylors Creek in front of Beaufort to Harkers Island is only about 2 or 3 miles.
Hayes: Is it an actual island out off the coast?
Bailey: It is an island it's separated from the mainland by an area called Straits and Marshallberg, there's the Straits and Marshallberg and the Straits got its name I think because of the little narrow separation between Harkers Island and the mainland, that's sort of the Straits.
Hayes: How do you get to Harkers Island then?
Bailey: There's this road, you go over a bridge and you just have to veer off of 70 and go to the right and about 5 more miles and you're in Harkers Island.
Hayes: Has Julian's kind of market then was you would have been the southern end of his market and then he sold a lot up further and were most of his boats going to people in the outer banks, that was my question kind of to get a sense of?
Bailey: Well at the time that I met Julian there was a big to do over what they called Harkers Island built flair bowed boats and so they were being discovered, the boat builders down east were being discovered by outside folks with the wherewithal to order a boat custom built and at that time because fiberglass was just coming in, fiberglass was way more expensive than wood. So there was still a debate about whether fiberglass would work and whether it was worth it and so the wood boat builders were still going full force and so Julian was probably doing business-- by the time I met him he was probably I would think Spritsails were a minor part of his endeavor, if not then they soon became so because he bought a shed, a boatshed in Williston which is on Highway 70, just north of Marshallberg. Anyway there was a clam house and there has always been a commercial fishing area and he bought a boatshed to build bigger boats and so he built sport fishing boats and I can't tell you exactly what year he began building more of that than Spritsail skiffs but he gained his reputation as a boat builder and craftsmen doing Spritsail skiffs I think or just skiffs, you know, for fishing, people that fish commercially on Harkers Island because Harkers Island was mostly settled by the people from the outer banks who were run off in the '30s by the government and they went to 3 primary locations, Harkers Island, what was called, what became called the promised land and downtown Morehead and Salter Path, Salter Path's the next community down from us on the outer banks here. All of which were fishing people and their descendents had lived in Diamond City which was a migratory town on Core Banks, the next island up across Beaufort Inlet. There was a whaling village and a fishing village but it wasn't a stationary village, they migrated up and down the banks according to where the fish were and so you can't go to somebody and say "There's the outline of Diamond City or there's the city limits." So those people were moved off the banks I think in the '30s after a really bad storm and that was before they were naming 'em so anyway Harkers Island was one of the places, it was closest place that they floated their houses over, they were more like shacks than houses because they mobile, I mean, you know, they could-- and so they floated 'em back over to Harkers Island and stayed there. And one reason their brogue is so different and so strong and hoy toy speaking is that there was a big British influence on the people that first settled outer banks. A lot of 'em were results of shipwrecks and the livestock was too so the livestock spoke with a real accent as well. Those cows, they had a funny sound, so anyway it was-- Julian's reputation was spreading, just like some other people, there were some other famous boat builders and still are there on Harkers Island and that flair bow which keeps the boat a little drier than the more standard bows, forward with a flair keeps the spray off to the side. So those boats are still extremely popular and they build 'em in fiberglass now but they're still building 'em in wood. They build 'em in wood and they fiberglass over 'em, yeah they're building 65-footers down there now. In fact that's where I get my wood to build model boats from their scraps. But so there's still an industry there but the fiberglassing has made, well like so much in every craft, mechanization has made the shipwrights a rare breed and that has happened probably in all craft fields.
Hayes: I got you diverted away from kind of the intrigue with the Mormons, did you talk to him about that and you eventually became a friend to Julian?
Bailey: No I never did, well maybe I did, Julian-- I just didn't-- we were still trying to figure out-- we were pretty ignorant about, what a Mormon, well my dad wasn't but we weren't-- I mean he was extremely well educated but it was sort of like there was still some suspicion, you know, well so it wasn't something you would just walk up and say "Hey man, tell me something about your religion." It just didn't go that way. So we never did discuss it but he seemed to be a fine, he was a fine gentleman and he seemed to me to kind of look at the interest that was taken in him and his skill as a boat builder as a bit over blown and out of proportion to how important it really was. It was kind of like to him it was almost like second nature and it wasn't a big deal. I mean, you know, so that would be my comment anyway.
Hayes: It seems to me that there was in some sense the award is a recognition of a dwindling craft and that's one of the things you were talking about is that in the peak of his career you said there were lots of small builders right?
Bailey: Yeah if a man today wanted a Spritsail skiff built, he would have to jump through some hoops to find one, there are some, there's some and they do a good job but the boat itself has become out of vogue. When I was in high school and as a kid growing up they were really in boats and we raced 'em, had regattas with 'em and stuff and so it was a popular boat in this area at one time.
Hayes: Did you ever get a chance, I know in your work later doing the modeling, is it based on having gone sometimes to the boatsheds to see-- or the garage and see what was involved here with somebody?
Bailey: No I let so many opportunities go by that it's really sad. I was exposed to some wonderful craftsmen but I didn't really place a whole lot of value in their skills. It's embarrassing really to even talk about that because it's a shame, you know how so many of us as we reach an advanced age we realize how many opportunities we let slide just recording the things that our elders said and what they knew because eventually you do realize that they were right. The things they were saying, they knew what they were talking about but there's no way to convince the youngsters that this is worth listening to. So I went my merry way and ignored them but Julian and probably those guys they sorta had the attitude, you know, the people that are expressing interest in what we're doing can't tie square knots or bowline, so you can't take them particular seriously anyway and so there was almost a tongue in cheek attitude about "Well here comes another one that wants to give me money to do something, everybody can do." I mean it was sort of that, they didn't think of themselves as, you know, hoy-poloy in the crafts business either. Everybody built boats at one time, there were boats in this county, this county went through a phase where there all rusting cars in everybody's yard but in the back yard there was a boat too. You gotten rid of the cars and some of the yards if you go piling around you'll still find old hulks and derelicts out in the back yards and boats, everybody built boats.
Hayes: So it was a community effort because the sea is everything right?
Bailey: That's right, I was thinking recently, I grew up a sailor and was thought of as weird by most of my friends who were water skiers and power boat people and it was because of my dad's influence I sailed and so there were times when we I realized recently and I've gotten into researching a little bit of boats and things and it was a revelation to me, as simple as it may seem because I taught history, you'd think a guy would have a little bit of an awareness of history. But at one time everybody sailed, it was the only way to go anywhere in the world sailing. I've always, so as a person who knew how to sail I was always unusual. But there was a time when a person in this neck of the woods, if a person didn't know how to sail they were obviously from--off you had to be a sailor, it'd be the same now as finding an adult that doesn't have a driver's license.
Hayes: It's so funny when people use-- you know, must have a driver's license to do this and that and so forth and they thought what's happened that you must have a driver's license. So you're saying if you couldn't sail you weren't going anywhere.
Bailey: If you couldn't sail you would really be, you'd stand out as a foreigner, you know, you couldn't-- it didn't make sense, everybody sailed.
Hayes: Was the-let me get the--Spritsail, you say it all as one, spritsail, one word? Was that an ocean going, I mean was it big enough or was that mainly in the coastal?
Bailey: No they were basically in shore, shallow draught boats, they could go anywhere a calm day but a 12 foot dinghy can on a calm day go anyplace, so no it was an open boat, so you couldn't take breakers and so you had to be either a wonderful baler with a baling scoop and I saw people that were so good at that, remarkable. There were limitations where you would go because it was an open boat, there was no deck covered or anything it was just completely except for right up in the bow.
Hayes: So this was for the intercoastal waterway, [inaudible] waters even? Were people going?
Bailey: You see old pictures around the turn of the century and more boats probably had Sprits than any other-- Sprit is a pole, some people are aware of what a boom is on a boat, it's the piece of wood at the bottom of a sail that it swings on and it's the boom that'll knock you overboard when it swings across the boat if you don't duck. A Sprit is nothing more than a vertical boom, it goes up at an angle so that it goes to the peak of the sale so it's a 4 sided sail and so the sail is higher going to that peak than it is at the mast itself and so it rises up from that. So it looks from a distance like a gaff rig and a gaff is a boom at the top of the sail. A boom is at the bottom of the sail, a gaff is at the top of a sail and the Sprit runs between, you never had a boat that had all of 'em. But they all perform the same function.
Hayes: So you would just have one of the three choices is what you?
Bailey: That's right and triangular sails have only one stick other than a mast, they have a boom.
Hayes: Everybody has a mast.
Bailey: Yeah, and I think you could say that, all sail boats yeah I think you could say that. Right you gotta get the sail up there some way but the configuration of the sails is either triangular or 4 sided and 4 sided comes in truncated and sometimes square and sometimes rectangular but they all have. S-
Hayes: Off camera earlier on you said it was kind of odd that Julian who made boats, hundreds and hundreds of boats over his lifetime, well respected, he, himself was not a sailor.
Bailey: Right, he was building boats at a time when everybody didn't know how to sail and so he probably built as many row boats and fishing skiffs as he did sailing, more probably and so by the time he was building boats, sailing was out and motor boating was in and wood was going out and fiberglass was in so we were all coming up in a transitory time, transition time for boat building and boat use. So he built more power boats than-- in fact I mean he had a certain amount of skepticism about sailing. I don't think Julian was convinced that it really worked. He would his boats, he wouldn't want to go sailing on 'em, nope. He would kinda look at daddy and say "I guess it'll work." I mean I would not say it and I hope I'm not out of line there, I don't think Julian was much of a sailor I don't think he really thought a whole lot-- that had too many positive thoughts about sailing. Most people think of sailing as slow to go, you know, so.
Hayes: But he liked building boats.
Bailey: Julian was a boat builder.
Hayes: Do you have any sense of where he came from with that, was there family, is there still family?
Bailey: You know, I don't know, I'm sure so, I'm sure he had children I believe and so but my contact with Julian was never anywhere other than at his home on Harkers Island and or in Williston once, he subsequently when he built a 45 footer for us, not a Spritsail, a 45 foot catch and 65 foot schooner in his shed in Williston so that's the only place that I knew.
Hayes: Let's move on into that phase because, you know, the award that we gave I think was partly because Gerry Shannon and people associated with him at the university were attempting to make a statement about the artistic and craft industry that was in essence dying and it hasn't died completely but now it's become almost purely crafty right doing really small boats by hand out of wood. So he was in some ways honoring the historic heritage but you're saying that from a commercial standpoint Julian was building big things right, I mean I would say to most of us that's a pretty big boat. I mean describe the two that you were buying as commercial craft right, so what was the first one you said that you bought besides the-
Bailey: The Diamond City was a 45 foot, actually it was a big sharpie with just a rig type of sailboat but it had a little bit of tuck and dead rise in it so it wasn't a flat bottom boat. But and most sharpies were but not all of them but anyway.
Hayes: What would you use a sharpie for? Now is this--
Bailey: The thing about a sharpie is that it's shallow draft, it's not a round bellied deep keel boat, it is a shallow draft boat. For instance our 45 footer could maneuver in 18 inches of water. So any most, any modern 45 foot sailboat would take 4 feet to 6 feet of depth to operate and a 65 footer, there are some that draw 9 feet and so but the typical boat today has the round America's Cup Yacht kind of, you know, shape or the Baltimore Clipper shape. So the virtue was shallow draft, they had a hard chime which meant the line of the hull took an angle just after it was in the water, just below the water line which gave it some grab into the water when it would heel and so they were meant to be sailed all loose vertical upright. If they had sort of a semi V then they were meant to be sailed with V horizontal. So just that much heel was ideal for the aerodynamics of the boat and so unlike round bottom boats which are built to heel more.
Hayes: How were you using the 45 foot boats?
Bailey: The 45 footer was built as well there were two thoughts in dad's mind, one was to take people on tours and the other was how to make it pay and so he built it and had it inspected by the Coast Guard and approved to take to carry 40 passengers and so it was open but not entirely, it had some decking around it but seats and benches inside, in the middle in two sections, fore and mid ship and a cabin stern and he had center boards offset, they were called bilge boards, they weren't over the side but they off maybe two feet in from the side that he could-- that way if he had two center boards to drop through as a deeper keel to make it more efficient sailing when he was in deep water then he had the versatility of being able to go into deeper water and sail, maneuver and that sort of thing.
Hayes: So you took this out in the ocean?
Bailey: Yeah, so he decided to make a ferry of it and applied to-- because the sea shore was making noises, the national sea shore was talking about millions of people coming here to see the new national sea shore of outer banks, Cape Lookout, Core Banks and Shackleford that we thought "Well, you know, somebody needs to get people over there" and so daddy saw a way, he wanted a boat and so we were just trying to figure out justifications for doing it and so the way he had to sell it to the bank I guess. But he had to come up with a reason to do it and so he it on that and decided if he got a franchise with the State Utilities Commission for the transportation to outer banks from Shackleford through the northern part of Core Banks and so he built that boat to try to maximize the number of people it would carry and still sail. Daddy wouldn't have built one that had no sails on it, no matter what kind of revenue he might have been able to generate with it, he had no interest in motors.
Hayes: He was a sailor.
Hayes: So the process is, this is a very customized boat, so what did he do he goes over to Julian and would they just talk about it or?
Bailey: Actually he talked to your friend Gerald Shansom [ph?]. Gerald wanted to camp down near the bay, use it in the sailing programs as an exploration thing and the shallow draft was a necessity for doing that too and so my dad had in mind maybe using it some with the camps. But in one of the camps, a famous camp in the area had an ocean going charter boat type that they took their campers out on deep sea trips, deep sea fishing trips and so dad was thinking "Well this will be our version of, you know, take 'em on sailing trips."
Hayes: But what was the process with Julian, I mean did you just go and talk or did he have a plan?
Bailey: No, no, Julian had no- he had no concept of the as far as I know about it, about what Daddy wanted to do or what kind of boat to build for it but Dad was in contact with Howard Shapiro who was "The man" at Smithsonian Institute, he was in charge of the Maritime Division of it and he is a renowned maritime historian, deceased now, but at the time Dad was in contact with him because my dad was considered knowledgeable on local sailing craft and so they were in contact and he got some plans and I think Gerald Shin[ph?] also helped him acquire some plans of sharpie's had that Howard Chapelle had rendered the drawings for and so there was some collusion there. But so dad worked it up and took it to Julian and said "That's what I want." And Julian probably said "How long do you want her and how wide do you want her?"
Hayes: (hearty laugh)
Bailey: And that was it for Julian, he went and built it, he went there and built that thing. And she was 45 feet long and 12 feet wide, 12 feet wide and 45 feet long and it drew 18 inches and later, subsequently he built just a bung up version of it, a 65 footer that was-- she was 65 feet, 18 feet wide and drew 40 inches, 3½ feet which is nothing for a 65 footer, I mean it's like floating on top of the water in a cork.
Hayes: What happens though if a big storm comes up, were these boats in trouble, I mean they're not cutting in as deeply? Are they still-
Bailey: If a big storm came up, she was at the dock tied securely, we didn't go overnights, you know, we never went off shore that far. These boats were really not what you'd call ocean going, they were capable of sailing in the ocean again on a fair day. You don't go on a bad day, although we took the Spanish Maine for a little spin for some tourists who just had to go that day in 70 knot winds, out Morehead, out to Fort Macon and back.
Hayes: Was that the name of the boat, you called it the Spanish Maine?
Bailey: Spanish Maine was the name of the bigger boat yeah.
Hayes: What was the name of the middle sized one?
Bailey: Diamond City, daddy named it after-- dad had some people that taught him to sail were promised landers, people that had run off to banks and promised land in Morehead City and there was an old guy there Captain Gibb Willis who helped daddy learn to sail and I mean I thought for a long time it was him name, Old Man Charlie Piner and so I knew who Charlie Piner Junior but Old Man Charlie Piner, I don't know how you spelt old man. But it took me a long time to realize he was saying old man Charlie Piner, which is they could have said Charlie Piner who is an old man.
Hayes: I think there's a "D" in that.
Bailey: No it's all one word, old man Charlie Piner, in fact all of its one word. It's one word ends in an "R", Old Man Charlie Piner and that was the way-- he was never referred to any other way to my knowledge, you never heard and Gibb Willis was never referred to as anything other than Captain Gibb and it took me a long time to know he had a last name. It was just kind of, he was old and leathery skin and just the perfect example of a corn cob pipe sea captain, a guy mending his nets on the porch, I mean perfect prototype.
Hayes: So there were still some of these when you were growing up, I mean and Julian.
Bailey: Well that's how daddy learned to sail and then of course he hooked up with Julian through daddy just wanted Spritsail skiffs, almost every year he got one and or two.
Hayes: So was your largest boat probably the biggest one that Julian built and went or bigger?
Bailey: No well actually 65, there's a cut off, boats are a certain size for a reason and engines are a certain size for a reason and the reason is always connected to Coast Guard regulations regarding capacity, passenger carriage capacity and so there was a cut off, for motor boats, there used to be like a ten feet if a boat was 9'9 then you didn't have to have a motor and had to be registered, there were certain regulations I can't remember what they are and then you got all these party boats where they take 6 passengers for sail. Well that's the first license you could get at the time was a-- we call 'em a spark plug license, it was the lowest license they offered but you could take 6 people on a commercial trip on a boat. So fishing parties were 6, party boats would accommodate 6 and that's why they did it. There's also some regulations in the Coast Guard about the kind of equipment you have to have safety wise and inspections necessary and all this gobbledy gook which most mariners look at contemptuously because there's a lot of garbage necessity in terms of practicality and true utilization as in everything governmental and so 65 feet was a break off point. Another inch and you had to incur thousands and thousands of dollars more stuff that you didn't need except one time in a lifetime you might need 'em if you were somewhere between here and Bermuda in a hurricane which we wasn't gonna do. So anyway that's why 65 feet almost became a standard length for sport fishing boats that was as long as they wanna make 'em because of the regulations. Today I have no idea what the regulations are but they're probably-- there is a number, somewhere out there where they won't go behind it an inch because of that.
Hayes: But he could have made a bigger boat.
Bailey: Julian he could have built the ark, you know, he didn't have to get on it, he could build it.
Hayes: When he went from the garage to the shed, what did that change as far as the approach, I mean did he have assistance then, I mean doing like a 65 foot boat is not a one man.
Bailey: Oh yeah had a crew, in fact when I discovered some lumber that I could get that people would burn their scrap wood building 65 footers, it was a guy who lived next door to a friend of mine who introduced to me, the guy was building a boat, his name was Terry Willis and I went there and asked him if I could get some of scraps and he said "Oh take it" and come to find out, Terry almost died building our boat the "Spanish Maine" he worked for Julian and I had forgotten about the accident. I was in college I think at the time and he was operating a table saw or something and he was sawing a piece of wood and the thing, I don't know what you call it but anyway it shot-- the piece of wood he was working was sharp pointed and it shot out of the saw table right into his stomach. He showed me the scar, I mean he almost bled to death right there in the shed working on our boat and then later on it was sort of ironic, I'm getting his scrap woods building model boats, you know, the same guy. But he built 65 footers in his back yard now, Terry does.
Hayes: This is in his back yard?
Bailey: Yeah they built a 65 foot shell, just a huge sport fishing boat and they were building them for a $300,000 and then they come get 'em and put 'em on a flatbed trailer and take 'em up to Hatteras and somebody outfits 'em and they eventually sell for a million or more. In other words there are million dollar boats they're building but they build the wood, the hull is built there and they build them with 2 inch planks and they build 'em and Julian would have been doing the same thing and did it I'm sure and but I just never went down there to watch him build a sport fisherman, I wasn't interested in them. But he did the flat bottom boats in Wilson and they do 'em in two inch strips, flat that bow out and then they would glue 'em and nail 'em together and now they fiberglass 'em and stuff, they're strong as a rock.
Hayes: In other words the core of the boat is still wood, they put a complete fiberglass shell around it?
Bailey: Yeah, they always encase it in a resin based substance, whatever the latest-- whatever it is, I don't know.
Hayes: And of course that's solid, it's not as hard to have holes that compared to wood.
Bailey: Oh it's wonderful stuff, strong, those boats they build, they can do 60 knots, they can do 60 knots in ocean and when, you know, that's a stretch. See the thing about a boat builder and this will be pertinent to Julian or anybody else who builds boats, it develops a reputation. The reputation they build is not hey boy this guy knows how to fit a joint, but this guy knows how to dovetail this and somebody knows how to miter that, they all know how to do that. But when you're offshore in a boat, in a storm and you're hearing everything creak and squawk and wrench and you're looking at purple sky and the rain it stings you, you thinking it's like darts hitting you it's stings so bad and you're hiding your eyes from the stinging rain and there's lightening everywhere and you can't tell exactly where you are, you start thinking "Man I'm glad Julian built this boat" you know, Julian the man because I know that boat's gonna hold together and when you know that, then you can tend to some of the other emergencies that are going on. But when you're starting to think, you know, I know that guy and he kinda he cuts a corner here and leaves out a screw and a nail there and sometimes he might not have had just water to drink when he was doing it. So if you don't have confidence in that boat builder your life's in-- well a car's the same way but I mean you just.
Hayes: You want 'em to look good but you're talking about safety.
Bailey: Looking good is about the last factor, you know of course you want things to fit and all that but that's sort of a no brainer, that's kinda like "Duh" they're not gonna build one that doesn't fit, it's hard to find 'em like that.
Hayes: So the boat builder craft really involves subtle placement of the nails and extra things that they could do?
Bailey: You would feel like your boat builder in stressful situations, just the same as you feel about your heart surgeon, post op. You have a special place, it kinda sounds funny, in your heart but you have and I've had that experience and my dad had too and you have a special feeling for that guy, that surgeon, that team because they did something that's about as intimate as it gets and it's real important to you and so when you're out there in trouble on a boat, the integrity of the boat or the Boatwright, is a-- that's an important factor. And so when you're choosing boats, you're a dodo if you're looking for cosmetics at the expense of integrity. You'd like to find a good combination of both of course, that's what people end up doing. But sometimes they forget because so many people have chosen integrity that the guys that have integrity are building boats that look good and so the guy that goes to buy it just because of its looks still gets a boat that was built with integrity, well lucky guy that's good for him. But Julian was a guy that put a boat together and his crew so that it would-- and this guy that worked for him probably started out as a carpenter with him or whatever the entry levels are, a gopher maybe, sweeping the shavings up off the floor. This guy is building million dollar boats that are offshore running 60 knots all over Cape Hatteras and the rest of the world. And Julian. I'm sure some of Julian's boats are all over the world, literally.
Hayes: So they're still going, in other words stuff that he built 20 or 30 years ago?
Bailey: Yeah a lot of that doesn't rot, you know, the engines might not be the same engines.
Hayes: What about the woods, I mean what's the Spritsail, is that still-- what's the lifespan on something like that, no matter how well it's built, you still got the elements and so forth?
Bailey: It's like anything else, how much care you take with it, you know, there are a whole lot of boats that are a hundred-- over a hundred years old out there, you know, and they've been everywhere, but if they're maintained, you know don't have to rebuild it every year, you just need to maintain it and now my daddy wouldn't let a boat that we had stay in the water more than three days, she was up on the sand, you'd roll her up on the sand. Because my dad liked to race ours so the guys that raced 'em you didn't want a barnacle to form on the boat because if you had barnacles all over it, it was like sailing with sandpaper on the bottom it slows you down. And in salt water in this latitude a barnacle forms in 3 days, by the 4th day.
Hayes: A barnacle being just a little critter?
Bailey: A barnacle could be the size of a pinhead on a straight pin, you know, it'd be-- you could rub it off with your hand but after a week it depended on the time of the year you may have to haul that thing and scrape it. So on our boats we had no bottom paint, I mean we painted the whole boat flat white, but we didn't paint it red, we didn't have any copper paint, so called bottom paint on 'em because that's super heavy. So if you're sailing, racing, you know, unless everybody had that then you wouldn't give that away, that would be like having another person on board so it was weight that you didn't want. So you hauled 'em out every day or every time you used 'em. We'd put it out on Friday night or Saturday morning, we'd all her back in Sunday evening when we'd done sailing for the week, Daddy would.
Hayes: How much does one of those little things weigh though?
Bailey: They were about 4--nearly under 500 pounds I think and that's the reason I've had a couple of back surgeries too because I used to roll them up and down, sometimes alone because if I couldn't find anybody to go sailing with me, I wasn't gonna not go sailing, I was gonna go, it just means it would take me longer to get the boat overboard and I might wait until daddy got home to haul her back up because we had rollers, big logs, maybe 6 inch diameter, put 'em underneath the boat so anyway it was a laborious process.
Hayes: Who were Julian's partners after, you know, he was building the hull right and the inside and so forth, but you said he didn't do sails, so was there a partner that would do sails or who would do-- is that a separate contract?
Bailey: I don't think he did so many sailboats and so, you know, my dad built sails, I mean he built sails for other people and repaired sails for people stopping in here, you know, who were going south or going out to sea, yeah he would do sail repairs. But Julian didn't have any, as far as I know, I don't know that he ever built any other big sailboats but ours. I'm not sure he ever built any big sailboats.
Hayes: But the little ones, even the little ones that he would build.
Bailey: Well there were sail makers all around, back then they built them out of canvas and there was still people around my dad says.
Hayes: So you would go to Julian to get the boat and then would he work with somebody else or would you make that contact?
Bailey: To my knowledge all Julian did which was a plenty but what he did was he built the boat, he dealt with wood, he didn't deal with sails. He'd build a sprit, he'd build a mast and all that.
Hayes: The mast that's kind of an interesting challenge too, did you have to start from scratch with that or was that a place that you could get the mast already?
Bailey: Well there's two ways, the mast comes kind of basically, this is pre aluminum days, wood masks are either one piece or they're pieced together and a good shipwright, you know, can piece a mast, then it's maybe stronger than one piece. So depending on how they attach it and what configuration they fix 'em so they're interlocking, they're rounded on the outside but they interlock like a puzzle and so there's a lot of strength in that interlock. And on a Spritsail skiff we had some masts that were hard pine, they weighed 5 million pounds and I hated 'em and then we had Juniper masts and Juniper's a limber wood so sometimes they'd break and so my dad loved to test a boat. My dad loved to take a boat out when nobody in the world would go and challenge the boat to function, just put her through her paces and put the crew through their paces and I was the crew and sometimes I was dreading going because it was gonna be such hard work and we'd be out there racing ourselves, you know, and just challenging the boat and I'm thinking we're just waiting to watch a mast crack and sometimes something bad could happen, you know, you can get hurt if that happen. It never happened but we'd crack masts but nobody ever got hurt with that and so it was a rigorous but hard pine was used but it's too heavy really, it's so heavy.
Hayes: Now if you crack something, you go back to Julian and he's got a warranty, I mean what-- you got a custom made boat here.
Bailey: A warranty that's a good one. I wouldn't have the nerve to walk in there and say "Julian let's talk about your warranty." You might not get off the Harkers Island or be laughed off. No the boat wouldn't crack, the mast might crack and you just get another masts. Masts were available and I don't know exactly where all the places were, daddy would handle that but it was Julian could build 'em and probably had some on standby. Because they'd break, see the beauty of a Spritsail skiff is that there's hardly any tackle, on a Spritsail the only thing that you can't fix with a knife and a sail needle are the gudgeons, the pillion gudgeons or boat goes through the gudgeons to attach a rudder. They would be galvanized metal and so everything else if it broke on a Spritsail Skiff you could whittle it and you could whittle a new one. It would take a while to whittle a new mast but you've got the wood supply one.
Hayes: Where do you think those things originated, I mean maybe 200 years ago, I mean spritsail skiffs, it's a basic.
Bailey: The reason my daddy was in contact with Howard Chapelle was that my dad thought that he could prove that Spritsails were the oldest fore and aft sailing vessels on earth and Chapelle took issue with that as I recall. Now this I can't document this but eventually Daddy convinced Chapelle and Chapelle had the avenues to research things to right to the cat's meow and eventually agreed to the extent that he commissioned a model of a Spritsail skiff, Daddy built the sails for it to put it in the Smithsonian Institute. I went to see it at one time, it was there in a glass case and my dad built the sails and there was the boat it was about that long and unfortunately Julian didn't build that boat that model that was built by Elmo Wade another boat builder and I don't know why, I don't know if Julian had stopped, didn't have time or well I'm sure he was contacted about it but I would certainly think so. But anyway fore and aft rigs are sailing vessels that a type rig that put square rigs sailing out of business. Square riggers followed trade winds mostly, a square rig vessel was really good downwind but they were not very effective up wind. So fore and aft rigs, the evolution of it you had these boats they were all square riggers. Then the Baltimore Clippers and the Tossle Schooners came along where you had a spanker that was a fore and aft and you had jibs on the bow sprit that were fore and aft rigs, not square rigs, fore and aft and then you had spars that gave you both and eventually the square rig fell away completely to boats like blue nosed and some of those Baltimore or those Chesapeake Bay boats during post colonial times. But after the revolution and stuff, sometime in the late 1700s and early 1800s the fore and aft rig superseded the square rigs.
Hayes: And what's the Spritsail?
Bailey: And the Spritsail's a 4½ rig, very basic boat that daddy thought he saw some examples of it in the Egyptian art and some BC stuff, you know, I mean real old and.
Hayes: Well it's so basic and one person can sail it.
Bailey: I don't know the outcome as far as what they eventually determined.
Hayes: But on the outer banks it was one of the earliest boats here right?
Bailey: Yeah it's so simple. First off it doesn't have to be as high as a Marconi rig and a high aspect sailing rig, meaning a real tall mast gives you more heeling movement and so they were more stable. See what you find in work boats, those skip jack's a perfect example of it but a Spritsail is too on a smaller scale is that the power in the sails is low down, it's not up high because you don't want a boat loaded with cargo to be heeling so much that the cargo falls overboard. So you got these tremendously out of proportion long booms on skip jacks that go beyond the stern and go where the mast is well forward in 'em and actually the boom on a skip jack is the same length as the deck and so since the mast is not right in the stem over it overlaps the stern about the same amount as it is away from the stem. So anyways that's just part of the formula for skip jacks and so what that does is it makes a Marconi rig the motor equivalent or mechanical equivalent of a diesel engine. The Marconi, I didn't say it right. The Marconi rig would be the gasoline engine and the skip jack rig and the Spritsail rig would be the diesel versions, meaning the power is low down, it's got lots of power and drive but it's not as fast necessarily, especially in light air and so, you know, but you give away the heel and you get the power and that's just something, so that's the way I explain it now.
Hayes: We have about five minutes left and I just wanted to, we just wanna divert slightly into your new passion which is boat model building right and you were commissioned to do a Spritsail for UNCW's Randall Library which is wonderful and to be on display in honor of Julian and all of the boatwrights. But what happened, how did you get, I know we only have a few minutes, did you feel like your background sailing was extended by kind of capturing this, is that the?
Bailey: I don't remember wearing the sails, so I've been a sailor or my life and but I got into a situation physically that I was unable to sail any kind of a sailboat that I could afford, it took too much brute strength and agility and so I had to stop sailing a boat that I could handle would have to have so much mechanical advantage available that it would almost not even be sailing anymore and I couldn't afford it to start with so I sailed vicariously every day in my shop. I mean I hoist all my sails to halyards work. I can hoist them and lower 'em until I have to fix 'em when they go off to be delivered, I have to fix 'em so they don't fall apart later or people mess with them and end up gluing 'em down to the laying pins or the cleats and so all the sheets and the halyards work and so I sail vicariously every day.
Hayes: What kinds of boats are you making then, I mean you did the Spritsail for us and at Southport what was that model that you did for them?
Bailey: That was a sharpie, the sharpies are so-- there were more sharpies, more commercial boats built as sharpies than probably any other rig. The sharpies are diverse, they come in almost every rig imaginable, I mean multi masted, one mast, right mast, straight mast, straight stems and flat bottoms and, you know, and rounded sterns, square sterns, every variety and the secret is they're easy to build and that's one reason.
Hayes: And people are asking you for models of all [inaudible]?
Bailey: Well when I started doing this I thought I was gonna be building square riggers and things which I've done but because I didn't want to build a bigger house to accommodate the boats I was building, I decided to sell them, it was just was pragmatic really and so I found a market for 'em and the market has demanded skip jacks and Spritsails, I've sold more of those than any other and recently sharpies are gaining ground. So the museums have a lot of those boats displayed and wonderful model builders having done them and so there's such a, thankfully, an interest, a big interest in retaining historical skills and things of the past. Beaufort of course is a big hotbed for that and there's a lot of interest in the old style houses and boats and other things, clothing and all that. So people are contacting me-- the single biggest request I get are for shrimp boats, which I don't build and then after that it's local type and boats indigenous to this area. So that I've done way more of skip jacks than anything else but Spritsail would be next and the sharpies.
Hayes: Well I wanna thank you for the interview because not only have you given us some insight into Julian who was kind of one of the last of handmade builders of these common boats. But you're continuing the tradition I think that's great that you're able to-- you're not building the same size but that's really important from an historic standpoint that you're helping keeping alive Julian's vision of how important these boats were.
Bailey: He and my dad both would be flabbergasted, because it's hard for me measure and cut a square but I think I'm dyslexic as a carpenter but I finally learned how to do certain things that seemed to be acceptable but my dad and Julian would probably both be pretty startled to-- but it takes me the same amount of time to build a Spritsail model as it took Julian to build the real one. So I think that's kinda cool, it's interesting and I sell 'em for about the same amount, that's really interesting. They would both be flabbergasted that I'm getting the same amount of a 20 inch boat and of course I feel like I'm giving them away at that but--
Hayes: It takes a lot of time.
Bailey: I'd love to be able to present one to them and just watch the reaction because it's so, this inflation stuff, we're experiencing, you know, it would blow them away literally.
Hayes: Thank you so much.
Bailey: Thank you.