• close family • small boat • big world •


Nora at anchor in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua in 1999.

Nora: S&S Design 1574
Our first boat was Nora, a 41' 1960 Sparkman & Stephens-designed wooden yawl.  Nora is a fantastic boat. (She is still sailing). She is light but very strong, she is fast, and she is seakindly. Oh, and she's quite beautiful.

Nora anchored off Culebrita
We went cruising in Nora pre-kids in 1998 and 1999. The joke at that time was that the name NORA stood for "No Other Reasonable Alternative." It was a joke because many of our friends and relatives thought there were many reasonable alternatives other than selling our house and going sailing on an old wooden boat. (They were wrong.)

Paula sewing awning in Nora

Nora is a not a modern boat. She has a full keel with attached rudder (modified full keel, actually, with cut-away forefoot). Compared to today's 40 footers, she doesn't have much space. She has a traditional layout of a split V-berth and head forward; centerline table, settees, and pilot berths amidships; and nav station, companionway and galley aft. She also has a tiller rather than a wheel. She did carry radar, but she had no refrigeration, no SSB, no hot water, no pressure water, no shower, no chartplotter, and no roller furling. We didn't miss that stuff.

Greg on helm in Antigua Classics 1999.
Tactician Brian of Dragonfly aft.

Nora was a sweet sailing boat. Somebody that we raced against told me that she sailed like a witch. She was faster than people thought she should be, and she was weatherly. Our racing boat friends were very surprised at how fast she was even in light airs. She carried us safely over 1000s of miles. She got us on the cover of several sailing magazines. She easily took us the 980 nm from Antigua to Bermuda in mostly light to moderate winds in 6-1/2 days even with heaving to for 6 hours because of a 65 knot squall. We also raced in the 1999 Antigua Classic Regatta. We took fifth overall, but it was gratifying to be called "one of the most dangerous 40 footers" by Inverness, another S&S boat.

Son Cash, conceived on the
boat, revisits in 2000.

We eventually sold Nora as back-to-land stuff like infant kids and infant businesses sucked down our time and money. And she would have  been tight cruising with four people. But boy she was a great boat for us two. 

Nora is strip-planked. This means that instead of the traditional planking fastened to frames and caulked with oakum, her planks are edge-nailed and glued to the adjoining planks. This produces a very strong light hull. Eventually, designers and builders realized that this method produced so much strength in the planks themselves that they could reduce the size and/or increase the spacing of the frames. However, Nora was built pretty early as strip-planked boats go, and the builder, William Healy used the same frame size and spacing that he would have with a traditionally-planked hull, making Nora's hull extremely strong yet still very light. In fact, according to the S&S site, she's the first strip-planked S&S sailboat they are aware of.

William Healy had just left the Direktor boatyard to strike out on his own in Miami when he built Nora.  He built her well:
Nora outboard profile drawing
"Dense dark red Philippine mahogany concave and convex edged stripped planking, edge fastened and Resorcinol glued over laminated oak frames on 10" centers.  Everdur bronze screw fastened.  Hull heavily bronze strapped in the area of the chainplates with custom bronze floor timbers, and bronze maststep and webbing extending outward into the hull.  Bronze protection plates let in along the centerline from stem to stern including the rudder. There is no exposed wood edge underwater.  Green heart backbone. 1-7/8" bronze rudder post.

Direktor focused on big boats at the time, so we think the extra large dorade cowls were a result of Healey's connections to the big boat world.  They are definitely the largest I've seen on a boat that size, and they kept the below decks very cool. And those bronze bands around the mainmast were reinforcement for the spinnaker pole track. (The spars were Sitka Spruce).

Easy-going on the ICW. By the way, Grape-Nuts, shown here,
is a great boat cereal because it's so dense. Just wish I could
I could get my kids to eat it.

Every above-deck fitting on Nora was bronze. This includes winches, turnbuckles, stanchion posts, and mast and  boom hardware. It isn't used much today because it's expensive and heavier than stainless steel, but it is great stuff.  Unlike "stainless" steel, it corrodes to a lovely green blue and then stops corroding. (I don't know why anyone would polish bronze). Also unlike stainless, it is ductile, so it tends to give notice before failing rather than failing suddenly.

Anyway, that's Nora.

Long may she sail.

Tortola to St. Barts passage, 1999.

These are not the clothes of people who cruise on small sailboats, at least not in those
days. They are Patagonia clothes for (hopeful) catalog pictures. We did get to keep
them though.(Greg is not deformed. That's a coiled piece of line in his pocket).

Patagonia Catalog.  And I thought all those Patagonia
catalog people were just models pretending to do stuff.

This is an Australian magazine. Market research no doubt determined that
it would be far better to leave Greg out of the picture. Oh the irony.

Nora "bedded down" for hurricane Georges, 1998, Luperon, Dominican Republic -
tied into the mangroves, keel stuck into the mud, three anchors set off the stern,
sails off, and everything else above deck off that would come off.