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Nellie H.

Long Island Oyster Sloop


1903 Long Island Sound Oyster Sloop:


Built: 1903 Hart Shipbuilding Yard

Length over all: 62' 6"

Length on deck: 38' 8"

Length on waterline: 34'

Beam: 13' 8"

Draft, current: 4' with false keel

Draft, original: 3' 8" centerboard up, 6' 6" board down

Rig height: 55'  approx.

Tonnage: 10 ton gross (8 ton net)

Rig, current: Gaff Yawl

Rig, original: Gaff Sloop


Good news!  She has been SAVED and will undergo a full restoration at a yard yet to be chosen some where in New England!!  Her new owner will restore her hand in hand with a shipwright and then Nellie H. will be leaving her home waters to become and ambassador to the UK.  Her new home waters will be the Thames Estuary England!  Her shallow draft and uniqueness will certainly suite those waters.  We will be keeping a restoration log, of course, and more than likely write some articles for different publications---keep an eye out!




What follows bellow is old text, please remember she is no longer available:




 Nellie H.  is very original and represents an important era in New England's fisheries and pleasure yachting.  Nellie H. is (as far as we can tell) the only surviving Long Island Oyster Sloop that was never converted to engine. 


Nellie H. was to be WBRF's Restoration Project, however the money needed to move her has been too difficult for us to gather.  She is listed here for two reasons:


One, in hopes someone will feel strongly enough about her to donate the costs of moving her from MD to WBRF in CT, and perhaps sponsor her full restoration as the WBRF class project. The approximate cost for transport is $7250.00.  If she can be moved here then she will become our class project.  The approximate cost for a total restoration is $100,000 - $190,000.


Two to allow someone else to take her on for a full restoration either on their own or through WBRF.  This boat is beyond fantastic and deserves to be back in the water.



Nellie. H. was built in 1901-1903 by Erastus Hart of Northport Long Island.  She was built for his brother-in-law as a working  Oyster Sloop.  She was christened Nellie H. after the owner's daughter.  Her original rig was as a gaff sloop.   During her time she dredged for Oysters on Long Island Sound and transported them to be sold  in New York City.  She would then return with cargo loads of timber and merchandise to sell at various ports on her trip back up the Long Island Sound. 

The Oyster Sloop Boats of the turn of the century we mostly built on Long Island.  These sloops followed a basic of very shallow draft (to fish above the beds in shallow water), very wide beam (to hold larger loads of Oysters), and a long counter stern ()to allow room for work surface and dredging to stern. Sandbaggers, and catboats were also used as Oyster Tongers or Dredgers at the time. Two major types of Oyster Sloop Boats were know to fish the Long Island Sound oyster beds, one from the south shore of Long Island and the other from the north shore.    Those of the south were mostly built in and around the Great South Bay.  South shore boats tended to be more lightly built and of lower freeboard than their north shore counterparts.  North shore boats had a tougher build, more freeboard and greater draft, i.e. a bit more sea going and capable of carrying more sail in higher winds.  The north shore boats we therefore often faster on the Long Island Sound in most conditions outside of the light breezes of summer time.

Oyster Sloop in Cos Cob

1902 Greenwich,  CT


  In 1905-1910, the sharp decline in the Oyster fisheries and a sharp demand for oysters instigation a de-regulation of the Oyster sailing fleet.  The result: engine equipped boats were allowed to fish the Long Island sound and surrounding Oyster Beds.  The vast majority of Oyster Sloops were forced either to be converted to engine power, or replaced with newer designs.  A few lucky ones were bought by yachtsmen and converted to racing and cruising boats of leisure. Nellie H., due to her speed and better construction was one of these.  Her lines are more refined than most other Oyster Sloops.  She is slightly less beamy and has more hollow forward.  Her hull has elements of the Great South Bay Cat Boats and many aspects of the Sandbagger racers common to yachtsman of the period.  As with most work boats bound to markets, she was built not only to work well and comfortable on the oyster beds, but also to be fast to market.  The first boats to market get the best price for the catch.  Nellie. H. was purchased in 1907 and converted to a yacht, in addition by 1918 was converted to a yawl rig.  She still retained a very large sail area, but as a yawl she was easier to handle shorthanded.  Her cabin was enlarged and below decks she was modified for leisure:   8 bunks, a galley with stove, table, head and small gasoline engine.  Most impressive was the addition of a very large cockpit similar to the larger Crosby Catboat of that era. Nellie H. has remained in the same family (many photos still exist and one oil on canvas painting) to date.  She was sailed on the Long Island Sound area up until 1982 when she was hauled for a total restoration.  Her restoration came to a halt due to personal issues.  Today she is well covered and on the hard in Maryland.  Her tender from the 1930s still exists (shown in the 1938 hurricane picture) and a beautiful reproduction of this tender was built by her current owner in the 1990s.





She is constructed of cedar planks on oak sawn frames with iron boat nails and later refastening with bronze boat nails.  Her deck was replaced in 1907 with  Douglas fir laid sprung. In the 30s her centerboard case was removed and a small false keel was installed.  Due to this, the centerboard slot was filled with pitch resulting in keel rot over the years.  She needs a new keel, centerboard, and centerboard case.  Walt Ansel of Mystic Seaport has replaced the centerboard case of their Oyster Sloop Nellie; he has the design on paper and is willing to consult with us at WBRF or with a different owner on its construction.


 Nellie H. shape is very good due to her large sawn frames, careful upkeep, and good materials.  Her frames need some replacement amidships towards the keel.  Approximately 1/3 of her frames will need replacing.  Her planking has been renewed over the years and is in good shape for her age.  An estimated 1/4 of her planking will need to be replaced.  She will need a new deck and 1/6 new deck beams.  Her transom and beautiful counter stern need work and rebuilding.  Much of her cabin was rebuilt by the current owner in the 90s and was done very well.  Her spars are all in very good shape and need no work, although her bowsprit was shortened slightly in the 40s; which may mean a new bowsprit is in order.  She has no sails.   An auxiliary engine was installed in the 20's - 30's and is now no longer salvageable.  She will need a new diesel and shaft.  Her interior is all intact either still in the boat or dismantled and stored.  Even her old Shipmate wood/coal stove survives (in need of restoration), as well as her 1910s head, fixtures, sink, etc.


Estimated Restoration cost:

Estimated has been gathered from two qualified institutions/shipwrights.  Each independently quoted a minimum of $150,000.  One estimate was from The Apprenticeshop in Maine and the other from a top shipwright on Deer Isle Maine. 

If she became the WBRF class project restoration costs not including storage and all extra equipment such as engine, tanks, sails, electrics, etc. could result in a $70,000 - $140,000 total restoration costs (with keeping as much of the original boat as possible and to a workboat finish) over a 3-5 year period.


Picture Gallery:

Click here for ALL the pictures---It may  take a long time to down load for non-broadband, sorry.



Long Island Maritime Museum is restoring the Oyster Sloop Modesty.

Mystic Seaport restored their Oyster Sloop, Nellie.

The Water Front Center has a great website on their restoration of Christeen.

Oysters Dutchman and the Bay.  Link


Suggested Reading:

Oystering from New York to Boston, by John Kochiss ---

Golden Light, by James B. Kirk

The Restoration of the Emma C. Berry, by Willits D.  Ansel ---

Working Thin Waters, by Stephan Jones

Sailing Alone around the World, by Joshua Slocum

American Sailing Craft, by Howard Chapelle

Mystic Seaport Water Craft, by Maynard Bray


Update: 1/25/08

Nellie H. was adopted by a fellow from the UK who saw here in the Classic Boat Magazine article on WBRF.  He has moved her from Maryland to Deer Isle Maine to be restored 100% by Peter Buxton in Burnt Cove Deer Isle Maine.  Read more...Photos and Restoration Log




1938 Hurricane



Old Sketch of Working Oyster Sloop Boat

Oyster Sloop Boat Petrel in 1896


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