Captain Yosarian: A Biography

Captain Yo learned seamanship aboard Bullseyes, Whalers and Hinckleys, but when a schooner or a sloop came through the Great Harbor of Mount Desert, he knew that was the real thing. As a child Captain Yo was enthralled by the fleet of model boats made by Mr. Davis in a tiny pond (now paved..) up behind Southwest Harbor's town hall, from a sardine can with a cardboard sail, lobsterboats and sloops all the way to a thirteen mast schooner six feet long. After that, no piece ofCaptain Yosarian overlooking the ocean
Photo by Bill Cox
wood was safe from Captain Yo's pocketknife as he fashioned small replicas of vessels he saw every day, and floated them in any body of water more than a few inches deep. At Camp Beech Cliff unfortunately he lost a model sailing competition to Capt. Bill Tinkum, whose simple square rigged board ran directly downwind to finish, while Captain Yo's 2 x 4 gaff rigged sloop reached bravely out across Echo Lake. As a teen he took instruction from master bird carver Wendell Gilley in woodworking, tool sharpening and lead casting, skills as applicable to boats as birds. At the university, under the somewhat grudging tutelage of Donald Warnock, master luthier, Captain Yo lofted and planked up the model barquentine Hazel MacHardy. The vessel turned out not to be a great sailer, but successful in demonstrating the requirements of a seaworthy model, and introducing workshop tools and techniques. As an adult, Captain Yo helped build Captain Doug Lee's great windship Heritage at North End Shipyard in Rockland. It was to North End that Captain Yo brought the Maine built Pinky schooner Annie McGee for repair, and subsequently he received further kind support from Ralph and Richard Stanley of Southwest Harbor as well as from many helpful volunteers, restoring and maintaining the 50 year old sailing vessel. Captain Yo operated Annie McGee professionally for twenty two years, sharing the schooner sailing experience with delighted passengers along the coast of Maine.

The Annie McGee on the Ocean
Annie McGee on Penobscot Bay, 1988
click for photo gallery

Availability of tools became a serious issue as hardware stores stopped catering to woodworkers long ago. Captain Yo began to make his own special tools, called Palimpsest for they are reworked antiques picked from Skip Brack's Tool Barn, and boxes of rusty junk in a hundred shops and flea markets. With blades by Tom Lie-Nielsen of Warren he crafted unique miniature planes for modeling, and chisels with blades forged by Muhtsyr Yee, samuri sword maker, including the world's first gouge-slick for carving softwood logs. Today Captain Yo builds seaworthy miniature watercraft based on traditional designs, modified for scale, and intended for water play by kids of all ages. Hand carved in local cedar or pine, the one piece unsinkable models are suitable for bath or beach, giving young sailors their first fun lessons in seamanship. The fleet comprises skiff, dory, cat, sloop, runabout, lobsterboat, tugboat, trawler, schooner, ferry, Chinese junks, German U-Boots, and recently a WWII convoy escort vessel, a 19th century barquentine, and a miniature model of Gigantic, the Titanic sister ship that never was. The fully rigged models, including sloop, schooner and square rig, may be sailed upon the sea, providing avid scale mariners an exciting yet affordable view of the glory days of working sail. At his Tremont shop, Captain Yo is always ready to demonstrate miniature boatbuilding, and invites youthful woodenboat nuts of all ages to apprentice in the nautical arts.