Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Vessel Owner: Dwight Poler
Captain and Crew: Dwight Poler
Vessel Designer: Geerd Hendel (original)
Vessel Model: Boothbay Harbor One Design
Builder: Harry Farmer, Coastal Plastics/Seaway Boats
Vessel Type: Sloop
Year Built: 1973
Construction: Fiberglass hull/aluminum mast
Polar Express, originally named Foxy Lady, was built by Harry Farmer at Coastal Plastics, later known as Seaway Boats, for owners Faye and Newell Wilson who were then owners of the Topside Inn. She was the first of the "new" generation of fiberglass One Designs after the original six fiberglass hulls were built and the first built with mahogany rather than teak. Originally, she was light blue and had Fortune sails by Jan Pedersen. Foxy Lady was regularly raced in Ladies Racing as Faye Wilson was one of the originators of that program. Immediately before Polar Express was christened in midnight blue and now set with North sails, she was named Blauer Engel and raced very successfully by Tom Norsworthy.
Quoting from a Small Boats Magazine article written by Maynard Bray: "Shortly after the J-boat RAINBOW successfully defended the AMERICA’s Cup in 1934, her designer, W. Starling Burgess, moved to mid-coast Maine and hired Geerd Hendel as his chief draftsman. Their primary work, funded by Alcoa and loosely overseen by Bath Iron Works, involved designing high-speed military craft made of aluminum. For recreation, both men focused on the emerging fleet of Boothbay Harbor daysailers, with which Hendel was already deeply involved. Starting with lightly built, plumb-ended centerboarders much like those that raced on lakes back in his native Germany, Hendel was in the process of converting four of them to keel boats when Burgess arrived. (As centerboarders, they had proven not to be up to salt water’s more boisterous conditions.) Hendel’s experimentation led to SANDERLING, built by Norman Hodgdon for the summer of 1936. She was the Boothbay Harbor One-Design precursor—and the first sizable boat Norman Hodgdon built.
The mid-1930s were the bleak Depression years when small boats rather than big ones were receiving attention—quality attention—from Boothbay region designers, builders, and sailors. Boats with long waterlines and short overhangs began dominating the Boothbay racing fleet in those days, and top-echelon designers took notice. A long waterline means a faster boat; boats of these proportions came not only from Hendel and Burgess, but also from Charles Hodgdon of East Boothbay’s Hodgdon Bros. Yard, and from L. Francis Herreshoff.
Hendel introduced a boat called LOON late in the 1937 season, and was then asked to work with the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club, and particularly with its selection committee, in refining LOON’s plans to become a one-design class that would be cheap to build and fast to sail, and whose plans would be available to any builder—as these sailors intended to shop for the best price. The parameters echoed the fleet average of 21′ overall, about 19′ on the waterline, and carrying 200 sq ft of sail. After testing and massaging LOON, they agreed on what became known as the Boothbay Harbor One-Design (BHOD). It was an immediate hit, growing to 15 boats by its second season, 20 by the start of World War II, and 37 boats when wooden construction ended in 1966. (The final count came to 53, including the two subsequent batches of fiberglass boats.)
Geerd Hendel’s wooden BHODs were built upside down, then turned over and set atop their outside-ballasted fin keels—an efficient way to build any wooden boat whose design allows it. The BHODs’ flat transoms, as well, were an economy measure. The initial cost of these boats was in the neighborhood of $850.
BHODs were originally plank on frame construction with wooden masts (example racing this weekend Charisma, then fiberglass with aluminum masts (example Poler Express), then cold molded wood (example C Fever).
For a wonderful article on the history of all the Boothbay 20 footers, see this reprint of BHODs class newsletter Waterline reproduced by Off Center Harbor - https://www.offcenterharbor.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Waterline-Summer-2006_edit-4.18.20.pdf