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East End Classic Boat Society restores, educates, inspires

Ron Ahlers works on the transom of a

Ron Ahlers works on the transom of a Hereshoff sloop at the East End Classic Boat Society in Amangansett. Credit: Hugh Brown

Daniel Hays, a 76-year-old retired journalist who spent most of his life “churning out news stories,” has found a new sense of accomplishment working with his hands.

Four years ago, Hays joined the East End Classic Boat Society at the Hartjen-Richardson Community Boat Shop in Amagansett, where he helps build and restore wooden boats.

Founded by local residents in 1999, the East End collective works to preserve and advance traditions of classic boat design, construction, maintenance and seamanship through demonstrations, education and the sharing of resources and ideas.

“There is a real feeling of satisfaction that comes with crafting wooden planks into a finely tuned boat that is carefully varnished and painted,” says Hays of East Hampton. “There is also the fun and the learning experience doing things like . . . sanding, planing and cutting.”


The Hartjen-Richardson Community Boat Shop — which was built in 2008 and is named for the society’s president Ray Hartjen and Randy Richardson, a longtime donor of the shop — has become a second home for many with its easygoing, relaxed atmosphere. Carpenters, contractors, doctors, lawyers and teachers are among the professionals who have found common ground by way of classic boats.

The society’s active members who regularly work on projects during shop hours — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays — are primarily retirees. There are approximately 150 members, and about 25 of them are involved at the shop with construction and restoration activities. Boat building experience is not required to join the group, which charges an annual membership fee of $35. The shop is located behind the East Hampton Town Marine Museum, sharing its address at 301 Bluff Rd. in Amagansett.

“Our activities have broadened dramatically since the shop was constructed,” says vice president Pierce Hance, 72, of Sag Harbor. “In addition to our annual construction of a small craft, we have several restoration projects underway that will preserve boats that are significant for the East End.”


Generally speaking, a “classic boat” can be of any material, length, age or propulsion, says Hance, who gained an interest in boating in his early teens. Since retiring from financial services, Hance says he is now able to fully indulge in this pastime.

“For our purposes, we build and restore small craft and boats, generally under 20 feet, that are or were made of wood that would normally carry up to four people,” he says.

The society currently has several small boats that are either for member use, undergoing restoration or that have been donated and are for sale to the public.

Among the vessels pending restoration work is Nine Lives, a 20-inch Georgica Pond catboat designed and built by George Frank Carter for sailing on the pond between East Hampton Village and Wainscott. Nine Lives was constructed for Charles W. Pierson in 1922 and is the only surviving boat of the four reportedly built, according to Hance.

The society is also restoring a Herreshoff 12 1⁄2-foot sloop used on the East End. The boat, which was built in 1921, is from a line of vessels designed by Nathanael Herreshoff, a 19th century naval architect known for innovative yacht designs.

The most fun restoration underway is of an outboard engine on a Dunphy barrel-deck runabout built in the 1950s, Hance says. Started in the early 19th century, the Dunphy Boat Co. created boats for the Great Lakes region. The iconic motorized runabout has decks that resemble barrel staves.

“The boat is fun to me because it is a classic wooden runabout, one of the last designs before fiberglass took over the boat type,” Hance says. “It’s a simple design and built with great styling.”

When society members are not busy restoring vessels, they participate in local marine events, exhibit classic boats, host open houses and sail two vintage boats that the organization maintains.

Seeking to grow its membership and to introduce the appeal of classic boats to a younger audience, the society recently launched a community outreach program involving area youth and is partnering with local historical groups to share activities. Hance and Hays are optimistic it will turn the tide on the demographic of the society’s devotees.


WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, Hartjen-Richardson Community Boat Shop, 301 Bluff Rd., Amagansett

INFO $35 annual membership; 631-324-2490,

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