Restoration of 8653 – Texan II

The boat is a 1951 Mills. My dad bought it new from Clark Mills in Clearwater and had its MDS filed w/ SCIRA in February of 1951. He sailed it extensively and did quite well while sailing out of Wichita, KS. He sailed primarily w/ Frank Johnson in those days as they both worked at Beechcraft. In the late 50’s my dad built Texan III, 9753, which became the first fiberglass Snipe. 8653 went to Brad McFadden, and Charlie Harris. Sometime in the early 70’s my dad bought it back and it sat in our basement for a couple years. We then restored it and sailed it actively between 1974-1978. The boat then went into storage until 1990. In 1990, I bought it from my dad and sent it to Mike McLaughlin for a second restoration. At Mike’s shop a welder ignited a fire and it caused extensive damage to the boat. You can see the charred hull in some of the pictures. My dad bought the boat back from the insurance company and it was kept upside down at his house until 2008. i.e., ~18 years of dormancy. I commissioned Joe to restore Texan II and he picked up the boat at the Halloween regatta in 2009. It took the better part of a year and a half to restore it and get it back to Jacksonville in the Spring of 2011. I took it for the first sail with Emily and we had a blast.

The boat is a 1951 Mills. My dad bought it new from Clark Mills in Clearwater and had its MDS filed w/ SCIRA in February of 1951. He sailed it extensively and did quite well while sailing out of Wichita, KS. He sailed primarily w/ Frank Johnson in those days as they both worked at Beechcraft. In the late 50’s my dad built Texan III, 9753, which became the first fiberglass Snipe. 8653 went to Brad McFadden, and Charlie Harris. Sometime in the early 70’s my dad bought it back and it sat in our basement for a couple years. We then restored it and sailed it actively between 1974-1978. The boat then went into storage until 1990. In 1990, I bought it from my dad and sent it to Mike McLaughlin for a second restoration. At Mike’s shop a welder ignited a fire and it caused extensive damage to the boat. You can see the charred hull in some of the pictures. My dad bought the boat back from the insurance company and it was kept upside down at his house until 2008. i.e., ~18 years of dormancy. I commissioned Joe to restore Texan II and he picked up the boat at the Halloween regatta in 2009. It took the better part of a year and a half to restore it and get it back to Jacksonville in the Spring of 2011. I took it for the first sail with Emily and we had a blast.

I’ve sailed it in a couple of regattas and now have a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship of wooden builders. It’s great to sail and remember sailing it when I was young and to be able to pass that onto Emily.

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It’s important to keep foremost, though, that it was a championship boat not a piece of furniture. Two different people that sailed it in its heyday were winners at every level except for the Nationals in which it had at least three top ten finishes that I remember. Sailed by former Snipe Commodore Brad McFadden, it and my boat The Walter Mitty dominated the Atlanta Yacht Club thirty boat fleet long after the introduction of fiberglass boats.

As beautiful as the natural deck is, your father preferred jonquil yellow. It was his favorite color. My boat, which twice won the Chattanooga Southerns that you so dominated, was also white hulled with a natural deck.

Like almost every person who ever spent five nights in the Lone Star State, your father had an inordinate affection for Texas. Pride in statehood has pretty much gone by the board, but it was very much alive in the Forties and Fifties. I used to sing a song: that went: “I don’t give a damn ’bout the whole state of Alabam, The whole state of Alabam, (repeat), I’m from Tennessee.” Remember, during the Civil war, military units were not referred to principally by numbers as they are now. We would say, ” The One-Hundred-and-First Airborne”, They would say, “The First Alabama Cavalry, or the The First Georgia Grenadiers”. Maybe the changes reflect our diminution of state and individual liberties.

The Sand Mountain episode was  part of the struggles your grandfather was going through as an itinerant trying to make a living in The Great Depression.

By the way, he referred to Texan l, his first boat, as “550 pounds of floating dry rot”. Been there. Mine was named “FUBAR”.

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My dad bought the boat in 1951 from Clark Mills in Clearwater, Fl.  Clark is a well known sailboat designer, who also designed the Optimist and the Windmill.

He brought it back home to Chattanooga, Tn and fitted it out w/ mostly second hand gear.  He had bought just the hull, so he put a deck on it and a mast he bought second hand.  At the time he was an impoverished college student.  Under the tutelage of Owen Duffy, my dad put Texan II into racing shape.  Owen was a master wood worker and a paternal figure for my dad.  The boat was made from juniper plank.

According to Frances Seavy, Clark Mills built them from juniper due to its strength to weight ratio.

My dad raced the boat successfully when he lived in Wichita, KS in the early 50’s.  He had been able to convince Ted Wells, a VP at Beech Aircraft and also two time Snipe World Champion, of his abilities to contribute to Beech.  Ted hired him at the Midwinters in Clearwater and my dad moved to Wichita upon graduation in ’52.  Texan II went along w/ him.  His college fraternity brother, Frank Johnson, followed a year later, and became a technical engineer at Beech.  Frank also crewed for my dad. Their agreement was that Frank had to beat Art Lippit, Ted Wells’ crew, and my dad had to beat Ted.  In 1953, Texan II was able to beat Wells’ Good News, in six out of seven regattas.  At the Nationals my dad and Frank had the regatta won until Ted passed them at the finish, which enabled Tom Frost to claim the national championship.  Only through Frank’s counseling did he save Texan II from being sailed onto the rocks by my dad.  Needless to say he let his competitiveness get the better of him.  Texan II went on to finish fourth the next year at the Nationals in Mentor, OH and in the top of the fleet in ’55 in Atlanta.  The following year in Wichita, on Sante Fe Lake, hopes for a title were dashed by a broken mast.

In 1956 my dad sold Texan II to Charlie Harris out of Atlanta.  Charlie sailed the boat there and also at Sea Cliff in New York when he moved to Manhattan.  Texan II returned to the top of the fleet when Brad McFadden of Atlanta bought the boat in 1963. He campaigned it across the South and won numerous regattas. Texan II was a fast boat and Brad was an accomplished sailor. That was a tough combination to beat.  My dad bought Texan II back from Brad in 1970.

The boat sat in our basement for several years until in 1974 we restored it.  My dad and I put a new deck, new rigging and mast on the Texan II.  It brought Texan II into the current generation.  He and I sailed together in several regattas from the Nationals to regional events.  We finished 23rd out of over a 100 boats at the Nationals in Jacksonville in 1974.  For an 11 year old that was fantastic.  For my dad it was humbling.  We continued to sail regattas and the boat performed very well including winning several regattas.  In 1976, we lost a tie breaker for the Halloween regatta in a fleet of near 100 boats.  By that point my disappointment was at the same level as my dad as he had instilled a will to win in Texan II and me.

From ’77-90 my dad sailed the boat very little as he was occupied w/ work and I was away either at school or in the Navy.  I returned to the US in 1990, from Spain, and purchased Texan II from my dad.  I had intentions of restoring it then and took it to Mike McLaughlin’s shop in Chattanooga.  That’s where a welder’s slag got into some flammables and ignited the warehouse.  Texan II came through in rough shape as depicted by the pictures.  The mast and boom melted in half.  My dad bought the boat back from the insurance company to save it from the junk yard.  The boat sat under my dad’s shop from 1990 until 2008.  In early 2008 I inherited Texan II. The following year I commissioned Joe to restore the boat. As you can see, it’s returned to its original beauty.

I am hoping to race it at the same level as my dad and Brad sailed in Texan II.  It’s a lifetime asset and not just a boat.

I appreciate Frank Johnson, Frances Seavy, Woody Norwood and Jerelyn Biehl for contributing information on Texan II and its rich history.

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5 thoughts on “Restoration of 8653 – Texan II

  1. Wow. This is just wonderfull. The whole spirit of the class lies on this ! Congratulations to my good friend Hal and his family

  2. What a fantastic tribute to this Snipe and the people she had contact with during this lifetime…..they were kind enough to bring her back to her former beauty and she can still hang with the best of them on the racecourse…….

  3. I see #8653 with Harold Gilreath at the helm edging out Dr. Blumberg for the win at Allatoona Lake, GA on the front cover of Snipe Bulletin August 1955 Vol. 5 No. 3.

    Best,
    Paul #6024

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