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Joe Reid's Wooden Adventure
Story by Joe Evans
In the history of boat ownership, temporary insanity seems to follow great storms like insurance adjusters. So it was with Joe Reid's dad, Les, following Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The elder Reid had followed a career as an insurance adjuster from Louisville across the American heartland and east to Bethesda, just near enough to the Chesapeake to catch the sea- faring bug. All the family needed was a boat. (Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you.) Agnes left many broken boats along the waterfront including a 38-foot, wooden sloop that lay stranded for the asking. Reid bought it and set his son to work bringing her back to life. They hauled her over to Clarence Stanford's Marine Railway in Colonial Beach, VA and blocked her up for the long restoration. Joe came to the project with an abundance of enthusiasm offset by the lack of skills that one would expect from a novice. Under Captain Stanford's guiding hand he rebuilt the boat as a schooner with new planking, caulking, engine, rudder, interior -- everything. For spars he shaped and finished a couple of pine telephone poles. In the process, he found a love for the work. They moved the schooner and family to the South River, and Joe landed a carpenter's job at the Hartge Yard in Galesville.
In the mid-1970s, Hartge's was the final refuge for some of the Trumpy Yacht artisans that remained from the heydays of yacht building in Annapolis. From them Joe picked up the standards and tricks of fine joinery and boatbuilding. Were it not for a girl, Joe might have stayed. But he caught the love breeze (raise your hand) and followed her to Florida where he started his own business, doing everything from wood and fiberglass to engine and electrical work in the boatyards around St. Pete. He soon became the prime contractor doing interior joinery for the Voyager Boat Company, which produced a run of double-ended cruising sailboats.
By the early 1980s, he had lost track of the girl. So he fled the tropical heat for home with the notion of growing a business around his skills with wood. Back in Galesville, he rented the old Benning's Oyster shucking building and hung out the Mast & Mallet sign. His first restoration project was a 22-foot Carvel planked Chris Craft that had launched itself from a "vintage" trailer on the Baltimore beltway. (Go ahead, raise your hand.) Other projects followed with about a third being sailboats and the rest prop-driven.
Things went along well enough with various repair and restoration projects until the mid-1980s when Joe decided he needed to build his own boat. (I'm raising my hand.) He built a 22-foot skiff based on the Smith Island crab-scrape boats and sold five of them right off the bat. With this success he felt that Mast & Mallet needed a "signature" boat, and 30 feet seemed about right for the Bay and his shop. At the 1986 Annapolis Power Boat Show he bumped into Annapolis-based yacht designer, Mike Kaufman, and the conversation got rolling.
The resulting lines were for a wood/epoxy "brunch-boat" that blended the best ingredients of the classic Chesapeake work boat with Maine's down east lobster boats seasoned with discreet elements of the Outer Banks sport fisher for style. Translated by Kaufman this means, "More dead rise for- ward than a typical Chesapeake Bay boat but with the true Chesapeake flair to give a soft and dry entry into the steep Bay chop. And, [the boat would have] a higher sheer than the lobster boats to contain spray. The Chesapeake hard chine breaks away the spray at speed, smoothes out the ride, and encourages planing. A Carolina-style beam that is wider than the Chesapeake Bay- boat adds form stability for less roll and more comfort on the hook. We drew in a little tumblehome aft, like the classic Outer Banks boats to make her more pretty."
Late in 1987, Mast & Mallet delivered hull #1, Mi Mafita, the pet name for the owner's daughter. When "the Muffin" hit the water, new potential owners came looking, but wanting a bit more boat. Kaufman and Reid stretched the boat to 34 feet and soon delivered five of them in varied configurations including sedan, soft topped, twin-engined and extended cabin versions. Sure enough more owners inquired about even more boat. So 36- and 38-foot redesigns based on the original concept came next.
In 1999, Joe moved to a modern building at Holiday Point Marina on Selby Bay just west of the Thomas Point lighthouse.
In 2000, prominent advertising consultant, George Sass, Sr. came looking for a boat to carry him on a great loop north along the Atlantic Coast, up the Hudson River, across the Great Lakes, down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, then around Florida to the Bahamas, and home to the Chesapeake. Sass came up with the tag "Thomas Point," which stuck as the ideal brand name for the Kaufman/ Reid boats, and the developing legend was definitively matched to a place and purpose. Mast & Mallet created the first 43-footer to Sass's ambitious specifications, and he motored away on his trouble free, eight-thou- sand mile adventure.
According to the unabashed testimonials offered by Thomas Point owners, the key to Mast & Mallet's success comes in Joe's easy-going flexibility, the creative capability of his staff and facility, and the fact that wood makes anything possible. Fiberglass production boats are fixed in form and restricted in layout. Modifications are difficult, expensive, or impossible. Reid cold molds his boats using double planks of clear western red cedar that are epoxy glued in offset longitudinal layers amounting to a solid inch of hull material. The planks are faired, epoxy sealed, and finished with a layer of 10-ounce cloth for toughness. Everything else is up for discussion except for the wet surfaces, which Kaufman and Reid feel are just too correct to change.
Bill Sutton, a noted architect and sailor, came to Mast & Mallet for a 36-foot cruiser to entertain family and friends. He recalls the process as "the most fun thing I've done as a grownup. Nothing is more entertaining for an architect and designer than to show up with a sketch book and a tape measure to create, dream, and make it up as you go along. Joe is a true artisan, easy to work with. He takes enormous pride in what he's doing, and you have to respect that. It's just great to share his vision and be a part of the process."
Bob Pelrine brought his sentiment for down-east style boats from his childhood on Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes. The Thomas Point boats caught his eye, even as he shopped for a Maine- built boat. Joe had done some impressive work on Pelrine's classic 1942 Chris Craft. Meanwhile, the lobster boat builders were forecasting a two-year wait. The discussion with Reid turned to stretching out the 34- footer. Soon, a newly designed 38-footer
was under construction at Mast & Mallet. "Everyone has a collaborative spirit at Mast & Mallet, which results in a boat that works. It's a lobster boat forward and a Bay-boat aft, so it looks great and rides well", said Pelrine. Six seasons on, through extended trips to Maine, Martha's Vineyard, and countless Chesapeake jaunts, he has experienced "no problems, no complaints."
Bob Dugger wanted a Chesapeake Bay work boat to cruise the Potomac out of his home in Alexandria. His wife wanted a down-easter. The Thomas Point was the ideal compromise. "It was like building a custom marine home. Joe was just great with advising us on what was possible and advisable. Joan and I just knew we were in good hands." Impromptu, a 43-foot Thomas Point, left Selby Bay in a hard nor 'easter for a comfortable maiden voyage to Virginia just last month.
The Thomas Point trend toward larger boats has made a modest reversal toward a new 40-foot design with two now under construction at Mast & Mallet. The message is that the perfect size is the customer's to decide along with specifics of layout, power, and accoutrements. Good wood, years of experience, and the easy-going style of Joe Reid and his crew make the dream possible. Just raise your hand if you want one.