Saturday, July 14, 2018

S.S. Crocker

Samuel Sturgis Crocker

March 29, 1890 – November 24, 1964


Samuel Sturgis Crocker was born in Newton, Massachusetts, Match 29, 1890.  He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a student in naval architecture.  For the next four years he worked as a draftsman with George Owen, a naval architect of Newton.  In 1916, Sam opened his own business in a small rented yard in Marion, Massachusetts, where he engaged in boat repairing, building and designing.   During th First World War, he was with Lawley’s Yard, Neponset, Massachusetts in charge of a construction crew responsible for completing the planking of nine 110-foot submarine chasers on a U. S. government contract.  In 1919, he was associated with Murray & Tregurtha, Quincy, in the building of F-5-L flying boats, and for the next five years, he was a designer and draftsman with John G. Alden in Boston.  In 1924, he established his practice as S. S. Crocker, Naval Architect in Boston, which was maintained there until 1956, when he moved the enterprise to the yard of his son, S. Sturgis Crocker, in Manchester, Massachusetts.  He continued his activities in designing and buildng at that location until the close of his life in 1964.

Sam Crocker designed and supervised the construction of more than 300 vessels, including commercial craft for fishermen, yachts and racing boats, each individually designed to the special requirements of the prospective owners.  Many of his yachts were utilized for pleasure cruises in the waters around Florida and the Caribbean, as well as the New Englad coast.  Fast cruising craft designed by him were frequent winners in races on the Great Lakes including the “Barbette”, winner of the Detroit-Mackinac Races in 1927 and 1929; the “Jacinta”, winner of the Wind Point Race in 1931; the “Nawanna”, winner in class B in the Detroit-Mackinac Races in 1933 and 1934; and the “Valkyrie”, winner of the Chicago-Mackinac Race in 1934.  Among the salt water racing winners designed by Sam Crocker were the “Chantey”, winner of New Bedford Race Week in 1930, 1931 and 1932, and of the Whalers Race in 1933; the “Retriever”, winner in Class B in the Jeffrey’s ledge Race in 1932; “Grey Gull, II”, winner of the Huntington-Cornfield Race in 1932 and the Bayside Block Island Races in 1933 and 1934; and the “Pole Star”, winner in Class B in the Jeffrey’s Ledge Race in 1933 and the Whaler’s Race in 1934.

In the field of commercial craft, he designed fishing boats, trawlers and seiners, and in this field, he was skillful in planning for both speed and carrying capacity.  He assisted in designing the pontoons for the NC-4, a Navy craft which in 1919 crossed the Atlantic to become the first seaplane to achieve that flight.  During the Second World War, he was a full-time resident architect in the yard of Simms Brothers, Dorchester, Massachusetts, where he collaborated in the building of submarine chasers and army rescue craft.  During the Korean conflict he returned to the same yard as part-time resident architect to engage in the same type of planning and construction.

Words From His Family and Colleagues:

The late Bud McIntosh:

“What I want to tell you is something of what Sam Crocker meant to us boatbuilders, especially when we were young and cocky and somewhat ignorant, and just a bit afraid at times, that we’d undertaken more than we could handle.  Sam was good for us.  We were his friends, who loved what he loved.”

“Our first boat for Sam set the pattern for what was to come.  We wondered about a clause in the contract:  Could we live up to the standard implied in the term “yacht finish”; and what did it mean, anyway?  Sam said something like this:  “It’s not necessarily the same for every builder; but I expect work equal to the best I’ve seen you do in the past; and it’s tied in with the price you’re getting for the job; and the owner’s a damn fool if he thinks he ought to get more than he’s paying for!”

The late Joel White:

“I have a feeling that the men who built to his designs liked Sam Crocker as a person, respected him as a naval architect, and enjoyed his visits of inspection.  The quality of boats that resulted from this collaboration between architect and builder speaks well for Sam’s designs and the men who built them.  D. C. (Bud) McIntosh, George Chaisson, F. F. Pendleton, Reid & Pendergast, Reuben Bigelow, Simms Brothers, Carl Beetle, Harvey Gamage, Goudy & Stevens and of course, Sturgis Crocker – all of those and many more built Crocker boats along the New England coast from the 1920’s through the present day.  Crocker designs are still being built and will probably continue to be built in the next century.  Anyone with an interest in practical cruising yachts, boats with good looks and sailing qualities, will have to consider a Crocker boat when choosing a design.”

“The collection of designs drawn by Crocker during his lifetime ….. can only be described as remarkable.”

“Indeed, Sam Crocker’s boats have a timeless quality.  Looking at the lines drawing for the 52-foot cutter Mercury, published in Rudder, October 1938, I see a handsome set of lines with great power and grace.  Even now, decades later, I would challenge anyone to improve on them for offshore racing.”

S. Sturgis Crocker – Boat Builder and son of the designer:

“My father was not only an exacting engineer, but he was also an able free-hand artist; in fact, a lot of his designs started out on the backs of envelopes during the commute home from Boston on the B&M Railroad.  Later, Dad would develop the designs, usually on a 3/4-inch scale. “

“Having built several boats himself, Dad’s designs and specifications were complete.  He could picture the finished product from either the builder’s or the owner’s point of view and make enough drawings so that everything was understood to start with and nothing left to chance.  Anything not covered in the drawings was covered in the specifications.  If a particular section needed a separate drawing or full-size detail, it was always there, in many cases even to the placement of fastenings…..”

“More than once I heard Dad say that the most challenging part of yacht design was anticipating the client’s questions and apprehensions and being ready with an answer.  I remember in particular the owner of one fairly large boat.  He had been rather fussy all through the designing and building, and when it came time for launching, Dad expected him to be upset if she didn’t float exactly right.  Having supervised construction and knowing the builder was right on the lines, Dad stayed late at the office the night before and went over all his figures.  The next day before the boat was launched, he placed a postage stamp on the stem where she should float at that state of completion.  It was only a two-cent stamp, but it was in the right place.”

“I think he carried as much enthusiasm into every design as did the prospective owner.  Quite often he couldn’t wait to see the boat that a set of lines would produce, so a model was made, usually on a 3/8-inch scale.  Some of these models were made by professional model makers, but he liked to work in wood himself, and when he had time, he made them himself, teaching me in the process…..”

“I wish Dad could have lived to take advantage of today’s calculators and computers.  All of his calculations were done with planimeter, adding machine and slide rule, and he used to grumble about the time it took.  Nonetheless, he went through the process with every design.  He simply had to be sure that the finished product would perform as expected….”