In the summer of 1998, Christopher Madsen came across Rowdy, a 59-foot Nathanael Herreshoff-designed sloop, in an Oxnard, California, boatyard. He bought her for $5,000, and thus began what would become a 16-year project/odyssey. The vessel was in rough shape, which explains the low asking price, but Madsen was determined to bring her back to her full glory. In the process, he found that the original owner was a man named Holland Duell. He tracked down Duell’s 92-year-old daughter, Harriet “Hanny” Duell, and developed a relationship with her and her family that brought more meaning to the project than he ever imagined possible. This book is the story of that journey.

Rowdy (the book) is not much of a do-it-yourself boat-restoration story. In fact there’s very little on that. It’s rather a history lesson on the golden age of yacht racing on the East Coast; Rowdy (the boat), in particular; and the people who owned her for almost a century. Most of the book is the story of the Duell family and their ownership of Rowdy, from launching in 1916 until they sold her in1941. The remainder follows the boat’s history up until the present day, through various owners from the East Coast to the Great Lakes, through the Panama Canal, to California where Madsen found her rotting away. Also included are excerpts from log books, journals, newspaper clippings, some beautiful watercolor paintings, and several black and white and color photos of the boat and many of her trophies and owners.

Rowdy comes with a cover that has the feel of worn leather and gold leaf stamping that makes it a beautiful coffee table book and would be worthy to grace any personal or yacht club library. Many readers may balk at spending $55.00 for a book like this, but if you have an interest in the early history of yacht racing on the East Coast, the people involved, and Herreshoff designs, Rowdy would be worth a serious look.

Rowdy by Christopher Madsen (CPM Publishing, 2015; 468 pages)