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  • Bonnie Hawk Barney

PART 4: The story of Juno 1891-1913

In the Lake Country of New York State, there was one craft which stood out: Skipper Whitfield’s Juno evolved over the years from a deep vee configuration, to shallow vee, and finally to the then-modern conception of racing hulls, the "skimmer," which was such a novel design that old-timers vowed she could float on a heavy dew.

Fourth new hull design taking shape - only parts of the keel and transom were carried over from the third hull. First truly flat bottom. Juno planed on flare of her bilges.


Even more than pride in technical skill, the Skipper took joy in sharing the beauty of sailing. He gave many a young sailor the skills to race and coached every crew in boat handling. Unassuming and quiet mannered, yet capable of leaving a lasting stamp on the yacht club, he carried his friends and neighbors, cottagers and strangers for cruising around the lake. In the words of his grandson:


One school picnic found more than 40 people aboard, and let anyone give a friendly wave from shore, then we put in or called for a party to row out to the boat. They came by launch, buggy, and trolley on pleasant Sundays. So many came on the cars that the Keuka Park and Branchport trolley company elected Gramp to a directorship, entitling some of our family to ride on passes. Most every car stopped at our cottage, and Gramp kept an eye on the porch rail to see if a red blanket were hung out. This would mean sailing to our dock where there would be eager folks waiting for their turn. Sometimes a few would drop off, but usually there would be seats for all, up to 35 adults.

Juno in 1903 - Picnic lunch while drifting. William H. Whitfield "Skipper" at right


How the Skipper enjoyed reassuring the timid ones. He would explain the safety of sailing, and had the skittish ones soothed until they would come back many times, as did quite a percentage of the more than 8,000 people carried.


Starting from scratch, Juno could out-point and out-foot any of the racing shells, the Class A Scows. This was by virtue of her higher rig. The peak of the gaff was 50 feet above the water, and Juno’s jib alone (the one that cost $10.50 from the sailmaker) lacked only 80 square feet of the total area of the scows’ mainsail . The later Marconi rigged scows might have outpointed Juno, but there were only gaff rigged boats among her contemporaries.


Juno measured 41 feet 8 inches overall, with an 8-foot bowsprit and a boom that extended 5 feet beyond the transom. With the coming of aerodynamics, it was determined that height of sails made for better speed, rather than fore and aft dimension. But the early experimenters had no wind tunnel to guide them, and anyway a tall mast was hard to stay until the radio towers came in with the upper parts stayed against the lower part of the mast, otherwise it would take even more beam than Juno’s 11 feet 6 inches to get the proper bearing of stays.


Racing rules handicapped boats on a formula of length of boat on the waterline, and sail area. Thus the Juno was a half hour late in starting and the fleet would make nearly a lap before the nod came to start her. At that, many finishes were close, and Gramp won several cups which have long since dropped out of sight.


There were never dull times aboard. Some of the regulars who sailed were wits and clowns. On a calm day Juno drifted to the sound of singing, and knot tying was interesting.


In a west wind, Juno could keep ahead of the steamer Mary Bell and Harry Morse would lean from the pilot house and shout, "There is an unlucky number aboard, skipper." So Gramp would yell for someone to jump overboard, at which two of the crew who had dressed for it would drop over the side, while Skipper sailed on without a backward glance. There would be "Oooh’s" and "Aah’s" a-plenty from those on board the Mary Bell.


My own specialty in entertainment was to toss a decoy duck overboard slyly, and while seeming to soak my feet from the stern deck, I would jog the weighted line. The bird looked rather lifelike astern, and Gramp would spin a yarn about how the duck always tried but could never quite catch up with us.


Juno could spin on a dime with the long fore and aft sail arrangement. This led to some tricky sailing when Skipper gave my dad on the jib a high sign. We would bear down on a party in a rowboat, with everyone asked to ignore the people in it. Skipper would apparently look away from the rowers right in our path, and as their efforts grew frantic to get out of the way, Juno would gradually change course to intercept. At the last second, Dad would spill the jib, and our bow wave would wash the little boat. Such simple little tricks, but they provided all the merriment needed in those days.


Gramp had great timing, so that when he had a favorite trick he could count on the regulars. Three cushions were tossed overboard and Juno tacked back and ran them down to leeward. Three men about ten feet apart took them up: the bow man let 2 go by, then the others took their cushion in turn. It never failed to please the folks aboard.


Gramp wasn’t averse to showing off his grandkids. Brother Sid and I when ten or twelve would get orders to "Climee uppa da mast, lika da monk!" At this we would each take a turn climbing on the mast hoops (long before sail tracks) as far as the jaws of the gaff. Gramp had spent many hours training us to like sailing, and overcoming fear of the water. So it is, after many years, life aboard the Juno is one of my fondest memories, and one that I relive often.


W. R. (Bob) Whitfield

May 1973

San Diego, California


This fond reminiscence is but one of many which Bob Whitfield shared with me since 1972 when I first contacted him in my search for KYC lore. Fortunately for my endeavor, Bob had been a saver: he sent a manila envelope about each fourth month with notes, clippings, photos. He visited us, we visited him. He started my children collecting stamps, so they, too, anticipated his packets. He built a model of the "America," which he sent east to be displayed, "so a part of me will be there should my grandkids happen by some day." Bob died in December 1978; his ashes were cast on San Diego Bay where his love of flight and sailing converge.


The Juno on a cruise to Hammondsport July 1913--Part of Freys, Champlains, and other wine tycoons, also Curtis flier Lansing Callan

The Juno was always gay with flags

Juno in the outlet at Penn Yan. A slot in the boathouse roof at right allowed storage of the boat fully rigged.


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