January / February 2024

HELMA

A 1938 spidsgatter reborn
HELMA sailing.

Ollie and Janice Pedersen of Bainbridge Island, Washington, found the boat in San Diego, California, in 2006. Some years later, persistent deck leaks convinced them to seek advice about her needs; it was an instinct that became the first step toward a remarkable reconstruction.

Imagine a boat of such a right size and type that she seems to speak to you personally, one whose many needs could also be interpreted as opportunities, one that calls siren-like for bringing to her all of the craftsmanship you possess or can acquire. For many, such a boat would look a lot like HELMA, a 26' spidsgatter, or double-ender, built in Denmark in 1938. For Ollie and Janice Pedersen of Bainbridge Island, Washington, that siren’s song was a powerful one.

Although they had never owned a sailboat, they had sailed with island friends and found that classic designs captured their interest most. When they thought of acquiring one of their own, they drove the 46 miles from the island to the 2005 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival to explore what possibilities might be found there. At bronze specialist Pete Langley’s display for Port Townsend Foundry, they were attracted by a 17' sloop that carried quite a bit of the foundry’s bronze hardware. Pete recalls taking them for a sail, but the boat wasn’t quite what they had in mind; they needed something larger. Then they encountered the festival’s usual cluster of much-admired spidsgatters, an astonishing collection of Danish double-enders built in the 1930s that over many years had proved popular in the Pacific Northwest and in British Columbia.

“There was a whole row of them,” Ollie said, “and my attention went immediately to the stern of PAX, which has that very severe turn and a beautiful finish. So I was oohing and aahing, and there was this gal standing off to my right, and I said, ‘That is a beautiful boat.’” That happened to be the boat’s owner, Kaci Cronkhite, a former Northwest Maritime Center and festival director who was similarly smitten; she wrote about her own spidsgatter in WB No. 245 and in 2016 published Finding PAX, a book about her search for every detail about the origins and life of the boat, which was designed by Marius Sofus Johannes Hansen.

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