Subj: FYI-- Essex 26.
Date: 6/23/01 12:05:05 AM Eastern Daylight Time
To: Btlcrk, JComet
I am AMAZED that you even wanted to put a link concerning the Essex 26 on your Dawson web site-- let alone actually had a brochure from it! Congratulations.
Though he never wanted it widely known, my father, John E Cherubini, was actually the designer of this boat!!! The Essex 26, marketed by Thomas & Muller Inc of Camden NJ, was concocted in 1972 from a highly cannibalised Venture 25 hull and given a new rig and short-draught fixed keel (about 2'3"). The deck/cabin arrangement was for a flush deck with wide motorhome-type windows flush with the raised topsides. They actually used automotive rubber windscreen gaskets to hold them in. It really wasn't as ugly as it seemed. Hulls came in typical '70s colours like yellow, pale blue, red and orange (I don't think there was ever a white one). There was a vee berth and head forward (very similar to the way MacGregor did it then in fact), a convertible dinette and inline galley amidships, and aft of a very wide double-sliding companionway and baby-crib cockpit was another double berth and optional head in an aft cabin. There was a tiny little pedestal-mounted wheel. Power was a 9.9 Evinrude under the helm seat and projecting through a hull hole aft of the keel. You reached down and worked the throttle and shift under your knees. The boat actually planed under power (we had one up to 9-1/2 knots once. Trust me-- I was on it at the time. Scary).
> The idea was to be able to tow the boat and use it almost as a camp trailer (such were the optimistic '70s!). I can't say performance was ever spectacular, especially on the wind, but people who bought them could brag that other than the Swedish Albin 25 trawler they had the only double-cabin yacht under 30 feet around. But it was not that heavy and typical of my dad should have gone like a bat out of you-know-where. In fact he worked on a 'race' version of it which only saw one example that I know of, the Silk Purse (as in, 'made from a sow's ear'!) which had the aft cockpit removed in lieu of sail handlers' space and had a deeper fin keel. There was also a ketch model introduced towards the end (and I think one version of it had no aft cabin either). The Annapolis shows were the usual marketing milieu. Almost to the end of the run Dawson's introduced their 25-ft boat that was more conventional looking-- but in case there are any naysayers out there, the Essex was definitely the FIRST double-cabin, 6-berth, under-30-ft trailerable sailboat.
By 1976 my dad was wrapt up in the Hunter line and the Essex 26 went the way of the Bricklin, Kiki Dee, and gorilla-grip GI Joe. The Dawson boat stayed round the market a little longer and then vanished, but by now the Essex is MUCH rarer than the two. I have not seen one in even restorable condition since about 1982 (there is one used as a planter in front of a restaurant above Washington's Crossing, PA!). Problems you can expect from aged Essex examples will be very similar to those encountered with any other cheap boat of the day (like Ventures)-- chips, odd delamination round the keel, problems with water saturation due to collecting rain water, window seals leaking, stress cracks in large expanses of fibreglass surfaces, and the usual problems with missing or jimmy-rigged rigging components. I'd give a lot to see one actually in the water and being regularly used! (send pictures!)
Anyone who owns an Essex 26 or has other information about one in existence may certainly contact me as I am putting together an archive file of my father's non-Hunter boats and hope to assemble a touring exhibition of his art and design work sometime soon.
J Cherubini II
Cherubini Art & Nautical Design Org.