When we first bought our boat her name was Tusen Takk II which in Norwegian means “many thanks.” It is a beautiful sentiment for a boat in so many ways. Thank you to the universe for having the means to own such a boat, thanks you for providing our home and shelter, thank you for all the amazing adventures and people we meet and thank you for keeping us safe! While this is an apropos name it was somebody else’s name and it was a name associated with another couple and their experiences. So, it was important for us to craft our own identity but, what should it be?
Luke and I had grown up on Cape Cod, MA in East Dennis during the 70’s, a time when the Town’s history was all pervasive. East Dennis had been a ship building and seafaring village in the 1800’s centered around Shiverick Shipyards in its harbor. Asa Shiverick had started the shipyard along the banks of the Sesuit Creek after he had apprenticed and learned the craft of ship building from Jeremiah Crowell a Dennis native. Asa had 3 sons, Paul, David & Asa Junior. While Asa built his business, his boys went out into the world to learn about and build bigger boats, eventually bringing that knowledge and expertise home. Spurred by the booming China trade, the 1848 Gold Rush and the ensuing demand for travel to the “Far East” and west coast, eight clipper ships were built at the shipyard between the years of 1850 to 1862. These ships were: Revenue -1850, Hippogriffe – 1852, Belle of the West – 1853, Kit Carson – 1854, Wild Hunter – 1855, Webfoot – 1856, Christopher Hall- 1857, Ellen Sears – 1862. The ships were manned by East Dennis men as well making this an all encompassing industry for this little town.
While each of the ships had characteristics and stories of note, Belle really commanded attention. She was designed by Samuel Hartt Pook – a son of a naval constructor and designer of clipper ships while in the employ of Samuel Hall of Boston a well known American ship architect. Samuel Pook also designed the Surprise and eventually became a naval architect for the US Navy. On May 14, 1853 an article was written about her in the Boston Daily Atlas which I’ve quoted below. On the day of her launching – March 25th, 1853, in Sesuit Harbor she drew quite a crowd. However, the process proved quite difficult and she didn’t launch until the following day disappointing her spectators and breaking her Captain’s leg in the process. Belle sailed to Boston then San Francisco and on to Calcutta which became her primary route.
There is one well known tale of her voyages. In May of 1862, Belle was in Calcutta getting ready for a trip back to Boston with Capt. Allison Howes in command. The ship the Starlight was also in the harbor, captained by Levi Howes brother of Allison, her destination was also Boston. A race ensued! Starlight left first and Belle 12 hours later. The ships caught sight of each other 3 times during the trip. Starlight reached Boston with Belle clocking in 12 hours later – “a 17,000 mile dead heat” it has been declared!
What does all of this have to do with why we named our boat Bell of the West? Well, as I said, when we were growing up our Town’s history was still prevalent and the East Dennis Ladies Aid had produced sets of 8×8 tiles with drawings of each of the 8 Shiverick Clipper Ships as part of their fund raising and just about every house in E. Dennis had a set. When Luke & I were first married we were given a set by Libba Sears who was a descendant of one of the sea captains. I had kept them in a box wrapped in newspaper for 38 years and when I moved out to Bainbridge to be with Luke they came with me. During the renovation we finally found a home for them. And when we started thinking about a name for boat, we gravitated to these tiles and Belle of the West resounded with both of us as it aptly reflected our own east / west history and we hoped our boat would befitting of the name Belle!
- Nan (Nancy)DeVita & her husband Donn were artists in East Dennis and had an art gallery – Worden Hall, on 6A right near our families’ homes. After Nan’s high profile career in the fashion industry she and Donn moved to the Cape in 1965. She made it her life’s work to tell the story of the the Shiverick Clipper ships through a series of meticulously researched paintings in the process, uncovering and tapping into the resources that still existed in the Village hundreds of years later. Donn DeVita was my middle school art teacher and a large part of why I eventually was an art major in college. As a child I’d ride my bike to the gallery and spend hours wandering through it admiring both his and Nan’s works – I’m sure driving them crazy with my curiosity as they were trying to get their works done.
The New Clipper Ship Belle of the West
“This is decidedly one of the most beautiful clipper ships in port – a perfect seawitch – which would win the heart of a sailor at glance. She is 936 tons register, 182 feet long over all, 167 between perpendiculars and 161 on the keel. Her extreme breadth of beam is 35 feet and depth is 21 1/2 feet including 7 feet 7 inches height of between decks. Her dead rise at half floor is 18 inches, rounding of sides 4 inches, and sheer 2 feet 3 inches. She has almost an upright stem, but the cutwater branches outwards in a curve, as it rises above the middle of the wales, and terminates in a graceful full female figure, robed in vestments of white, fringed with gold. The ships stern is very light, most beautifully formed, and tastefully ornamented with gilded carved work, in which is a neat female bust, in basrelief. The stern is nearly oval in outline, and swells both ways, and her run, like her bow, is long and clean. She is sheathed with yellow metal painted black above it, and inside she is buff color, relieved with white. The whole height of her bulwarks is about 4 1/2 feet, and she has a half poop deck, with a house in front of it. Her after cabin has a sunk floor, and is beautifully wainscotted with satin wood panels, relieved by mahogany and other choice woods. It contains six state-rooms, and is elegantly furnished. The forward cabin contains 4 state-rooms, and the ante-room 2 state-rooms and a pantry, all fitted in superior style. The accommodations for her crew, the galley & c (sic) are in a large house amidships, and she has a small topgallant forecastle with wing closets.
She is built of oak and copper fastened, and is remarkably well finished. The details of her fastening and construction vary but little from those of a ship of 1200 tons and in her outfits she has all the improvements of the day such as Emerson’s patent ventilators, a patent windlass, patent capstans, an improved steering apparatus, a circular iron water tank below, plenty of fine boats and Flander’s patent force pump. Above all she has Forbe’s rig, with the topmasts fidded before the lower maststheads and looks splendidly aloft. We are glad occasionally to see men who have independence enough to leave the traditions of the past, and adopt the improvements of the present. Every sailor, without exception, who has tried this rig, speaks of it as the best square rig now in use, because a ship with it is always managable, and because it greatly diminishes the labor of reefing, and to the shipowner in the long run, is more economical than the old rig.
This ship was built in East Dennis, by Messrs. David & Asa Shiverick, is owned by Messrs. Glidden & Williams, of this City, and commanded by Captain William F. Howes. She is loading in Winsor’s line of San Francisco clippers and will sail in a a few days. We cannot leave this beautiful clipper-yacht without expressing our admiration of her. We advise everybody to call and see her. She lies at the end of Commercial Wharf.” – Boston Daily Atlas May 14, 1853