Question of the Month with Designer Ted Brewer (#1)

This month I asked Ted to tell me about some of his all-time favorite sailboats that he personally designed. What follows is Ted's first response (more to follow soon!).

One of My Three Favorite Designs: Mystic (By Ted Brewer)

In the autumn of 1965 I was working at Luders Marine in Stamford, Conn. when Marvyn Carton, a New York investment banker, asked if I would be interested in designing his new yacht.  At the time he owned a sister ship to Irving Johnson’s Yankee II, the 50 foot, steel, centre cockpit, shoal draft, centerboard motorsailer ketch that Johnson had built after he gave up operating his famous world cruises aboard the brigantine Yankee.  Marvyn’s new yacht was also to be a motorsailer, similar in style, but 6 feet longer, with 2 feet more draft and a centerboard. He wanted a pilot house as well as a wheel on the poop, akin to an old clipper ship! Also, it was to be aluminum construction to reduce weight for better performance.

Mystic's sailplan

Marvyn offered me the same fee he’d been quoted by a British designer, about a fifth of what Luders would have charged. I thought it over a few days and eventually agreed, but only if was acceptable to Bill that I take on such a large project outside the yard. I told Bill the next morning and he just laughed and said “Go for it! And check with me if you need any advice along the way”. That was Bill Luders, one of the finest men I have ever met in my life. In the previous years with Bill I had done drawings for Luders designs of 45 and 55 foot metal yachts, but a brand new 56 footer, on my own hook, was a very different pint of ale. Still, it did not faze me as I knew Bill would review my work and set me back on course if I went too far astray on my first big, custom design.
In due course, the preliminary drawings were worked up and accepted with some minor modifications. The next step was the basic construction as Marvyn specified the yacht be classed 100A by Lloyds. Luckily, in the course of the design of the 12 metre yacht American Eagle, I had much contact with the Lloyds surveyors in New York as all America’s Cup yachts had to be classed by Lloyds. To me, having the construction scantlings and drawings approved was not a problem, provided I paid attention to the bible “Lloyds Rules and Regulations for the Construction and Classification of Steel Yachts (as modified to aluminum, of course!). I stuck strictly to Lloyds’ scantlings, with trips to New York to have things checked.  Eventually, the drawings were sent to England, and returned stamped ‘Approved’, with very few changes. I burnt a lot of midnight oil on the rest of the plan set while the construction drawings were flying back and forth across the Atlantic and, finally, it was time to send out for bids.
Bid packages went out to several builders in the US and one yard in Canada, Cliff Richardson’s in Meaford, Ontario, and Richardson’s came up with the best price. I had seen their work on the lovely Cuthbertson designed 54’ yawl Inishfree when I worked for George, so I had no hesitation in recommending them and we were not disappointed.  Mystic was to be 55’9” on deck, 46’9” LWL, 15’0” beam, 6’0”/8’9” draft, 55,000# displacement and 1403 sq ft of sail.  This gave her a low displacement/length ratio of 240, a reasonable sail area/displ ratio of 15.5 and promised decent performance under sail.

Mystic was under construction when Bill sold Luders yard in 1967 and I made my move to Brooklin, Maine.  I was back and forth to the builder’s several times in ’67 and the winter of ’68 and, finally, I flew up that spring for the grand launching.  Unfortunately there was a slight hitch on the trials; the Caterpillar diesel badly overheated after about 20 minutes of running! I had designed the vessel with skin cooling tanks but Richardson’s, in their zeal to build the perfect yacht, faired the hull with a heavy epoxy-microballoon mix; an excellent insulation barrier between the cold lake water and the engine cooling water. There was nothing to do but don scuba gear, brave the icy water, and find the problem by running my hands over the hull – almost no heat was getting through the fairing mix. Mystic was hauled, the fairing compound ground down to a minimum thickness, and the problem was solved.

Mystic's layout and profile

Marvyn and crew sailed off down Lake Huron to Lake Erie and, with masts on deck, down the Erie Canal and the Hudson River to New York and the open sea. The next I heard,  Mystic was in the Gulf of Mexico heading for the Panama Canal as he had entered her in the 1969 Tran-Pac Race, 2250 nm from San Pedro to Honolulu. I was invited to go along, all expenses paid, and Marvyn would even fly my wife to Honolulu, put us up in a beach front hotel for a week, and fly us home again.  Mystic was a motor sailer, not a cruiser–racer, so she didn’t have a chance but, still, how can you turn down an offer like that? I couldn’t! Plus, Marv had sailed the ’63 Trans Pac in his 40 foot yawl Tiare, to win 2nd in Class and 2nd in Fleet. So I knew we would have a good skipper!

The week before the start, the whole crew gathered in San Diego to get organized for the big race. It was a very busy time, as you can imagine. And ashore, Mystic’s gal chef was busily making and freezing her great meals to store in the big freezer for a hungry crew.  All too soon, Race Day, July 4th, was upon us. 

I should note that Mystic had built-in tail feathers, instead of davits, to support her 12 foot Boston Whaler, but the Whaler had been shipped ahead to Hawaii. So, we rigged netting between the tail feathers and filled it with crates and boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables for the voyage. One 40-45 footer sailed alongside us, saw the boxes of food, and a cheeky crewman yelled across, “Where’s your chicken coop?” They were not quite so cocky at the finish line.
The weather at the start was pleasant, with moderate winds, and the cruiser-racers soon left our motor sailer behind. However, it came on to blow in the next day or so and, according to the race report, “A strong westerly greeted the fleet, buried rails, smashed gear, tore sails and even partially destroyed some of the yachts. Thrashing with lee rail awash …… seasick, wet, cold, attempting to cook while standing on your ear …… and banging into big seas. The close reaching into hard driving northerly winds of strong velocity continued for several days.”

Mystic with a full compliment
of light wind sails
Mystic was not immune and we had our share of seasickness. On my watch there were 3 left to share the tricks, but the other watch was down to only 2 able sailors so they were down to an hour on, an hour off, and it was “All hands!” when it came to trim sail. Even the cook was seasick but she still managed to turn out great hot meals, and that kept those of us on our feet going strong. It was about three days before things eased up, but nothing broke, and we kept driving the ship, so Mystic was doing surprisingly well.  Finally, about the 5th or 6th day, the run started with big chutes and strong winds carrying us downwind to Hawaii. Mystic would chug up the back of a steep sea at 5 or 6 knots, flip over the crest, and roar downwind at 12-13 knots, even making 14 knots on one surge. Again, due to tricky steering with the enormous chute pulling us along, the helmsmen had their hands full and there were only 2 or 3 on each watch to handle the vessel. I was glad my years of sailing with Bill Luders had given me the experience I needed to enjoy these wonderful surges of speed and power. 

Mystic running off Diamond Head in Hawaii
Finally, 11 days, 7 hours, 34 minutes and 26 seconds after crossing the start line, Mystic sailed across the finish line, an average of 8.29 kts for the 2,250 nm. We knew we had done well, but it was a day or so before we found that we had finished 2nd in Class B and 13th over all in the fleet of 69 yachts that completed the race. Not bad for a motor sailer ketch, especially one that had forgotten to bring along its chicken coop!
After we tied up at the pier in Hawaii, Marvyn went ashore to clear Customs. A few minutes later he marched down the pier, followed by a man with a 55 gallon drum on a handcart. This was odd as we had no need for fuel or oil. However, to the crew’s absolute delight, we hoisted the drum aboard, carefully, and found it was filled with 55 gallons of mai tais. The “oil” drum was followed by a Hawaiian band, and the band followed by our wives and Hawaiian sponsors - and then the party started!

The party begins on Mystic's bow
Want more of Ted's insight into sailboat design? Try this:


  1. A good read Ted Took me back to the 50's and 60's at Luder's with you.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, I'll pass it on to Ted.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I've surfed the net more than three hours today, and your blog was the coolest of all. Thanks a lot, it is really useful to me


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