The Salvation of Sea Fox: When a yacht restoration became too costly, an enterprising couple cut down the project — literally.
The story of Sea Fox began in 1940, when she was built by Casey Boat Building Company of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and launched under the name Hal-Win II. The tale is told that the Furnans Yacht Agency was ahead of its yacht building with this motorsailer, with William Hand stopping by daily to direct their drafting table. Sumner Pingree, who sailed out of Boston for several years, owned her.
In the early 1950s, Robert D. Smith from California bought her and added an additional six feet to the transom, giving her a 68-foot, 9-inch LOA with a lovely round stern. Her name was changed to Physalia, and she chartered in the Caribbean for many years under the command of Ken MacKenzie.
Then in early 1970, she was put up for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A book entitled The Last Schoonerman tells the life story of Captain Lou Kenedy, who after retiring from a cargo freight business serving The Bahamas, was looking for a sea-kindly vessel to cruise with his family back and forth from the islands to Nova Scotia. Kenedy acquired her, changed her name to Sea Fox and refurbished the motorsailer. For the next 15 years, the
Kenedy acquired her, changed her name to Sea Fox and refurbished the motorsailer. For the next 15 years, the Kenedys followed the good weather and wintered in The Bahamas. Most of their time was spent with their daughter Rosemary Mitchell at Sampson Cay in the Exumas. Then they’d head up to Nova Scotia in the spring to enjoy a summer of cool weather and grandkids.
The Kenedys sold Sea Fox in 1985 to John Magee of Warren, Rhode Island, who sailed her for another 14 years out of Narraganset Bay as a mothership to racing yachts and also joined in on the New York Yacht Club cruises.
In 1999, Kathy and Bill McDade of Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, bought Sea Fox to live aboard and cruise with family and friends, which they did for the next 18 years until they eventually moved ashore to Beaufort, North Carolina.
As an aging lady, Sea Fox became a heavy burden to maintain in the condition of seaworthiness. She was laid up in 2015 to be sold, donated, rescued, or destroyed. Slowly disintegrating on the hard at Bock Marine in Beaufort, the decision was made to strip the vessel and sell the equipment and gear.
Just when it seemed that time had run out for the ol’ girl, one of Kenedy’s daughters refused to let the memories fade away. Over dinner one night with friends Jim Kelsey and Patsy Bolling, an idea was hatched. If they couldn’t save the whole boat, they would save what they could.
Knowing Sea Fox was doomed for the dumpster in a week, there was no time to lose. Armed with skill saws, crowbars, sawsalls, electric cords, sledgehammers, chainsaws, hacksaws, and a bunch of hand tools, Jim and Patsy loaded them in the back of Jim’s Buick the next morning and drove to Beaufort.
With permission from the owners, they began a two-day marathon to relieve Sea Fox of her transom. On the second day, the marina’s crane held the transom weight as the final cuts were made.
They trucked the transom to Patsy’s home for the restoration process, though this was no typical restoration. But after several months of grinding, faring and painting, and with a fine coat of topside paint, high-gloss cap rail, polished rub rail, exhaust, and flagstaff mount, she was ready for her debut.
Although Sea Fox no longer navigates the sea, her transom now resides in a place of honor as a bar at the home of Kenedy’s daughter Rosemary in Jupiter, Florida. Originally intended to be placed poolside, upon delivery it was immediately apparent that this lovely piece of history would be in the dining room for all to enjoy and tell the tale of Sea Fox.
Story and Photos by Patsy Bolling Southern Boating August 2017