Down to the sea

Launching ‘Whimsey’ in Camden, 5 a.m., July 1948

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 7:30pm

Wooden vessel building was a major industry in Camden from 1800 to probably the 1960s. My first book, Grog Ho! The History of Wooden Vessel Building in Camden, related the information of shipyards around Camden harbor, beginning on the west side, to the head of the harbor, to Eaton's Point or the east side. There were many one-man boatbuilders not included because they left few records.

One of these fine builders was Elmer Collemer, who built at his home yard. One of the wooden boats he built was different from most of his crafts, as it was a cabin cruiser named Whimsey.

The boat was contracted by Jason Westerfield, who lived at 8 High Street, now known as Abigail's, but then known as Old High.

Mr. Westerfield had retired in 1938 as director of public relations of the New York Stock Exchange. He was the great-grandson of the owners of Rogers Locomotive builders.

That launching was quite unusual, when it took place at the end of July in 1948.

It started at 5 a.m. from Mountain Street where it was built.

A heavy truck pulled Whimsey, in her cradle, out into the street and slowly down the hill through town to Leadbetter's yard (now part of the Waterfront Restaurant) on Bay View Street.

In the procession was the truck driver, Elmer Collemer walking beside the boat and Mr. Westerfield following his dream boat in his automobile. Not much traffic at that time of day.

A few days later a much larger crowd was on hand for the launching than were present at 5 a.m. for its transport. Mrs. Frank Gilmore broke the bottle of champagne over the bow on the first try.

The Whimsey was 30 feet long, with a 9-foot beam and drew 6 feet, 2 inches of water. She was powered by a 38 foot Lathrop engine and had sleeping quarters for two.

Vere Crockett (known as "Chum") designed the cruiser and it took the winter and spring for Collemer to build the boat.

The Westerfields had been looking forward to that day, since their former boat was destroyed in a hurricane on Long Island shore in 1938.

That was an interesting launching.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.

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