"The Days, Rices, Bakers and the SS, An Unfinished Piece" by Louise Rice Baker

A gift of gold, sent by Marty Baker to Meredith Murray on June 5, 2009, and written by his wife Lou, who passed away just two months ago. Marty writes:

“I am sending you a copy of the information Lou had started for your great book and never got finished before publication. If you have a sequel, (I'm sure there has been a cry for it), maybe it will add a little more data and history of the great class of boats. If not it will add a bit of info to your collection. Anyhow, she was sorry she procrastinated and didn't get this to you before your deadline. She worked on it
thru the end of last year before she got this much done. You have my permission to use as much or little as you see fit either in publication or sending it to those in the SS group that might enjoy it.  Thanks, Marty”

Because I procrastinated and
didn’t get the Days and descendants adventures with the wonderful little 16' gaff rigged wooden boat designed for the shallow bays of the south shore of Long Island I will now commit them to paper albeit late.

I don’t know the year but in the 1920's Newton and Louisa Day gave their 4 children SS 57.  She was named Pickle (a name I never liked) because of Heinz 57 Varieties of Pickles.  The boat was originally for the 2 older boys Newton and Bob.  I’m sure they were thrilled, but when they
didn’t do well in the races and mildly (in those days you didn’t complain about a gift from your parents) suggested the fault was in the boat.  My grandfather declared that he and my grandmother would race next Saturday.  They were renting (as they did for many years) a cottage at Jaggers or Cedar Beach, known for many years after as the “Day Cottage”.  My grandfather who worked a half day on Saturdays came out on the train rushed to the dock at Jaggers where my grandmother was waiting.  They won the race handily, sailed back to the dock and the boys were greeted with “There’s nothing wrong with the boat”.

On the other side of the family my uncle Charlie Rice won the very first Smith’s Point Race.  I regret I know nothing about that race or how he happened to be sailing an SS.

For several years the Day boys did much better in 57 and when my mother Sis Rice and her twin brother Tom Day were old enough they took over.  My mom told the story about being incensed when the newspaper reported that the 3 Day boys won a race in
Bellport when she was the one who bailed the boat around the course.  Imagine calling her a boy!!

Later probably in the early 30's Tom Day and his buddy
Erben Jenkins sailed 57 around L.I.  Their story was about taking a slip in Montauk Harbor next to a pristine yacht many times larger than their SS.  They were not appreciated when the can of baked beans they were heating on a sterno stove blew baked beans all over the yacht.  They didn’t know you should open the can first.  The uniformed crew on the yacht hustled to clean up the mess as they glared at the boys.

The 38 hurricane put SS 57 in a tree, but she
wasn’t damaged very much.  When my family began to summer in the Rice summer home in Remsenburg in 1940 she was refurbished and was sailed by the 3 (Martha, Louise and Bobby) Rice kids over the next several years.

During the war the races were held off the
Apaucuck Point House.  My parents raced an old catboat they had acquired and restored after the hurricane.  Sometime during that time my older sister Martha sailed and raced 57.  Then it became my turn and about the age of 9 or 10 I had my dreamboat.  As soon as we could prove our sailing and swimming abilities my cousin Snowdie (Brinkley B. Snowden, Jr.) and I spent many hours on the bay.  He sailed his family’s SS10 and I sailed 57.   These two little boats became pirate ships, exploration boats and Starboats the ultimate racing machine of the day.

Snowdie and I did something at about the ages of 12 and 13 in our SS’s that wouldn’t be possible today and most parents would not permit.  However, our parents gave us permission to sail our two boats from Remsenburg to Southampton.  We were to sail to their old friend’s house on the same creek the SHYC is on, spend the night and sailed back the next day.  In those days you were allowed to sail through the bridges without a motor.  We did it.  I remember struggling through the bridge fenders against the current on the way there and sleeping on the floor in her house but not many other details.  We were thrilled to death to accomplish it.

Those summers were filled with Ladies, Junior and Saturday races with much serious training by my mother.  “Watch your sail, stop sawing the tiller, look at your wake, why
aren’t you watching your sail!”  I loved every minute of it except maybe the cold, wet beat that seemed endless sometimes as you hung out as far as you could.  Then there was always the Midget Championships and that’s when the Fenner boys came into my life–mainly Pete and Skip.

When I was about 13 a bunch of us
Remsenburg kids and our SS’s started gathering almost every weekday to have impromptu races, sail to the beach, play tennis ball tag with our boats and when the day came to an end play croquet or cards at someone’s house.  Rice SS57, Fenners SS13, Snowden SS10, Royce SS101, Seibert SS68.  We called ourselves the Remsenburg YC and raced off a dock near the Fenner’s house.  When regular racing became boring we held races where you could not touch the tiller between leaving and returning to the dock.  All steering had to be accomplished with sail trim and weight.  So we would sail a standard triangle course and land at the dock without touching the tiller.  It improved our sailing skills and showed what a wonderfully balanced and designed boat the SS is.  One of our most memorable activities was the beach party–we would sail to the Royces’s Bunny Hutch beach house.  Swimming, baseball, hotdogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, watermelon, toasted marshmallows and singing around the fire all ensued.  What memories of the stars, the ocean murmurs and then the sail home in our SS’s.

About this time my brother Bob was getting into racing.  I was assigned to crew for him in the Friday Junior Races.  We sailed the first round without incident but as we approached the leeward mark (in those days the pin end of the starting line) I hurriedly took the spinnaker down and threw the pole under the foredeck.  Unknowingly I hit Bobby in the head with the end of the pole and was very surprised when he hit me over the head with the centerboard stick. Meanwhile the Race Committee nearly fell overboard laughing.

When I was about 14
WYS and Shinnecock YC had pretty good Lightning fleets.  As remember it they decided to have a race on a Sunday afternoon and the SS fleet decided join in the fun.  For some reason Pete Fenner didn’t have SS 13 and so he crewed for me.  The Lightnings started first on a reach headed for Seatuck Cove with the SS’s on the next gun.  For a few minutes Pete and I were busy with the start and maneuvering for clear air.  When we looked ahead into the gray, foggy looking cove we were wondering what those strange things in the water were.  As we got closer we realized they were Lightning bottoms.  A squall had hit and dumped the whole fleet except my parents and a Shinnecock boat.  The wind picked up as we approached the cove and as soon as we passed the mark we anchored and let the sails down.  We scrambled under the sail because the rain was so hard it hurt.  A couple of other SS’s did the same thing but as I remember it most of them turned over too.  When the squall eased up we hoisted sail and anchor and went on to win the race following the two remaining Lightnings.  Pete and I had a great time.

During those tween and teen years our lives were pretty wrapped up in the SS and the
WYS. We were racing in the Jr., Ladies, July, August Series as well as the Smith’s Point Race, Cruise Week, Bellport Labor Day Series and the SS Association Races.  Most of us at least second generation sailors.  The skill and seamanship was at a fairly high level as demonstrated by how our little club did in the Midget, Jr., Ladies and Men’s Great South Bay Championships over the years.  Several of us were also involved in teaching and running the sailing program at WYS.

Not too many years later these same teenagers were getting their own kids started in our great little boat and the 3rd generation took over.  
Although it was difficult for us old folks to give her up and many of us raced on into adulthood.

One of my first races with my (then) non-sailing husband took place at
Quantuck in an Association race.  It seemed like that tiny bay was wall to wall SS’s.  It was 3 times around which didn’t help the crowdedness.  It was light air, we got a not very good start, but managed to be near the front of the fleet at the windward mark.  Poor Marty struggled with the unfamiliar spinnaker for almost the entire run and by the leeward mark it seemed everyone had gone by.  We fought our way back up to the front only to have the same thing happen again.  At this point we were literally snarling at each other.  Finally on the last lap the jib eyebolt pulled out of the foredeck and we could respectably retire.  Then we laughed and Marty says that anything said during a sailboat race cannot be held against you in divorce court.

My kids feel as attached to the SS as I do.  When they started getting good and 57 was getting very tired we bought SS 148 from Kit and Cliff Cramp.  Bud
Simes let us unofficially call her 157 and they spent many years sailing and racing her.  Their attachment may be different–times had changed but the specialness of that little boat–the freedom, responsibility, freedom of imagination (my SS was a pirate ship, a Starboat, etc.), that she gave us all is irreplaceable.

A word about the design of the SS.  In our family her ability and gracefulness in the south shore bays was much admired.  The
skeg and inboard rudder did not pick up seaweed (a real problem in her earlier years before the inlet) not to mention the very important ability to sail in very shallow water with the board up and a rudder still functional.  Today’s design leaves you with no board and no rudder and actually no way to “sail”.  She was a small version of the boats of her day and a wonderful design.  The pureness of her lines was proven when Bayard Fenner and Bob Mattison began to make a fiberglass version–the Cottontail.  Of course they put a Marconi rig on her and deepened her freeboard but basically she was the same hull. She was so fast that that little 16 footer was always sailing in the “big boat” fleet during cruise week and Bellport.  Unfortunately, she never caught on and I am not sure if any are still around.

Rest assured Lou, the SS fleet sails on.  Thank you, Marty,  for sharing this wonderful narrative with the SS community.


  1. What an enjoyable story.
    Philip Martin

  2. Very sentimental write-up by Lou Baker re her SS experiences. I had dinner with her mother and husband Bob several tis during the summers and followed Sis's racing closely. Wasn't she in the real estate business in later years? Also patronized Bob's store on Main Street. Also knew Bud Minsch her last husband who was a Dartmouth grad.