SS Mystery: What does it stand for?

Those of you who are a part of the SS email community know that recently there was a flurry of activity discussing what exactly the SS stands for (if anything). I counted over 40 emails sent discussing this matter. It is a mystery, and certainly this post will not resolve the question. For the benefit of this blog, and those outside our community who may stumble upon it, here’s a review the discussion, and the possibilities of the abbreviation.

Seaford Skiff? Nope.

First, we can put to rest a notion that Will Tuthill had to hear from an “expert.” As Will explained, “While I had SS59 at the dock at the Museum of Yachting in Newport, R.I. some dude came up wanting to know where I got the Seaford Skiff. Ooo-kay- I had actually heard that name before, but from everything that I have ever heard it comes down to South Shore or Small Sloop. Not for this guy. He was CERTAIN. He told me in absolute terms that Seaford Skiff was what SS stood for. I'm not buying.” Soon after Will’s email, Roger Holzmacher provided clarification on Seaford Skiffs: “This is a Seaford Skiff built by Paul Ketcham of Amityville, NY. These are local to the west end of Great South Bay. I've seen a few that had "SS" on the sail but I've never heard of them refered to as anything other than "Seaford Skiff".” Thanks to Roger for providing a photo of the Seaford Skiff.

George Carmany provided further clarification. “The Seaford Skiff was indigenous to the west end of Great South Bay and beyond, and was popular at the Cedarhurst Beach Club. They would occasionally show up in small numbers at race weeks in the '50s. They were basically a 14' duck boat with a lateen rig and bore no resemblance to an SS, not even close. However, in addition to the SYC records, where they first raced in 1909, I see that Stan Medina's book on the WYS also refers to the boats as ‘Special Sloop,’ commissioned by William C. Atwater (p. 48)."

Small Sloop?

Arma "Ham" Andon, age 90, called Meredith Murray to say when he got his SS 92, which was built by Benjamin Hallock, "it was called a small sloop." That’s certainly noteworthy, given the historical significance of knowledge held by one of our elder statesmen of our SS community. Others recall a similar response from elders. Tracy Cast: “As far as my mother can remember (Karin Storer), SS always stood for Small Sloop.” Denise Dalmasse says her family also referred to it as the Small Sloop.

George Sandberg: “Small Sloop - very descriptive of exactly what the boat is.”

Small Sloop certainly seems to be the most fitting piece of the puzzle. But there are others…

South Shore?

Dean Speir: “On the other hand, the Rice family of Club Lane in Remsenburg, which had some sailing credentials, often said it was ‘South Shore.’”

George Sandberg: “
South Shore - very descriptive of the area it was / is sailed in. But not of the boat itself.”

Personally I like the nod to
South Shore as it does celebrate the area in which our magic boat fist sailed. Sailing #150 in the finger lakes, when asked about SS, I say that it is a small sloop whose specific design was the work of Benjamin Hallock in 1908, and many sailed the South Shore. But this is no proof, certainly, what SS stands for.

Special Sloop?

Doug Simes: "I recall the letters standing for 'Special Sloop' since the boat was such an early one-design concept. I'm sure it's debatable whether the SS was actually the first one-design class, but that's what I was told when I was a kid."

Shinnecock?! Really?

Meredith: "I love some of the 'I’m-absolutely-sure-it-stands-for ...XX.' My favorite is the opinion of a number of Quogue residents who think SS stands for Shinnecock Sloop. Now I ask you, would Benjamin Hallock from Center Moriches and William Atwater of the Quantuck Yacht Club (soon to be commodore of Quantuck and not long after the commodore of the Westhampton Yacht Squadron), who sent the first couple of dozen SSs to the Westhampton Yacht Squadron in Moriches Bay, name the boat 'Shinnecock Anything'??"

Rob Dudley: "Of the first nine SS boats that hit the water in the summer of 1909, five went to Quantuck and four went to Shinnecock. SS boats didn't go to Westhampton until 1914, when seven went to Westhampton and three to Quantuck. My source for this information is the QYC 75th anniversary booklet written by Gordon Dudley and Cory Reynolds."

Hmmmmmmmm. Nah, can’t be.

Slow Sinking?

Rob Dudley: “Sinking Submarine.” Rob also noted, “There is the old story of when my uncle Gordon asked Ollie Howell what SS stood for and he replied that he ‘guessed old Ben knew,’ referring to Ben Hallock who had passed away.”

Dean Speir: "Then I am compelled to note that Bobby Rice (brother of Martha and Lou) and David Royce (brother of Nancy Fenner), who are eight-nine years senior to Rob, always referred to the boats as 'Sinking Sloops' throughout the mid-to-late '50s."

Sounds like the mystery was alive and well back in the ‘50s, and those who were assigned head bailers pondered the answer.

The Alphabet / Harry S Truman

Merry: “Well, personally, after all my reading I think “SS” stands for nothing, just two letters of the alphabet like the AA class and the BB class and the B class. It was designed by all the guys who sailed the AAs and BBs, so to my mind they might have thought it appropriate to put “SS” on a small sloop. I vote for the alphabet letters SS.” Good enough for Harry S Truman, good enough for the SS.

Still a Mystery

After reading the blogs, Fred & Doris Scopinich say leave it SS. As no one knows for sure, let the mystery remain!

Bob Millstein: “Voting for something doesn't make it so. Since it is a mystery and shall probably remain a mystery I think we should leave it SS - no more and no less. SS - one of the earliest one designs in

Dean Speir: "I'm on the plain 'ol "SS" side of things, and would prefer that it be said that if it actually stood for anything, that the origin of the name is lost in the mist of
Great South Bay."

I agree with you Dean, and unless the answer is found in a “beacon” of a yet to be found historical document, we will continue searching in the mist! I for one am simply happy to have the luxury and privilege of sailing one. Let the mystery endure!


SS Bray Prints Now Available

Kathy Bray, the noted artist whose illustrations can be seen in several seafaring books and featured in
Wooden Boat magazine, has recently added our SS class to her line of prints available for purchase. These prints are detailed and accurate depictions of some of the best-known sail and power boats ever built of wood.

Kathy's solar-powered studio is located on a Maine island, where she prints her images "off-the-grid"on 80# off-white archival cover stock with archival links, and carefully inspects each one to ensure that it matches the original rendering.

All of her images can be customized to represent your own boat. Changing colors (for sails as well as hulls), adding sail numbers and insignias, making rig alterations, and changing text for custom captions, are all part of this personalization process. You can inquire by email to let Kathy know what you have in mind, and she will gladly furnish a quote. The address is

Be sure to check out our beloved SS featured on the Bray Prints site!


Centennial Video Now Available from Don Michne

Don Writes...

"Hi Meredith, I finally have the one hour CD on the Centennial Race, July 4, 2008. Actually, its 63 minutes long including 12 or 13 minutes video taken from the air. Just prior to the race, you can watch and listen to the rules being announced. Next, the SS "parade", then clips of the races. I was rooting for Beecher in his newly made 156 and just happened to be zoomed in as he was rounding the final buoy of the final race. I watched that portion of it about a dozen times. You can judge for yourself the cause of his misfortune. Luckily, no one was hurt and there was minimum damage to his boat.

Finally, there is about 12 or 13 minutes of the many SS's in the water at one time, a sight we may never see again, taken from the air.
That part is accompanied by easy listening, background music. The price for the CD is $25. I can be reached by phone, 631-473-0080, by Email, dpmichne@optonline.net or by snail mail; Don Michne 177 Echo Ave. Miller Place, N.Y. 11764.
Just to recap;
this is not a one hour slide show. It's a never seen before, one hour movie.


Spinnaker Rigging

Roger Holzmacher, SS #96 & #100, is looking for someone who can e-mail him photos of a SS spinnaker pole with whatever detail there is on each end, along with any fittings for the spinnaker on the deck or on the sheets just held by hand. If any photos are sent, be sure to send them to our blogmaster so they can be posted here. Thanks!

Roger's email is holzboat@aol.com