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Company Profile: Cape Cod Ship Building


Vanderbilt’s, World Cup Yacht Racing, the Kennedy’s and more!

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In 1947,  E.L. Goodwin bought the rights to build the Herreshoff 12 1/2 known  for decades as the preferred small craft of Newport by many including the Vanderbilt’s. Designed by Nathaniel Herreshoff and  known for a long line of racing boats that helped keep the American Cup in America.

Cape Cod Ship Building Company (CCSBC) have been builders of fine sailboats for over 100 years. In 1885 Myron and Charles Gurney manufactured wagons, carriages and wagon wheels for Tremont Nail and other Wareham companies. With the invention of the rubber tire, the Gurney Brothers knew they needed to shift gears. While occasionally building small skiffs for personal use in 1899 a new venture was decided. The Gurney Brothers named their new business Cape Cod Power Dory Co. Charles did the drafting and designing. During this time CCSBC built wooden pleasure and commercial boats including Coast Guard Boats. The Gurney Brothers made a variety of boats in all sizes.

In 1919, plans to build the Narrows Bridge were underway which would close Cape Cod Poer Dory Co off to Buzzards Bay. They moved to their present location at 7 Narrows Road with 1500″ of water frontage and changed their name to Cape Cod Shipbuilding Corp. In 1925, The Cape Cod Knockabout was designed and quickly became the most famous of Gurney’s designs. The Knockabout evolved in a competitive first design fleet which is still active today.  Ownership of CCSBC was passed to G.S Williams in 1935 after the death of Charles Gurney.

In 1928, E.L. Goodwin; President of Undercliff Boatworks in New Jersey, a dealer for Cape Cod boats came to speak with Cape Cod Shipbuilding regarding a recent decline in quality and ended up purchasing the company. In 1940 the Sparkman & Stephens designed Mercury was purchased and over 200 were built of wood between 1940-1952.

During WWII CCSBC began production of war tugs and launches for the military. E.L. Goodwin traveled to Washington to secure building contracts and required that the boats being built drew under 15″ in order to navigate the Wareham River. This in turn ment relatively smaller boats were being built at CCBSC. In 1943, One and a half 40″ tugboats were built a week and the company went from 1 to over 100 employees.

After the war, CCSBC was able to easily switch gears from the tugboats and launches to small pleasure boats. Shipyards building larger boats were not able to make this transition and consequently many went out of business. In 1947, all boats designed by Nathanael Herreshoff were purchased by CCSBC. Wooden Herreshoff H12 1/2’s continue to be built at CCSBC. After learning that the military was interested in fiberglass boats during one of E.L.’s trips to the Pentagon, E.L. worked with Mr. Bell of American Cyanamid in New York to build fiberglass products. The first fiberglass boat built by CCSBC was a model made under the office.  E.L. created air tanks within boats to allow them to float even when filled with water.

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CCSBC went on to create the first fiberglass modeling room with concrete floor and fireproof walls. The ceiling was low and there were no windows in order to keep a steady temperature for consistent curing of the resin. In 1951, the first fiberglass Raven’s were built. Eight were delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Jack Daphney went to Aloca in 1952, which at the time was the only manufacturer of aluminum spars; to purchase spar dies for boats. He came home with the rights, extrusions and tools for all the aluminum spar building line. Zephyr Spars became a division of CCSBC.

Three of CCSB boats are in the prestigious flotilla at the Kennedy family compound; Ted Kennedy’s “MYA”, Eunice Shriver’s “Roses of all Roses” and Caroline Schlossberg’s “Snapdragon” are all Herreshoff 12 1/2’s.

E.L. worked with Cornelius Shields in 1962 to develop a boat for maritime cadets to understand how sailboats maneuver…the result is the Shields Class One Design designed by Sparkman & Shields. Cornelius Shields a dedicated believer in one design racing knew maritime cadets were learning to operate ships with no knowledge of the maneuverability of a sailboat. The class today remains a strict one design with fleets throughout the country. Gordon L. Goodwin became President of CCSBC in 1979. E.L. Goodwin passed away July 1994 at the age of 95.

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Today, Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co and the Goodwin family continue to offer traditional fiberglass sail boats from 9 to 49 feet built  in Wareham. It’s a family business going on   tree generation with Wendy J. Goodwin serving as Vice President….And the boats their family built are being handed down generation to generation!