Memsahib was built in 1961 in Hong Kong at the Wing-on-Shing Shipyard. Wing-on-Shing was a small builder who only appears to have finished two or three boats per year, from designers throughout the world, but for mainly British clients. I have never found a listing for a Wing-On-Shing yacht that didn’t list the construction as all Burma Teak, so I suppose like other Hong Kong yards, that was their specialty.
Someone once told me that Wing-on-Shing was absorbed by Cheoy Lee or CT, but I don’t think that’s true. They are still listed as a fuel and repair facility near the Hong Kong waterfront, so I think as the demand for wooden boats ebbed, they just stopped building them.
Anyway, they did a great job on Memsahib — heavy, bulletproof construction, wonderful natural materials — teak, yacal frames, ipol backbone. Yacal and ipol are sort of an oriental oak, I believe, that bend better than teak. All I know is they are hard as rock and will dull a drill bit in no time at all, the couple times I’ve had to install a fitting directly on the boat.
The boat was commissioned by E.R. Cutting, a Boston lawyer. The boat was delivered to Boston by freighter and all the rigging and equipment were added here, so what hasn’t been replaced (not much) is all of American or English manufacture. We don’t know about the mast, other than it a gorgeous piece of clear Sitka spruce that probably originated in the United States.
Cutting apparently didn’t keep the boat all that long, because the boat was owned for most of the 1970s and 1980s by a family named Popko. Not much is known about them other than C. Popko was a talented amateur woodcarver, as attested by Memsahib’s beautiful nameboards and other carving throughout the boat. The Popkos had children and used the boat for family cruising in New England.
Then Memsahib got very, very lucky in 1982, coming into the ownership of John Braider of Greenport, Long Island. John lavished care on Memsahib, having a total rebuild and glassing of the cabin trunk, new teak decks and pilothouse renovation done at Dutch Wharf Boatyard in Branford, CT. And Memsahib was a bit under-canvased with a lot of weather helm, so he had them add a beautiful teak and stainless bowsprit that really improved sailing performance. The work is exceptional, as it should be given that John showed me a bill from Dutch Wharf for $90,000!
Then he moved her to Greenport, where she went under the care of the well-known Anders Langendal. Andy wasn’t happy with the fastenings, which were a sort of “Chinese” stainless steel, so he replaced everything with bronze, including bronze rivets for the planking, which you just don’t see any more. He wasn’t happy with the hull fairness, so he faired her to the beautiful hull that, sadly, people take for fiberglass today. He also replaced the keel bolts and put extra frames in the engine area. I got all this directly from Andy, when Memsahib pulled into Greenport to see John and the huge new boat he and Andy were restoring.
John put in a new engine, a Graymarine, 4-161. This is basically a marinized version of the rugged American Motors engine that powered everything from World War II jeeps to AMC cars. It was amusing to go to auto parts stores for parts, have the guy look up from the catalog and say, “So you have a 1954 Rambler?”
Frankly, John didn’t use the boat all that hard. He had a dock on a piece of land on a beautiful cove near Greenport, and Memsahib served as a moveable summer cottage, complete with telephone wiring, electric stove, and a strange sort of compressed natural gas water-heating system. He was just completing another batch of systems work at Connanicut Marine in Rhode Island when he fell in love with a classic Burger motor yacht that needed the Braider touch, and Memsahib went on the market.