If you know the American tradition of yachting, chances are you know the Herreshoff name. And if you just love sailing and the magic of being on the water, the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame is a must-see in Bristol.
The museum has more than 60 of what it calls “significant” boats, ranging from the 8-and-a half-foot dinghy Nathaniel, to the 75-foot Defiant, built in 1992 for the successful defense of the America’s Cup. Also here are Harold Vanderbilt’s Trivia, William Strawbridge’s 12-and-a-half-foot Bulldog, and Captain Nat Herreshoff’s personal yachts, the 1887 Clara and 1925 Pleasure.
The museum also hosts the state’s oldest boat, Sprite, which museum officials also believe is the oldest existing private yacht in the country. You’ll also find Captain Nat’s steam engines, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company hardware, America’s Cup memorabilia, and Herreshoff family photographs.
It’s easy to spend the bulk of a morning or afternoon wandering around the museum, and checking out the vessels in the Hall of Boats, where three of them – Clara, Thania and Torch – can be boarded. The hall also has the Aria, the 1914 Buzzards Bay 25, and Pleasure (Capt. Nat’s dayboat, which he designed and built to use in Florida).
In the Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff Room, check out a diorama of the company as it existed in 1914. You can also visit one of these workshops later in your tour of Building 28, where the Reliance project exhibit is located. Visitors can see examples of these pieces of Herreshoff-made hardware in the steam engine and fittings hall.
Another great take is the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, founded in 1992 by four-time America’s Cup defender and grandson of Captain Nat, Halsey Herreshoff, where you can follow the history of the America’s Cup from its origin in 1851 through the various technological developments over time to the catamarans in use today. The first carbon fiber spinnaker pole as used on Intrepid is on display, as is the first large-scale model built for tank testing in 1930 – Enterprise.
The museum is always hosting special events, including the 2016 Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta Aug. 26-28, and the 2016 America’s Cup Hall of Fame induction ceremony Oct. 21. Check www.herreshoff.org for all details about the museum. If you love boats – either owning one, sailing one or just watching them glide by on Narragansett Bay – the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame is a great way to while away a Bristol day.