Prologue: Tammy Norie is the name of a small Scottish bird, a puffin.
The Boat: The first Tammy Norie was built in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England by Whisstock’s Boat Yard, situated on the Deben River, several miles upriver from the English Channel. It was sailed solo across the Atlantic Ocean by a British doctor, William McCurdy. The voyage was a personal challenge which Dr. McCurdy set for himself. Satisfied, he put his boat up for sale in Essex, CT. and flew home.
Bus McElfresh from landlocked Olean in upstate New York, had served in World War II in the Pacific Theater. He captained a PT (Patrol Torpedo) Boat and fell in love with boats and the ocean. Twenty dry years later, a successful business and family man, he got back on the water. He took his family for a week on a chartered sailboat. That didn’t settle his sea-faring spirit, it only stirred it all the more.
An avid reader of Yachting magazine, he saw an ad for a sailboat in Essex, CT. He loaded the family into the station wagon and set off to take a look. It wasn’t quite what he was looking for—but another boat was. A beautiful British built 40 foot ketch. Dark blue wooden hull. Dark reddish sails Bowsprit. A stunning vessel–Dr. McCurdy’s Tammy Norie.
Mr. McElfresh made an offer and the family spent a couple of years sailing the Tammy Norie on Long Island Sound and along the Atlantic Coast of New England. The Tammy Norie spent winters in storage in Essex, Ct. Mid winter 1968, a fire roared through the winter boat storage barn in Essex destroying a number of boats—the Tammy Norie was one of them
It was decided to rebuild the Tammy Norie at the same yard in Woodbridge that had built the original beloved vessel. The boat was built. The family now owned a brand new Tammy Norie. Difficulty: it was in England and they had to get the 40 foot sailboat to Essex, CT. Quick solution—fly to England and sail the Tammy Norie home. The four member McElfresh family (parents and college age daughter and son) and a recruited crewman sailed the Tammy Norie from Woodbridge down the English Channel through the Bay of Biscay to the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of Africa. Powered by the trade winds, the same wind that brought Columbus to America in 1492, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Bermuda and finally on to Essex, CT.
The trip was successful. The crewmen married the captain’s daughter and Bus McElfresh’s family sailed the new Tammy Norie along the New England coast until his death in 1991. During those years, the boat was harbored in Essex, CT, Camden, ME and finally in Stonington, CT.
Fast forward to 1984–the boat after being based in Camden for more than a decade had to be sailed to a new home port in Connecticutt. The first segment of the journey as documented in the daybook:
Thursday, June 28, 1984—New York City to Camden, ME—Zach and I picked up M.H. at 8:00 and Jay at 8:15. Breakfast at Sherwood Diner in Saugatuck, or someplace, Conn. Arrived Camden at 6:00. Dinner at the Sail Loft with the Eddy’s and McClellen’s. Overnight on the boat.
Friday, June 29, 1984—Sailing—Left Camden at 10:45. Foggy and cold. Wind off the bow. By midnight entire crew has been violently sick except Jay. A long day. M.H. looking pale and big-eyed and very curly hair.
Saturday June 30, 1984—Sailing—Mom’s Birthday. Foggy day at sea. Saw a whale or two in Cape Cod Bay. A lovely dinner in the Canal though fog hugged the entrance like an old horror movie. Arrived Quissett at 12 midnight. A grateful crew. Jay, Zack and I stayed aboard. M.H. and Dad retired to the Hamilton residence with Mom.
Sunday, July 1, 1984—Falmouth, MA to New York City—Got up at 7:30. Paddled around the harbor a bit. Dad arrived and we all went to the house for showers and breakfast. The McClellen’s arrived with my car. Drove down to check in with Dad then to Curtis Food Shop and bought a box of Michael Jackson cards with Amy, a pack of “Nerds” for Carrie. All went swimming at Wood Neck Beach then took off about 4:30 for Mystic. Went to see the house then a very pleasant dinner at the Seaman’s Inn. Dropped M.H. off first, then Jay. Zach staying the night. Home by 12:30.