Mark Grady wasn’t looking for a boat. He already had one. But then, boatbuilder Tommy Townsend called from Mystic, Connecticut. A 1966 41-foot Penbo trawler yacht was about to get chain-sawed.
The trawler, Annie Glynn, had been for sale for years, but even with the owner willing to give her away, there were no takers. Townsend knew that Grady loved Penbos as much as he did; two years before, Grady had purchased a 1965 37-foot Penbo sardine carrier that Grady restored and turned into the Mary Curtis. That boat had just won the best powerboat award at the 2018 Antique & Classic Boat Festival in Salem, Massachusetts, after Grady had enjoyed his second summer aboard.
“I was perfectly happy with the Mary Curtis,” Grady says, noting how Townsend told him the Annie Glynn was free, had more living space and great systems.
Grady knows there’s no such thing as a free boat, but even so, he drove from his Scituate, Massachusetts, home to Chester, Connecticut, to inspect the Annie Glynn with Townsend. It was dead of winter. “We froze our asses off,” Grady says, “and the boat was in pretty rough shape.” The Annie Glynn had been under shrink wrap for five years. Rainwater had made its way from the pulpit across the foredeck to the wooden mooring bit on the bow and rotted things out. The planking had dried out and the boat was mildewed inside and out. Five years on the hard had not been kind to the trawler.
But there were many positives, Grady says. “The boat’s systems were top-notch and of recent vintage. The owner was an industrial designer who’d wired the boat himself to marine specifications. He had three laminated copies of all the schematics in three-ring binders. He installed shorepower on both sides with breakers, and everything was properly grounded.”
The trawler also had two new freshwater tanks, a new hot water heater, a new water pump, PEX plumbing and two never-used VacuFlush heads.
The plywood decks and cabin tops were sheathed in fiberglass, and the cedar-over-oak hull was glass-free—exactly the way Grady likes his wooden boats. The engine was in good shape too. Billings Diesel & Marine in Stonington, Maine, repowered the boat in 1998 with a 185-hp Cummins diesel, and a 2013 survey gave the boat a clean bill of health.
The hull was sound, so Grady decided to go for it. But while driving to the owner’s house to take ownership, he was still looking for a way out.
“I told myself on the way over, ‘If he wants any money, even five bucks, I’m walking away,’” Grady recalls.
When Grady pulled into the driveway, the boat’s new cushions were sitting outside the garage, and the curtains were still on hangers inside the plastic from the dry cleaner. While the owner filled out the paperwork to transfer ownership, he hesitated for a moment and then sheepishly asked Grady: “Is it okay if we do a dollar?”
“I gave him a dollar in the driveway,” Grady says.
It was December 30, 2018, and Grady immediately set to work. Every weekend, he’d drive from Massachusetts to Annie Glynn at Chrisholm Marina in Chester, Connecticut, sleeping in Townsend’s loft for the winter. He’d take home parts from the boat and fix or finish them after work on weekday evenings, then reinstall them the next weekend. He did that for seven straight months. In July, he brought Mary Curtis down from Scituate to Chrisholm Marina so he could sleep on her while he worked on Annie Glynn.
Grady is not a boatbuilder, but because he is a residential general contractor, he knows wood and is not afraid to put a saw into a boat. With guidance from Townsend, he attacked the rot on the bow. Townsend had bought some leftover Danish oak from the Mystic Seaport Mayflower II project, and Grady used the wood to reconstruct a bit for the bow. Grady also glued up a new 3-inch-thick mahogany pulpit and replaced the rotted toerail.
He removed a plywood bench and stainless-steel railings on the cabin roof that were not original to the boat. He reversed the swing on the pilothouse doors and converted them to Dutch doors, so the bottoms could be closed while the tops could swing open to ventilate the pilothouse. The heads and galley got striped sapele countertops with new sinks and faucets. The galley also got a built-in microwave.
As Grady made repairs and upgrades, a close friend painted the boat inside and out. Chrisholm Marina owner Victor Matz cleared out a boat shed so the spars could be finished out of the weather. Matz also gave Grady a vintage Buell duplex air horn he’d salvaged.
While sanding the topsides, Grady uncovered the boat’s old name, Chantey. He liked it, so he decided to use it again. By midsummer, Grady was hoping to get the boat to the 2019 Antique & Classic Boat Festival in late August. The bottom still needed to be caulked and painted.
That’s when Townsend showed up. After Grady spent a Saturday raking out all the seam compound, Townsend arrived with two of his crew. “They sealed the whole bottom in one day,” Grady recalls. “It took 17 tubs of Slick Seam.”
But there was a problem. Townsend is particular about boat colors. He didn’t like the orange that Grady had put on the pilothouse doors, nor the black on the boat’s bottom. “The orange doors gotta go,” he told Grady. “The black bottom is bad enough.”
Two days later, Townsend called Grady again. He’d shown up with his crew to paint the bottom. “We took a vote,” Grady recalls Townsend saying. “The bottom’s going to be red.” Soon after, Chantey was hanging in the Travelift slings in the water to let her bottom swell. Grady laughs when telling the story. “I wouldn’t be sitting here without Tommy and his guys,” he says.
Grady planned to motor Chantey up to Salem the weekend before the boat festival, but Townsend put the kibosh on his plans. He felt the boat needed more time to swell up in the water before she went on a long cruise. Instead, Grady waited another week and then motored Chantey home. He was bummed to miss the festival but knew it was the right thing to do.
“Tommy thinks I’m out of my mind turning this thing around in nine months,” Grady says, “but this is what I do. I love what I do for work, and then to have this boat as an end product is really satisfying.”
Bob Lane and his father Carl D. Lane started the Penobscot Boat Works in 1951 in Rockport, Maine.
They built skiffs, sloops and a fleet of semi-custom “cruising houseboats” that became known as Penbos. Carl Lane
designed the Penbos, which were lightly built but well-constructed and included unique and practical features.
“Sometimes they just went to the lumberyard and bought what they found,” Penbo owner Mark Grady says. Some boats included louver boards, and the overhead in the pilothouse of Grady’s 1966 Penbo trawler yacht is lined with pegboard.
Every Penbo was unique, since the Lanes added features to subsequent models. Grady currently owns two Penbos and admires them for their practical layouts and common-sense design. The boathook on his 41-foot trawler is stowed in a specially designed cradle on the forestay, where it is within arm’s reach to retrieve a mooring line from the water.
Penbo’s last boat was built in 1975, which Bob Lane and his wife took to the Bahamas for the next 10 years.
Penbos still have a loyal following, although their wooden construction scares away many boaters. Grady is not one of them. “Mary Curtis took me two days to get ready for the season,” he says about the 1965 wooden Penbo sardine carrier he now has up for sale. “In my eyes, it’s less work than a fiberglass boat.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue.