• Bill Clapp

  • The list of history’s famous sailors is extensive to say the least. Notable seafarers from Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan to modern day fabled sailors like Popeye and Moby Dick’s Santiago all shared one common trait – a passion for the sea and the ships that sail thereon.

    The time is nigh to add another knowledgeable salty character to that distinguished list: Bill Clapp, The Boat Whisperer of Dutch Wharf. Bill’s knowledge and passion for boats is legendary along the New England coast. For nineteen years he owned ‘Tern’, a 28’ Herreshoff Rozinante which he kept moored in a cove near his home. She had no engine. The wind, tides and knowledge were all he needed.

    Earlier this year Wooden Boat Magazine (vol. 213) published a feature article about Bill and Tern. It was a tribute to his ability to enhance a boat considered by many to be one of the most beautiful and seaworthy designs ever conceived. The author noted twenty-two innovative changes devised by Bill to improve performance and appearance.

    Building and caring for a beautiful work of art, such as a sailboat or yacht, certainly qualifies as a creative endeavor. That’s what Bill Clapp does for a living – and he’s doggone good at it. Around the yard he’s known as the Boat Whisperer because of his innate ability to listen to the vessel when underway and determine where hidden problems may lie.

    Bill came to Dutch Wharf in 1990 and has been a major factor in the yard’s increasing rise to regional prominence. His background prior to the yard includes a tour with the U.S. Navy, time as third-mate in the Merchant Marine and an engineering career with SNET.

    He has sailed in the Marion/Newport to Bermuda race fifteen times in various capacities: skipper, navigator, tactician and counselor. Although Dutch Wharf does not officially operate a delivery service Bill has been known to assist customers from Maine to Florida get their vessels to and from the yard. Many long time clients of the yard call frequently seeking his advice on matters ranging from sail selection to choice of bottom paint.

    When their grandchildren began sailing with Bill his wife Sis lobbied for a boat with lifelines and an engine to ease her anxiety ashore. Parting with Tern would prove difficult but he eventually found a buyer who shared his vision of how to care for such a treasure. A year-long search ensued resulting in his purchase of a British built Vertue from a private owner in St. John, New Brunswick. She is 28’ of solid teak and in pristine condition for having been on the hard for three years. (She also has lifelines and a small engine.) Bill spent the past spring and summer tending to the cosmetics and is now sailing her during the fall season – the perfect vessel to share his passion with his grandchildren. He’ll be spending the winter months planning and designing a new list of amenities to make her his own.

    If your vessel, sail or power, has problems, obvious or hidden, stop by or call the yard. Bill will be only too happy to listen and recommend the best course of action.

    Passion + Knowledge + Generosity = Bill Clapp