For one segment of the Pacific Northwest culture, the words "Monk-designed" bring instant recognition. They refer to one of the region's most well-known marine designers, Ed Monk...
For one segment of the Pacific Northwest culture, the words “Monk-designed” bring instant recognition.
They refer to one of the region’s most well-known marine designers, Ed Monk, and appear in countless advertisements and other descriptions of boats, yachts and small ships.
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When he died in 1973 at age 79, Monk’s passing was widely mourned. A 1998 biography by Bet Oliver, “Ed Monk and the Tradition of Classic Boats,” noted Monk’s reputation by reprinting part of an article in the Bainbridge Review, a weekly newspaper on Bainbridge Island, where Monk lived.
“Mr. Monk designed thousands of boats and was highly regarded as an innovator and consultant as well,” the article read. “A Monk design is a strong selling point for prospective boat buyers, and his designs are known all over the world.”
The first boat that Monk designed and built was a 50-foot vessel named the Nan, launched in 1934.
In a somewhat-remarkable set of circumstances, the Nan is still afloat and is moored at the Everett Marina.
The Nan also is perhaps in better condition than when it was built 70 years ago and has won awards for its restoration.
Now it’s for sale by the present owners, who refer to themselves as caretakers for a significant part of regional history and who speculate that the Nan could remain as it is for another 70 years — with the right owners.
“Hopefully, after all this effort, somebody else will take care of it, too,” said Steve Hemry, who has restored the Nan over the past 10 years with his wife, Diane Anderson.
“Restoration” might not adequately describe what Hemry and Anderson did.
When Hemry first saw the Nan in fall 1994, it was out of the water and had a small “for sale” sign tacked onto the hull.
Hemry had been thinking of buying a sailboat, he recalled, but was intrigued by the Nan. The couple went for a test cruise, and Hemry went below to check the engine and found the hull filling with water. The wooden seams had dried out so much that the Nan was sinking, all the batteries were dead, and there wasn’t a working bilge pump onboard.
But the Nan made it back to a dock, and the seams swelled up after three or four days, sealing the leaks, so the Nan remained afloat.
Despite that beginning, Hemry and Anderson bought the boat.
“You buy a boat with rose- colored glasses,” Hemry said.
“I really wasn’t one for old things,” Anderson said. “He had a vision, and I trusted him.”
The couple later married on the Nan.
“It’s been a struggle sometimes,” Hemry said, thinking of the thousands of hours of work that went into the restoration and explaining that they’ve purposefully never added up the receipts for restoration expenses. “But it’s been a fun project for us.”
Their efforts have been noticed. The Nan was named best overall powerboat and best live-aboard at the prestigious Classic Boat Festival in Victoria, B.C., in 2001, and has been featured in books and articles about classic yachts.
The effect of the restoration is apparent when approaching the Nan — the hull looks like, dare it be said — fiberglass, although it’s really double-planked wood. Inside are the original push-button light switches and an instrument panel reading “Kermath,” a long-gone engine manufacturer.
That’s what’s outwardly apparent. Not apparent is the extent of the functional upgrades, which included a complete rewiring, new plumbing, replacement of the Kermath engine with a Ford Lehman diesel and a desalinization system that provides fresh water.
The visible parts of the restoration have resulted in nearly a time capsule of the place Monk began his design work.
Oliver’s book and other descriptions of Monk’s career mention the launching of the Nan at Redondo, south of Seattle, with Monk writing about how he had saved $3,500 and used it to build the boat.
Monk, his wife and two daughters lived aboard, and he did designs in one corner of the cabin. The Nan was moored then at the Seattle Yacht Club, and Monk used a pay phone at the end of the dock as his office number.
Monk’s designs pioneered what came to be called the tri-cabin layout, with a forward stateroom, a raised bridge and a long, roomy after cabin. He wrote about building boats for the general public as a middle class emerged that could afford boats and as powerboats replaced sailboats and engines became more affordable.
His first book, published in 1934, was titled “Small Boat Building.” It emphasized factors he became noted for, mainly simplicity of design and such qualities as being fast, light and safe.
In 1935, Monk opened an office onshore. His wife, Blossom, died unexpectedly in 1939. Monk remarried, but the Nan, named after his mother’s nickname, was sold in 1941.
The Nan has had four owners, all of whom have kept it in a covered moorage, Hemry noted, which slowed the boat’s deterioration.
But now Hemry and Anderson have bought a house in Anacortes and are moving onshore, forcing them to reluctantly sell the Nan. Port Gardner Yacht Sales, a yacht brokerage at the marina, is handling the listing, which has an asking price of $189,000.
The real value of the boat, Hemry and Anderson say, is the window it gives to a fading part of the Pacific Northwest, when the region’s marine orientation was an integral part of the culture and prosperous boatyards turned out wooden boats like the Nan.
Those boatyards have largely disappeared, with production plants moving to inland industrial parks and most boats made of fiberglass.
The Nan provides a glimpse of how things once were. Anderson mentions that at any dock lined with more-modern vessels, an admiring crowd always gathers around the Nan.
“You can just see people, when they step aboard, it’s like stepping back in time,” she said.
Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or firstname.lastname@example.org