Wiley refers to an article by Ernest A. Bell in Yachting Magazine as one source of inspiration for his development of the Tancook Whaler. In his memoir “Preacher’s Son,” Wiley relates a tale of how, in the 1930s, while crewing on a New York YC Cruise off Vineyard Haven, Wiley’s schooner was overtaken and passed by a smaller Tancook Whaler. The Whaler was piloted by a gentleman wearing a derby and puffing on a corn cob pipe. Wiley was cranking at a winch and in his words, “We were racing.” As the Whaler came alongside, her captain left the tiller unattended and strolled forward to ease the foresail and soon thereafter left Wiley’s schooner behind. Wiley was impressed. Not long afterward, that same Whaler was brought to Oxford for inspection and adaptation of the plan to recreational sailing. Wiley moved the ballast outside the hull, “hardened the bilges,” and eliminated the centerboard. He installed a flush deck cabin on most of his boats, citing their qualities on a boat of this size as having sitting headroom with the ability to lean back onto the lockers. Improved strength at the mast partners, a clear open deck, and better water repellency were also mentioned.
Wiley chose a modern cutter rig over the schooner rig for better performance on all points of sail. The first boats were around 30 feet in length, gradually increasing to 38 and 40 feet with Fox and Vixen. Interior accommodations also grew with increasing length, and Vixen has a standard house with standing headroom. Wiley employed many of his innovations in the construction of these boats, including his patented athwart-ship deck planking; the deck planks run from side to side instead of fore and aft, the advantage being more interior volume available due to less framing. He also made good use of what became known as “Wiley Ports.” While it’s said that Wiley wasn’t the inventor, he was awarded namesake credit for frequently employing a port light that consisted of a glass pane fitted in an angled frame. The pane could be sealed tight against the cabin side with wooden wedges or propped open using the same wedges. If the wedges are removed completely, the panes slap open or shut
##The Tancook Whalers were fast, seaworthy, could carry a load, and were easily handled.
depending on the heel of the boat. Another useful feature was a cockpit well that could be lifted out as a unit giving full access to the engine below. Wiley’s Whalers were noted for their self-steering ability. After trimming the sails for course, Wiley would let go of the tiller and putter off, enjoying the reactions this would elicit from his guests. When
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SpinSheet April 2014 55
Chesapeake Bay Sailing