The Restoration of Monsoon
Monsoon is a 17 foot marconi rigged Barnegat Bay Catboat designed by the renowned New York naval architect Charles Mower. She was built by Morton Johnson Boat Builders in Point Pleasant, New Jersey in 1924. She was constructed of Atlantic white cedar planking fastened with bronze screws to sawn white oak frames. Her past owners had performed numerous repairs including fiber glassing below the waterline in order to keep her sailing on the waters of Barnegat Bay up until 1990.
Monsoon was donated to the Toms River Seaport Society and Maritime Museum in May of 1989 by Albert P. Gagnebin of Fair Haven, New Jersey. She continued to sail under the burgee of the TRSS in two wooden boat regattas. Due to deteriorating conditions she was placed on the hard for museum display purposes.
In 1996, former TRSS Trustee Ben Dittenhofer suggested that Monsoon undergo an extensive restoration with an eye toward once again sailing her in the Toms River and Barnegat Bay. Ben saw in Monsoon the simple beauty and utility of this catboat that warranted the more that 2,000 estimated man-hours it would require to bring her back to her former glory. Luckily for Monsoon, San and Karen Porcello of the TRSS also recognized her hidden attributes and adopted Monsoon under the Seaport Society's Adopt-A-Boat program. With the Porcello's financial commitment and volunteers from the Barnegat Bay Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association (TSCA) and the Seaport Society to contributed the necessary elbow grease, Monsoon was on her way back to the Bay.
The restoration of the Monsoon is yet another example of the Toms River Seaport Society carrying out its mission to preserve and celebrate New Jersey's maritime history. This project has also brought a diverse and talented group of people together. It would be difficult to name all of the volunteers who made this restoration project a success in this brief discussion. A complete history of the project and those involved can be found in an extensive log book prepared by John Ammerman. John, who was the Society's librarian, has spent more time that anyone working on the Monsoon project. His log book is not only informative but contains wonderful illustrations.
Two other gentlemen must be mentioned, not because of all of the work they put in on the project, or their dedication to same, but because Ben Dittenhofer and Gene Muller were two wonderful people to work with and will be greatly missed. They brought neither baggage nor pretence to the boat shop, they just brought their honest, knowledgeable selves and without them this boat would not have sailed again.
It is the Seaports Society's intention to keep Monsoon in the Toms River and make her available to TRSS members for cruises this summer and hopefully for many summers to come. Thanks you to all those who have supported the restoration of the catboat Monsoon.