The company was
formed with $70,000 in cash contributed by Ramsing, $31,000 worth of molds contributed by Lunn Laminates, and $31,000 worth of designs and
specifications contributed by Northrop & Johnson. The company
ownership was based on 96 shares of stock with Ramsing holding 83 of these. The remaining 13 shares
were divided evenly among James Northrup, George
Johnson, and Howard Foster.
Foster, a marine consultant and
representative for Northrop & Johnson, was named president. They
agreed to establish the building site in Catskill, N.Y., in what was originally a brick
plant. Located on the Catskill Creek just off the Hudson River about 100
miles north of New York
City, it was an ideal place from which to build and
launch their boats.
Ramsing did well
racing his Seawind, winning prizes in the
Southern Ocean Racing Circuit. The Allied reputation grew accordingly, but
he was not complacent enough to produce just one type of sailboat. From
the beginning, Allied needed other models from notable architects in order
to please larger families and deeper pocketbooks.
Ramsing also had been very successful racing his
46-foot Solution designed by Sparkman & Stephens. He reasoned that a
smaller version of the same boat might be readily accepted. He asked Frank
MacLear and Bob Harris to design the smaller
boat. They created the 35-foot Seabreeze, a
centerboard boat which could be rigged as a sloop or yawl. The company
built 135 of these over a nine-year period beginning in 1963.
short while later another well-known naval architect, Bill Luders, introduced the Luders 33, the third exceptional yacht to grace the
Allied yard. Next, Allied added the Britton Chance-designed Chance 30.
With its fin keel and spade rudder, it was a bit ahead of its time and not
received as well as the other "sturdier hull" models.
In 1964, only
a year after forming the company, Ramsing sold
his share of the partnership to Northam Warren,
another well-known racing sailor. Warren also purchased the stock held by
Lunn, Northrup, and
Johnson, making him the primary owner of the Allied Boat Company. During
the remainder of the '60s, Warren and Foster aggressively marketed the
four models in the Allied line of sailboats.
control of production and sales at the factory while Warren went "on the
road" attending boat shows and entering races with his Seawind 30. The company sold their products directly
to customers; there were no distributors.
Northam Warren had a great perception and zeal for
life. He was raised on Long Island, where
his father, an avid sailor, saw to it that his children, including two
daughters, each had a sailboat. The senior Warren raced centerboard boats when he
wasn't attending to the family cosmetic business. Northam attended Princeton University and won major sailboat
races three out of his four years there.
After service in the field
artillery in World War II, Warren owned several boats and traveled
extensively to race them. Some of the races included the Annapolis to Newport Race, the Bermuda Race three
times, the Chicago-to-Mackinac Race, and
two Transpacs to Hawaii.
During my interview with
Northam Warren, I learned that Allied became the
first company to supply fiberglass hulls in colors other than white. This
was an exclusive option, which actually started with the Seawind 30, but was also available with their other
models. The company's aggressive marketing strategies often gave it a jump
on competition. "She'll cross an ocean if you will" was the oft-repeated
motto associated with the Seawind
Warren noted that another clever
promotion was the annual Pinkletink, named after
a frog which lives in a tree on Martha's
Vineyard. Each year he had the factory do a special fitting
job using all the latest and heaviest hardware. These boats were
exceptional, sporting the latest in sails and the most sophisticated
equipment on the market. Every part of the boat was
At the beginning of each season, Warren went racing
with the Pinkletink. Well-known in the circuit
and a crafty racing skipper, Warren, with
this highly prized Seawind became a familiar
figure from New England to the Caribbean.
Anxious admirers knew this special boat would be for sale at the end of
the season. After three years, many people were waiting to purchase these
special Allied boats.
While Warren was
promoting Allied products north and south via boat shows and racing
circuits, Howard Foster and the factory had the responsibility of building
boats to fill the orders he was creating. A primary member of the factory
team was foreman Glen Neal, who was born and raised in Catskill. He was
looking for work in 1966 to fill in the winter months that usually
crippled his carpentry business. His timing was good. The Allied Boat
Company, going strong at that time, had plenty of orders gathered from
summer and fall boat shows and racing events.
Neal went to work for
$1.50 an hour. He planned to stay there through the winter, then start
building houses again in the spring. He didn't know or particularly care
about boats, but it was a warm indoor job during the winter.
immediately recognized the inefficiency of having too few pieces of
equipment for use by too many employees. His department had only one
electric hand drill and one sabre saw, for
example. In order to retrieve these small power tools, workers made
numerous trips to other parts of the shop, which wasted time and
frustrated workers. After six months Neal presented Foster with his ideas
for production improvements and was rewarded with a promotion to foreman
of the carpentry and finishing department. He stayed with Allied from 1966
to 1972, during what appear to have been their most productive
According to Neal, Allied was recognized as a high-quality
boatbuilder - possibly the third best in the
world. I was unable to learn what companies the two other leaders were,
but the integrity of Neal's interview lends credibility to this statement.
Readers may speculate about the other two.
Neal ultimately led a
crew of 35 who did carpentry work inside and outside: deckwork, handrails, bowsprit, and bulkheads along
with some minor fiberglassing. A separate
department did hull and deck fiberglass work. A third department did the
wiring and electrical installations. The building process was
synchronized, using a progress board and a card system to track projects
as work moved each boat along the assembly line. Neal and his team added
the finishing touches as the boats moved out the door.
the efficiency in the plant, few boats were returned for rework. Allied
could afford to give the owner a strong warranty. Neal occasionally went
out on calls to deal with minor problems, like a blister on a wood
Neal said he prided himself on doing things right and
that the Allied Boat Company was a good place to work. Peak employment
reached about 130, and orders were plentiful during the late '60s and
Neal suggested that quality workers should receive top
wages. He recommended to management that they offer a pension plan or an
incentive program to help inspire employee output. He kept records of the
trimming crew's performance and introduced competition to improve the
quality of work. He was obviously a strong catalyst in the development of
the Allied workforce and in the solid reputation which the company earned
as a result.
Over time, other models
were introduced. The Greenwich 24, by George Stadel, was the smallest boat offered by Allied. Not
as popular as the other heavier models, the molds were eventually sold off
Dory and ultimately
became the Cape Dory 25. The fleet was expanded to a 39-footer and the
ultimate XL-2, a 42-foot sailboat designed by Sparkman & Stephens.
Orders were plentiful, giving the appearance that all was going
Early 1969 brought changes which would eventually make
Allied flinch and ultimately cause it to falter. Oil prices would soon
escalate from $5 to $20 per barrel. Because it is a principal ingredient
in fiberglass, the steep price increase in petroleum caused a substantial
rise in production costs.
In addition there were some leadership
problems and personality conflicts in the front office, which introduced
chaos in the company and caused many to leave. Assistant plant manager Bob
Jones departed in 1969, closely followed by plant manager Walter Laskowski. The loss of these key managers in the
production area negatively affected employee morale.
mood reached throughout the administrative, engineering, and labor
departments. Together with negative national and international economic
influences, the strains on Allied were taking a toll. Eventually, officers
filed a mortgage foreclosure at the Greene County Courthouse on March 18,
1969. This notice signaled trouble in the front office at a time when the
cash flow from orders should have been adequate to keep the company
afloat. During this time increasing numbers of suppliers began to file
judgments against the company. Some information suggests that Warren bought
Foster's interest in 1971, thus making him the sole owner of
The period from 1969 to 1974 must have seen some very
traumatic moments. Employees who were experienced and capable were leaving
for other employment. Recognizing this downward spiral, Warren placed an ad
in The Wall Street Journal in 1973 to sell the company, 11 years after it
At this point, a shining star
appeared for the company. Robert Wright, a cruising sailor from Little
Falls, N.Y., put together a partnership with two others and negotiated
with banks and creditors to allow him to start building again. Wright was
an electrical engineer, had obtained a law degree from Cornell University, and was experienced as a
He and his partners put up $200,000. That
infusion of cash, together with the backlog of orders equal to six months'
production and deposits of $177,000, made the future look brighter for the
new company, now called The Wright Yacht Company. Wright's wife, Jean, was
secretary, and their son, Paul, was plant manager. These three knew the
meaning of work and the importance of customer satisfaction.
this time, Wright commissioned Thomas Gillmer to
create another legendary Seawind, slightly
larger than the original. This became the Seawind II. A ketch-rigged 32-footer, it had the same
hull as the previous Seawind. The Seawind II served as the flagship of the new company.
Other new boats included the Princess 36, Mistress 39, and the Mistress
Mark III. This nucleus of quality yachts promised to put Allied back on
course as a front-runner in American boatbuilding. The promise,
unfortunately, was unfulfilled.
possibly induced by stock market fluctuations and an unsettled economy,
caused Wright's partners to retreat, taking their financial support with
them. This left the firm in severe financial distress. Bills began to
mount and liens against the company started appearing. Operations must
have been fairly normal until the third year of their lease, since the
first lien was not filed until July 1978.
The Wright Yacht Company
was closed and the Job Development Authority (JDA) became holder and full
owner of all Allied equipment, fixtures, molds, and real estate. The
future appeared to offer little promise of salvaging what was once a
successful boatbuilding enterprise.
Fortunately, the JDA located
Stuart Miller, an attorney from New York City, who owned an Allied
Princess. He was familiar with the company's reputation and apparently
convinced the JDA he could save jobs for Greene County and make the business
profitable once more. He also planned, coincidentally, to build a 50-foot
sailboat for himself.
With Miller as the new CEO, another name
change was introduced: CFG/Allied. I was unable to locate the meaning of
these initials until Ed Hodgens, a faithful
15-year Allied employee, explained that they had stood for Conception for
Miller assumed control of the company in early
1979. A report in a Seawind II newsletter
claimed the 100th Seawind II was completed and
delivered to Florida around the same
Articles in boating magazines tracked mistakes of CFG/Allied
and reported attempts to rescue the company. One magazine was candid,
placing blame on the company leaders for "not being familiar with special
problems of building and marketing boats." The doors of this third
generation of the Allied Boat Company were closed in April
Once again, the JDA was on the
hunt for a buyer. They found a man with a working knowledge of marketing
sailboats. Brax Freeman, a former yacht dealer,
boasted of entrepreneurial skills. He promised to move the "new" firm, now
to be named International Cruising Yachts, into a place of prominence in
the boating world.
Freeman, according to employees, had a flair for
entertainment and gave prospective buyers dinner and show tickets for
evenings in New York
City. These enticements were meant to lead to the
purchase of one of ICY's sailboats. Freeman's
tenure with ICY lasted until late 1981, when he collapsed under the
financial pressures brought to bear by angry creditors and unpaid tax
collectors. The closing chapter of this fine old boatbuilding company was
Various letters from JDA seeking buyers for the land
(5.05 acres) and equipment indicate their persistent efforts to recoup
money lost during their many attempts to save jobs for Greene County.
Ultimately, the land
was sold for approximately $200,000, buildings were torn down, and an
overcrowded complex of condos, each with a boat slip included, was
constructed on the water's edge. (This venture, too, has since met with a
number of obstacles.) An auction took place June 20, 1984, at which time
all remaining equipment and molds were sold for $40,000.
was done - the Allied Boat Company was no more.
Dan Smith boarded a
coal freighter as deckhand in Toledo four days after graduation from
high school. His sailboats have included a Snipe, a Flying Scot, a Morgan
22, a Dickerson 35, and an Allied Seawind 30.
Hurricane Andrew destroyed Kohinoor, the Seawind, in 1992. Dan bought a Marshall catboat and enjoys winters gunkholing in the Florida