Originally ordered by W. O. Taylor, publisher of The Boston Globe, Sylvester Manor’s Herreshoff 12 ½ has been sailing on Shelter Island since the 1950s. It is the third boat of its class ever built and the second oldest in existence. The Herreshoff 12 ½ is one of the most iconic American sailboats ever produced by one of the most iconic boatbuilders in the history of American boatbuilding. The design is a mainstay in harbors around the northeast and is sometimes referred to as a Doughdish or Buzzard’s Bay Boy’s Boat.
Augustus H. Fiske, who would briefly become the 11th Lord of Sylvester Manor, bought her in 1936 for use with his family at their summer house on Buzzard’s Bay, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The name “Buzzard’s Bay Boy’s Boat” was chosen because the design of this little boat included a heavy keel and considerable beam, making it hard for inexperienced sailors to capsize or swamp. It suited the family well, serving as an educational tool for Augustus Fiske’s three sons and two daughters. In fact, Mr. Fiske renamed her from “Peggy” to “Little Kittie” after his oldest daughter Katherine, or “Kittie”. She was sailed by the family into the 1940’s, and was a legendary winner of many races. The family house in Cape Cod is filled with the blue, red and yellow burgees and pennants won by Little Kittie as a part of the Beverly Yacht Club and the Buzzard’s Bay Yacht Club.
In the late 40’s the boat was sold a few times, but was brought back into the Fiske family in 1952 by Andrew Fiske, Augustus’ son, who had recently become 12th Lord of the Manor. Over the years many young sailors learned to race on the Little Kittie, accompanying Andy during Wednesday night races. When Andy passed away in 1992 the boat went to his wife, Alice “Allie” Fiske, and she gave it to her daughter, Lissa Williamson, who in turn donated the boat to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm in 2013.
Today the Manor owns and maintains the boat as a part of its mission to preservation cultivate and share historic Sylvester Manor. You might see her in a Wednesday night race on Shelter Island Sound or just enjoying a stiff breeze on any given afternoon.
Original Name: Peggy
Current Name: Little Kittie
Hull No: 746
Boat Location: Shelter Island, NY
Contracted By: W.O. Taylor
Current Owner(s): Sylvester Manor Educational Farm
Contract Date: 11/14/1914
Owner Since: 1952
Class: 12-1/2 Footer
Sub-Class: Original 20
Original Rig: J&M
Current Rig: Gaff
Original Price: $420
Restored By: Rob Hooke, Rockport, Maine - 2002
LOA: 15 ft. 10 in.
LWL: 12 ft. 6 in.
Beam: 5 ft. 10 in.
Draft: 2 ft. 5 in.
Designer: Nathanael G Herreshoff