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A Classic Hand Motorsailer

Tags: save a classic
Photo courtesy of Frank Bender
Lines from The Rudder
Lines from The Rudder

Realizing how popular motorsailers had become by the mid-1930s, especially ones designed by William Hand, Wheeler Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York, commissioned four new designs from him in four sizes—35′, 40′, 48′, and 57′. Wheeler specialized in high-quality “standardized” boats, generally power cruisers, and because of the yard’s production-line efficiency they could be purchased at prices below those of the one-at-a-time custom boats being turned out by other builders. Ernest Hemingway’s PILAR (see WB No. 233), a modified Wheeler “Playmate,” is typical, and came out at about the same time. But this was in the 1930s, and the Great Depression were in full swing, so despite extensive promotion the yard’s gamble never took off and only a handful of boats in the Hand-designed “Playmate Motorsailer” series was produced.

To the best of our collective knowledge, Wheeler built only one of the 48-footers, originally named LIBRA and now called QUEEN. (One of that yard’s 57-footers, presently named GUILDIVE and launched as RESTLESS the same year as LIBRA, now operates as a charter boat out of Castine, Maine.)

The January 1934 issue of The Rudder carried a full-page advertisement by William Hand promoting his motorsailer designs, and in the same issue Wheeler had its own ad announcing motorsailers “specifically designed for us”: “For the rover of the open sea we have had Wm. H. Hand, Jr. of New Bedford, Mass., design us three of his world famous motorsailers. These boats offer great comforts at sea, long cruising range, low cost operation, and great safety.”

The Rudder followed up in the March issue, publishing the drawings in its design section. A later issue shows the boat framed up, and a Rosenfeld photo in the July issue has LIBRA/QUEEN steaming along under power with her sails up and drawing.

I’ve had a great interest in motorsailers ever since 1979, when WoodenBoat put together a three-part article on William Hand (WB Nos. 27–29), and I thought that his 48-footer was just the right size. My friend Michael McMenemy, then owner of the Hand-inspired 58' motorsailer BURMA, was even more enamored of the type and called my attention to QUEEN, which he’d discovered lying in California’s Half Moon Bay. We’ve both kept an eye on her ever since. When her present owner contacted me about selling, I couldn’t resist featuring her here in Save a Classic. A classic she is indeed, but she’s neither down at the heels nor particularly in jeopardy. But she does deserve a good new home with an appreciative owner able to continue maintaining her.

I’ve never been aboard QUEEN, only viewed her from the outside. But the word is that she’s in good condition throughout, having had major hull, systems, and interior work carried out during the 1980s and frequent upgrades since, including new sails and rigging. Except for her slightly modernized pilothouse, she hasn’t changed her looks in 80 years. In the decade they’ve owed QUEEN, Frank Bender and his wife have put in over 12,000 miles cruising between San Diego and Alaska—and the boat is ready for more.

QUEEN is now afloat in Fort Bragg’s Noyo Mooring Basin. For more information, contact owner Frank Bender, 211 North Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA 95437; 707–964–4390;


  • LOA: 47′ 9″ 
  • LWL: 45′
  • Beam: 13′ 7″
  • Draft: 5′ 6″
  • Power: GM 6–71 175-hp diesel
  • Designed by William H. Hand
  • Built by Wheeler Shipyard, Inc, Brooklyn, New York, 1934



Submitted by southerncross on

as a new menber from the end of the world i like to change ideas all over boats and things afloat