The John Alden Schooner Constellation–Cruising In the Olden Days

Constellation 1

This is a brief story about cruising in the olden days, just after World War II. It is also a story about how the Dashew family made their way to the (then) golden land of California.  It starts with Stanley Dashew, the family patriarch, deciding at age 30 that he wanted to do some serious cruising. In 1947, with coastal patrol yachts from WW II coming onto the market, the lovely John Alden schooner, Constellation, was available at the bargain price of  $14,000.

She was 76 feet on deck, over 90 feet LOA with bowsprit and main boom added in, and drew nine + feet of water.

A period of feverish activity ensued, getting “Connie” ready for the then radical concept of family cruising. This included changing the huge gaff main to marconi, adding some new communication gear, checking over her systems and structure, and converting the starboard stateroom head into a nursery for an unplanned new crew member.

SAD004 Edit

Never one to let small things stand in the way of progress, the Dashew family and the Schooner Constellation departed with baby Leslie aboard, then just nine months old. Included in ship’s stores were large quantities of the then unheard-of disposable diapers (rolls of special cloth) and long life baby formula, both of which Leslie is showing off above.

SAD003 Edit

 Communications gear was the best war surplus had to offer. Your author, aged eight, is demonstrating the casual look one should affect when talking radio jive.


Stanley, now 95, having recently held off the grim reaper, has been working with us to get his inventory of many thousands of negatives and photos into digital form, so that the family and others interested in the early days of cruising have a chance to look into the past. The photo above was taken in 1948 in the West Indies. We are not sure where, but we’ll bet there are SetSailors who will recognize the beach and educate us on the correct geotagging.


Stanley is standing to the right, showing the log book to harbor officials. Clearing in and out of port was then, as now, a chance to get to know a few locals. Once formalities were completed, all aboard would relax, and the officials would often have a bit of refreshment with us. Cruising yachts were rare, and those with children non-existent, so a big deal was made over Constellation’s arrival by press and dignitaries.


 Exploration of nearby waterways was via this custom-built Lunenberg, Nova Scotia dory. Note the inboard well for the outboard motor.


This inter-island Caribbean trading vessel would be at home today in many parts of the world.


Provisioning was not that different than cruising in third world countries today. We shopped with the locals, and ate what they ate.  Fresh meat, on occasion brought down with the ship’s 30/30 rifle, called for a bit of work by your writer’s dear mother, Martha Dashew.


Fresh water was less abundant, yet we were still required to wash, and on occasion have a shower or bath. Leslie enjoyed splashing about anytime water was present. Note the light jib, in stops (wrapped with rotten twine) ready to be hanked on the headstay.

Constellation always traveled with four adults, in addition to our parents, this being the requisite number to handle a 76-foot yacht that was essentially winchless.


As you might imagine, there were many adventures–mostly small, occasionally great. This dramatic photo was taken in the mountains of Haiti, where we were the first Caucasians to attend and film a particular voodoo ceremony. We’ll have more photos of this (and other topics) at a later date. Recording was done with stills (Stanley was a 2/ 1/4″ Rollie shooter) and with a Bolex 16mm film camera, the latter of which eventually became a film and was shown (and re-shown) on the TV show “I Search for Adventure.”


Plastics were something new in the late 1940s, yet Connie was equipped with a blow up tub, the main purpose of which was the bathing and playing of little sister.

Current events demand our attention, so we’ll close with the maplet above de-marking the route of the good ship Constellation. Lake Michigan, down the Saint Lawrence River (before the seaway existed) thence the Eastern Seaboard of the US, through the West Indies, NE South America, Panama, Central  America, and finally California.

As negatives are scanned and sorted we’ll add a post now and then.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 30, 2012)

45 Responses to “The John Alden Schooner Constellation–Cruising In the Olden Days”

  1. Michael Cehand Says:


    Absolutely outstanding.. My best friend did this very same type of cruising on the Nam Sang
    An early schooner with his father.
    Thank you for the trip, adventure..


  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    Around 1954/55, Constellation had been sold and my Dad had purchased the 60 foot John Alden ketch, Chiriqui. We kept her at Newmark’s marina, in San Pedro harbor, California. Our neighbor to the East was the Nam Sang. Her then owner, the name escapes me at the moment, converted her from a ketch to cutter. She was a fixture on the Southern California racing circuit.

  3. Duncan Ross Says:

    As a thirteen I took of with the Erb family in 1977 to sail around the world on the “Constellation” . I made it as far as Fiji. While I sail on many classic yachts she will always be my favorite. I last saw her in Key West 1993 before her ill fated voyage to Spain wher she ran ran aground on the river Odiel, and I believe sits to this day. Thank you for sharing your pictures of her she was magnificent.

  4. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Duncan:
    We must have met in Papeete as we were anchored near Constellation with Intermezzo in 1977 and went aboard for a quick look and to show our kids the old girl.

  5. Chris Heg Says:

    Duncan, I guess I got on soon after you got off. I lived aboard for a year, Fiji – New Zealand – Fiji.

  6. Duncan Ross Says:

    Wow, what a small world I do remember the name Intermezzo. I still sail with Josh Dean and Guy Folsom on the schooner Allure a Frank Prothero design built in 1928. If you would like to read an account of the loss of the Constellation google Death of a Schooner on the River Odiel.

  7. Duncan Ross Says:

    Hi Chris, I still see Dexter from time to time. I made that passage across the Tasman on the Klaraborg 1848 baltic ketch, 8 days what a trip

  8. Dan Kingsley Says:

    Chris and Duncan,

    I must have gotten on soon after the two of you left Fiji. End of 1978 I joined Roberta Erb with five others and we went from Fiji to Solomon Islands. Soon after leaving Suva we lost radio, refrigeration and hit several cyclones before running into a reef between Guadacanal and Mitre (?) Islands. The engine went out around the time we were passing through New Heberdies (Vanuatu), but we did eventually make it to Honiara on Guadacanal after being towed, and spending several days on the reef.

  9. Bob Needham Says:

    Dan Kingsley

    I was one of the 5 that sailed Suva to Santa Cruz Islands where I jumped ship.

  10. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Duncan Ross, et al,
    I can add some missing pieces to the Connie puzzle, but the picture will never be complete. You wrote that you saw her in Miami. How she ended up there is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle. She was discovered in a backwater near Miami (?), and bought ba a couple who restored her, and sailed her to Spain. AS Paul Harvey was wont to say:: “Now you know the rest of the story”, but not quite. Before I left Connie in Honiara, I found a competent skipper for hwr, as I could not abandon her. I don’t remember who gave me the following information; Berdie did not hire him, because she did not want to pay what he asked. She demurred before paying me $400 a month. She had sailed, with Dexter for a skipper, and who else for crew. She had got in trouble near New Guinea and radioed for help. Her engine had packed up, again, and her sails had been torn. Apparently there wasn’t anyone on board who could repair sails. A sea going tug had been sent out to tow her in. To what port, I don’t know,
    Duncan wrote that he sees Dexter periodically. Maybe he can add a few pieces to the puzzle. All who knew, and loved Connie, would want to know.
    I built several models of yachts in bottles for their owners. I made two of Connie, one in a Meyer’s rum bottle, and a larger one in a wine jug, under spinnaker, for Bob Hubert, who sailed, and loved, her.

  11. colin kelly Says:

    About 1977 we hung out a while with neighbours onboard Conny, drinking & shooting the breeze with – i recall -a mother & son(?) who owned & were travelling on her, a lovely boat. We were sailing Valkyion, a 40′ trimaran through the Islands- but I thought it was Vaa Vau in Tonga where we met, could have been Suva. Fun times

  12. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Hi Steve,
    When was the opening picture of Connie taken. Something just isn’t right with the picture. She just doen’t fit. The fore mast is too short, she is lacking the dog house, and the boomkin, as well as the port holes. It just doesn’t fit.
    I joinrd Connie in 1959, When Sally (Blair Ames) bought her from Maxwell Smith, who was the sailing master on the 1959 Transpac, which we won in Class A, but a Class B boat, the Barlovento beat us by a couple of hours and took the first to finish trophy. The scrratch boat was the 161 foot schooner Goodwill. Connie was a staysail schooner in my time. In the opening picture, she has a gaff fore. All the other pictures show the deck as I remember her.
    The transfer of ownership took place in Seattle. Sally and Max were both in the main salon, drunk and crying. Max was crying because he was losing Connie, and Sally was crying because Max was crying.
    I left Connie in Denmark due to a family situation, but sailed for two other owners since.
    One owner was a rich playboy (I wasn’t on her then), who brought a shipwright(?)from Denmark, weho ripped out the port bunks and installed a bar, moved the gymballed table into the galley, and screwed up the galley. Took out her old skylight, and and put in stained glass panes instead, which perpetually leaked. Ripped out the teak lockers and put in lockers of oak.
    Alas, por Connie. I knew her well.

  13. Steve Dashew Says:

    Frank Hoykas, who bought Connie from my Dad added the dog house. Dick Sutton did the rig engineering for Frank. He took her mainmast and moved it forward, and added a taller main mast and the boomkin. This was before the 1955 Transpac.

    If you were aboard in 1959 you must have known Bill Bridgeman (the pro onboard). Some years later Bill told me about running down the Molokai channel with kite and gollywobler and driving Connie down a wave and her not coming back until something was cut away – forget which sail.

  14. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Thankl you,Steve, for the clarification on The changes on Connie. This notice did not come to my e-mai. I found it by a weird chance. I did not know that Frank Hoykas had owned Connie. His company was National Tapered Wings, NTW. I made two models of the TICONDEROGA, or Big Ty, as she was known. One for Frank, and I have the other one. One day the Ty was stolen from Ala Wai, and the thieves hid her in an inlet, I forgot which island. The Coast Guard got wind of her hiding place, and with Frank along went to get her. A gun battle had ensued, and the Coasties brought out a big caliber machine gun and would have blasted them out of the boat, but Frank had begged them to please not to do that. I don’t remember the whole story, or how it ended.
    Bill Bridgeman was the skipper, a Finn, and an excellent seaman. Max Smith was the sailing master on that race. Bill, unfortunately had a drinking problem. There was a steadfast rule on the boat NO ALCOHOL! Bill had a flask in his bunk, and was caught taing a nip, and was fired in Honolulu. It was sad, as I liked the man. Being an Estonian, I had a kinship, of sorts, with him.

  15. Terry Fountain Says:

    In 1972, friends bought the Chiriqui and we sailed for a year in Mexico. After being restored to her original wood beauty, mercy she was a lovely boat! Sadly they sailed her over to the Mediterranean and she was sold.
    Good memories, thank you.

  16. David Says:

    Fascinating, amazing and inspiring. Thank you.

  17. Michael Seng Says:


  18. Michael Cehand Says:

    Nam Sang was owned by Mr Farrar.. He and his son Peter spent many happy days on her. They did the Ensanada race and many others. On a sad note the last owner of Nam Sang was bringing her down the Sacramento river and missed judged the height and swiftness of the currant on the river and hit the bridge with the top four or five feet of the mast this pulled the vessel sideways and it sank right there at Sacrament, California. For many years after when I would drive across the bridge I could see the top of the mast. I have watched many old home movies of this beautiful vessel with a full set of sails up and it always makes me smile. I find it sad that she had to end her days with a skipper that could not care for and love this beautiful vessel as she needed to be. I might also add some what incompetent.
    Your FRP’s are also beautiful and exciting, They truly make the heart beat faster.
    Thank you.


  19. Michael Cehand Says:

    Your FPB’s are also beautiful and exciting, They truly make the heart beat faster. Thank you. Respectfully, Michael
    Sorry for the miss spelling. Its an age thing..


  20. Simon Says:

    An incredible view into a time not many good things are remembered about.
    Thank you for the chance.

  21. Mike Turgeon Says:

    Wow, fantastic history, can’t wait for more. The photo in the West Indies looks a bit like SBH, but I have only been there a few times and the pics were from a long time ago.

  22. Dave Says:

    $14,000.00 in 1947 had the same buying power as $146,949.21 in 2012.

    Wow… that was an amazing deal.

  23. JR Says:

    Any Kodachrome stills or movies, that would be wonderful.

  24. Geoffrey Stern Says:

    BRAVO, Stan!!!! I think of you all the time. Year after year I continue to marvel at your vision and your virtue both at the helm and in the board room. God bless. Geoff

  25. Tim Gardner Says:

    My folks purchased the Schooner “Albury” (built not sure of the date in Man-O-War Cay, Abaco’s)from some folks in I believe Toronto in 1954. I was quite young, however while transiting the NY Eire Barge Canal (with her masts on deck)my younger brother Dennis was born.
    She was kept in Hempstead Harbor and maintained at the Fife Shipyard in Glen Head.
    They daysailed and “cruised” LI Sound with the dream of sailing off like your family did.
    “Albury” was blown ashore during Hurricane Carol and was unable to be salvaged.
    Thanks for all your fantastic insight and articles.

  26. mike wheeler Says:

    sailed on the connie in key west about 1998?she was a beauty.heard her stern was rotted,blew out and sank.not sure where.sorry for the old aldens,sailed a few.

  27. Alain M Says:


  28. Chris Heg Says:

    I sailed on the Conny in 1977-78 from Suva, Fiji to New Zealand and back when I was 18 years old. Beautiful boat but pretty hard used by then. This brings back great memories.

  29. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Hi Chris,
    Sailed through the memory lane with this post. I knew of Connies fate. It saddened me as much as reading of the fate of the 68 foot schooner FOUR WINDS, which I skippered for a while. She ended her life in Indonesia, a victim of pirates.
    Indrek Lepson

  30. Peter Shaw Says:

    Chris, i sailed with you as well on that glad to hear from you.Beautiful ship.

  31. Peter Shaw Says:

    Sorry it was Suva to the Santa Cruz Islands. We did have a Chris on board. Hit a Cyclone just south of Vanikro

  32. Chris Heg Says:

    Then you must know Indrek Lepson.

  33. Peter Shaw Says:

    I joined the ship in Suva. I was sort of Bosun/sailing master. I came off a gaff rigg cutter. We went to the Santa Cruz Islands Via Tikopia. He was a good sailor new the ship well. The super cargo was my worry. In the coral reefs around the Solomons It was very dangerous. The situation did not improve so I left in The Santa Cruz Islands. Karl the navigator contacted me from Rabaul. They ran aground off Santa Anna Island.

  34. Mathew Says:

    Do you have any more photo of her, I used to own Connie and she was in San Diego during my ownership, or partnership with my mother in law ): She was lost is my understanding 2001 in a river in Spain.

  35. Chris Heg Says:

    Here are a few pictures from back in the day, circa 1978. Ah youth.

  36. Chris Heg Says:

    should be

  37. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Hey Chris,
    I don’t know who sent the Connie story to me, but it was great to see it again. I saw it a couple, or more, years, ago when Daschew’s (sp?) secretary sent it to me. He has a business, I think printinig, called Constellation Press or printing, or something. He had written a book on cruising with Connie.
    Some comments were fairly wrong on the Fiji to Solomons segment, but I didn’t want to dispute them in the comments section, although I did add a comment of my own. I’m going to write about the epoisode on the reef, it’s just one of the “When I get”round tuit” thing.
    That is a magnificient photo of the silhouette of Connie. Did I send the picture of her taken from a helicopter in the ’59 Transpac?
    I hope that you are well, and enjoying your “golden years” 🙂

  38. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Whooo! What a wonderful blast from the past. Thanks all for the vignettes of the love of my life. I have sailed many large schooneers, stating with the 97 foot gaff schooner CARIBEE, which I joined in Miami when I was 18.
    I have never loved a boat as I did Connie. She had soul. Few can understand how a man con spiritually love a boat more than a woman. Connie was such a boat.
    Some mens (and maybe women) ambition is to walk around the Basilica on their knees, or cross the Andes barefoot ikn the winter, to culminate their lifes dream. Mine was to be skipper on Connie. I sailed on her for three owners.
    Soon after I joined Connie in New Zealand, that dream slowly turned into a nightmare, inder the ownership if Roberta Erb, “Birdie”
    After we sailed from Tauranga, NZ, heading for Australia, we hit a real snorter, and the stem started to tear, and we started to take in a fair bit of water, so we changed course for Fiji. In the phote that Chris sent, we are on the hard in Suva, replacing the stem.
    I will not take up the space here, but if anyone wants to read of some of the adventures on Connie, by all means, contact me. My e-mail is

  39. Peter Says:

    Hi Indrek,
    Long time no see. Are you in the US? I went back to Honiara after I left. Then on to Brisbane . Very sad to see the Connie on the bottom. I have a little clipper marine , made in California. Also collect old yatchs.

  40. Indrek Lepson Says:

    You did not give your e-mail. I can send a couple of couple of snippets of early Connie adventures. Chris, a good sailor, probably heard them all.

  41. peter shaw Says:

    endrek, my email is

    sorry i have been a biot pre occupied with work and travel. overlanding from Tokyo to singapore. I have a little clipper marine i play around on. Great swing keel did the murry river and lakes a while back.

  42. Bob Needham Says:

    Indre, Paul & Chris. I remember all of you. It’s funny every year I google Connie but only one thing ever showed up. Today there were a number of websites listed, including this one.

    I sailed with all of you 12/20/78 to 1/17/79 Suva, Fiji to the Santa Cruz Islands. I kept a journal of my travels that whole winter, so when I saw this web page I pulled it out and read a few pages.

    It was an amazing experience for me on the Connie. Something I’ll never forget. I always tell people how I had just arrived in Fiji and had just checked in at the Coconut (Inn?) when Indrek walked in and asked if anyone wanted to sail to the Solomon Islands. This was definitely not in my Alaska to New Zealand plans, but once I saw the boat in the harbor the next day, it really wasn’t a hard decision. I knew absolutely nothing about sailing, and it showed. Everyone was so great and patient with my slow climb up the learning curve.

    Indrek, I’ll never forget how you sailed straight into the small harbor at Nendo(?) under sail, got the boat turned around and dropped the anchor in a space that looked far too small for me. Thanks for having me on board. I’ll also never forget out sailing out of a protected cove after the cyclone had past. The hairiest sailing experience I’ve ever had. You mentioned that someone wrote an account on Connie that included that leg of the journey. I’d love to get a link or contact information if you have it.

    Peter you mention the dangerous reefs in the Solomons. I have a clear recollection of a day we were sailing around Nendo and you spotted a reef not 20 yards off the port side. All you could see was a little bit of the tops of the waves breaking. Good thing you caught that one. I remember you having some kind of bug and had a few off beat days during the passage.

    Chris if I remember you were from Bethesda MD where I had gone to high school. You were very experienced, at least through my know nothing eyes, and were always made it fun to be on board.

    One of my fondest memories was being at the helm on a midnight to 4 am watch. It was magical. I really need to take the time to read all my journal entries. I left the ship after I had an extreme allergic reaction to chemicals on the inside of the storm pants I bought in Suva and wore during the cyclone. I left the ship shortly after that and made my way to New Zealand back through Fiji. After hitch hiking around the North & South Islands of NZ I headed back to Alaska. By mid march I was on a mountaineering expedition high in the Alaska Range in the shadow of Mt. McKinley. where the temperatures dropped to -40° (either F or C, which are the same). Big change from the South Pacific.

    Someone mentioned pictures. When I traveled in those days I took lots of pictures (Kodachrome slides). In fact used to shoot so many that I would edit a box of 36 down to 6 of the best. If I didn’t I would never be able to find anything. Even today I have an 18 X 24 inch print of a shot I took sitting in the bosom’s chair at the top of the main mast while the boat was in the Suva Harbor. I know I have a couple of 5X7 prints taken on the boat, but I do have a scanner and could scan them into digital files if people are interested.

  43. peter shaw Says:

    it would be good to get copies of the photos. my camera was damaged in Honiara. So no photos of that time. lots of drawings

    I came back and eventually worked for the Victorian education department as az language advisor (Chinese) . I now work part time as a compliance officer for languages program.s designing courses and traveling the world developing curriculum. (We teach 48 languages in our school. ) I make sure the teachersc do what they say they are doing. then report back to the national reporting for cwertificates.


  44. Deborah Dean Says:

    Thank you for sharing. My mother, Roberta Erb sailed around the world on the Connie, from the 1970’s through the 1980’s. I have spent a great deal of time on the vessel, but never sailing on her, except to motor in Florida. I appreciate the dialog here. Thanks again. Deborah

  45. Indrek Lepson Says:

    Hi Deborah,
    I don’t rcall Birdie mentioning that she had a daughter, nor Dexter saying anything about a sister. There are many pieces to the Connie puzzle still missing.
    Where did Roberta buy the Connie? It is my understanding that Connie was on the West coast when she bought her, but you motored on her in Florida.
    Pity that you did not do any sailing. She sailed like a queen, at home in her realm.