A 40-year-old Formosa 51 gets a thorough makeover
Kathy Edwards is devoted to her Formosa 51 ketch, Windsong, but it has taken a lot of work to bring the boat to its current state of presentability.
“I love to sail, but my main passion is a project,” Edwards said.
Windsong has been a long and satisfying project, she said.
“I’ve put twice the money into her that it cost to buy her, and I probably paid too much for her in the first place,” Edwards said.
The boat was built in Taipei in 1978, the product of a renowned building firm that specialized in strong fiberglass hulls and meticulous woodworking. Intricate carving below, and wood trim fore and aft on deck in teak and mahogany, show a craftsmanship that brought these boats a good deal of popularity around the world in the 1970s and 1980s.
Windsong was first commissioned in Boston. A vestige of her service in the Northeast is in the wood-burning heating stove built into the cabinetry of the main salon, often welcome in northern waters, but of little use in the Gulf of Mexico. Here, she is equipped with air conditioning.
“I’m the eighth registered owner of this boat,” Edwards said. “I found her in Miami and sailed her here, straight across the Gulf to Clear Lake. Windsong is an ocean cruising boat. She’s been across the Gulf several times, including a trip to Central America.”
The boat is 58 feet long, including the bowsprit that accommodates a jib or larger drifter. With main and smaller mizzen sail, her rig is able to adjust for any wind and sea conditions. She has a full keel carried all the way aft, and draws just more than 6 feet. She is equipped for extended trips in deep water.
“She looks a little pirate-y,” Edwards said, explaining the Jolly Roger flag she flies from the main shrouds. “People like to see that flag.”
Her teak taffrail with turned stanchions aft, and her graceful sheer arching forward to a clipper bow with carved trailboards flowing into the bowsprit, create an effect, if not necessarily piratical, at least distinctly 19th century.
The row of portholes piercing the black painted wale along the topsides might even stand in for gun ports, and the three square windows arching across the transom suggest the stern galleries in ships of the age of sail.
Inside the boat, those windows, framed with floral curtains that Edwards sewed herself, illuminate the master stateroom aft. It has full standing headroom, and its own head and shower.
“Windsong is unusual for a Formosa boat because she has a center cockpit and a flush deck plan,” Edwards said. The usual cockpit at the back limits the space below for the aft stateroom. “You have to kind of crawl into the bed there. This way, you can just walk in.”
This layout also allows for a walk-in engine room, where the original Ford six-cylinder, 120-horsepower diesel is easily accessible for repairs. The refrigeration, freezer and A/C systems are to port along the passageway, also easily accessible.
The spacious main salon, forward of the cockpit and with ample headroom, glows with varnished wood. The wooden doors to the V-berth forward depict British naval vessels in carved panels. Edwards is still stripping the deck, preparing it for an oil finish.
“I’ve put a lot of love and passion into this boat, and I’m blessed that a lot of people have stepped up to help me with it,” she said.
Restoring and maintaining this boat also has been an expensive proposition. Edwards’ full-time work in her business of maintaining high-end floors in the Houston area has sustained her, but to help defray the costs of the boat, she offers charter sails on Clear Lake and out into Galveston Bay.
“We do corporate team-building, weddings, romantic sunset dinner cruises, or whatever you want,” Edwards said.
She also, at no charge, takes out groups of Wounded Warriors once a month, and cancer-stricken children and their families from the Ronald McDonald House.
“I remember one little girl from Ronald McDonald who came aboard with her parents, and sat there without saying a word,” Edwards said. “As the boat began to move through the water, she seemed to brighten up, but remained silent. Afterwards, I was told, she talked nonstop about the sail, and she told her parents that it was the most fun she had ever had. She died not long afterwards. It was heartbreaking. But at least she’d had that.”