In the mid 1800s through the early 1900s, Captain Nathaneal Greene Herreshoff, or Capt. Nat as he was known to all, got into the family business after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and exploded on the world his infinite knowledge and talents as they applied to anything that floated.
Even before he built so many hundreds of sailboats, he developed the rating rules system for racing while in school, the same one essentially still being used today. The man created machines; that is, he created and manufactured the best and most advance steam engines of his era worldwide, supplying the governments military torpedo boats (first wood then steel), and the aristocracy with propulsion for their yachts that he built; all from his factory in Bristol, RI, with his 300 employees, many of them in his employ for 50 years. Interestingly, he lost his steam engine license early in his career because of an accident that killed an employee, though it did not slow him down. He built and helmed yachts until he was almost 90 years old.
In those days, a factory like Capt. Nat's made everything needed for a vessel, all the fittings, the engine and its parts, and the rigging and also harvested the wood. Edward Burgess, a contemporary of Capt Nat and father to Starling Burgess, later a great yacht designer and inventor, were very close and friendly. Between them, they designed 12 Americas cup winners from 1885 and 1937, which is to say ALL the winners.
Captain Nat invented the fin keel and the first metal sailboats and left us a legacy of sailboats and sailing innovation; his story by his son L. Francis Herreshoff is a remarkable read outlining accomplishments only the likes of Edison could surpass. Photo ‘Westward’ built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company; she was a 96-foot-waterline steel schooner.