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Geary, Leslie Edward "Ted" (1885-1960)

HistoryLink.org Essay 7292 : Printer-Friendly Format

Leslie Edward "Ted" Geary was a naval architect who grew up in Seattle. He designed and raced numerous competitive sailing vessels, and also designed commuter yachts, fishing boats, tug boats, and wooden hulled freighters.

Designing and Racing

Geary was born in 1885, in Atchison, Kansas, and moved to Seattle with his parents in 1892. He exhibited an early attraction to water-related activities. In 1899, at age 14, he, along with a friend, designed and built the 24-foot centerboard racing sloop Empress.

Four years later, with lifelong friends Dean and Lloyd Johnson, Geary designed and built Empress II, another 24-foot centerboard racing sloop. With Geary at the helm, she was never defeated in local races. While a sophomore at the University of Washington, he designed Spirit, a 42-foot LOA (Length Over All) racing sloop for the Seattle Yacht Club. Spirit would successfully challenge the Canadian Yacht Alexandra for the Dunsmir Cup in 1907. Geary's success attracted the attention of several prominent Seattle businessmen who at Geary's suggestion would finance his education as a naval architect at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Geary's Winners

Geary would design several more competitive sailing vessels and crewed on many others in his long career. Among his designs are Sir Tom, an "R" class boat that dominated the racing circuit along the West Coast for three decades; Katedna, later Red Jacket, a 62-foot LOA schooner which would enjoy unrivaled success in Northwest racing; and Pirate, another successful "R" class racer. In 1928 Geary would design the popular "Flattie," a one-design sail trainer that is now known as the Geary 18.

Geary started his professional career designing commercial vessels, including Chickamauga, the first diesel-powered tug in the United States, commercial and fishing vessels, and during World War I, large 330-foot wooden-hulled freighters.

Geary also designed fast commuter yachts such as the 55-foot LOA Geoduck built in 1913 by the Johnson Brothers and Blanchard for W. G. Norris and the 43-foot LOA Winifred built in 1921 by the N. J. Blanchard Boat Building Company.

The Larger Yachts

His larger yachts, beginning with the 100-foot LOA Helori built in 1912 by the Johnson Brothers and Blanchard for O. O. Denny, and the 82-foot LOA Sueja built in 1919 at the Tregoning yard for Captain James Griffiths would lead to the classic large yachts of the 1920s and 1930s. These include:

  • Wanda -- 90-foot LOA, triple screw cruiser built in 1922 by the N. J. Blanchard Boat Building Company for C. D. Stimson. She is presently based in San Francisco.

  • Samona -- 115-foot LOA, built by N. J. Blanchard in 1923 for California oil magnate and developer W. J. Hole.

  • Westward -- 86-foot LOA, built in 1924 by J. A. Martinolich at Dockton for Cambell Church. Westward is presently based in Seattle.

  • Sueja III -- 122-foot LOA, built in 1926 at owner Captain James Griffiths' own yard in Eagle Harbor. Now named Mariner III, she works seasonally out of New York and Florida as a charter yacht.

  • Malibu -- 100-foot LOA, built in 1926 at N. J. Blanchard's yard for Mrs. Kay Rindge and Mrs. Rhoda Adamson. Malibu is currently owned by Totem Resources of Seattle and is used for private company cruisea Principia -- 96-foot LOA, built in 1928 for San Francisco yachtsman L. A. Macomber by Lake Union Drydock Company. She was the only single screw version of the four 96-foot sister ships.

  • Principia recently underwent major upgrades and restoration. She is now owned by Independence Seaport Museum of Philadelphia.

  • Blue Peter -- 96-foot LOA, built in 1928 for Seattle architect John Graham Sr. by Lake Union Drydock Company. She was purchased in 1947 by H. W. McCurdy, presently remains in the McCurdy family, and is based in Seattle.

  • Electra -- 96-foot LOA, built in 1930 for A. W. Leanard, then president of Puget Sound Power and Light, by Lake Union Drydock Company. She currently charters out of Newport Harbor, California.

  • Canim -- 96-foot LOA, built in 1930 for Col. C. B. Blethen, owner of The Seattle Times, by Lake Union Drydock Company. Canim is presently based in the Northwest.

  • Infanta -- 120-foot LOA, a steel hulled cruiser built in 1930 for actor John Barrymore by the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Long Beach California. Known as Thea Foss since her purchase by Foss Maritime of Seattle in 1950, she currently is mothballed in Seattle.

  • Samona II -- 147-foot LOA, a steel-hulled long-range cruiser built in 1931 by the Craig Shipbuilding Company for W. J. Hole.

  • Stranger -- 135-foot LOA, built in 1938 for Capt. Fred L Lewis, by Lake Union Drydock Company. She was used secretly by the Office of Strategic Services for charting the Pacific region prior to World War II. She was owned later by the Scripps Institute and is reportedly derelict in Beaumont, Texas.

Geary moved to Southern California in 1932, attempting to attract additional wealthy clients. But with the Depression lasting throughout the 1930s, he received few commissions, the exception being Stranger. By the time he went to work at Craig Ship Building Company in 1939 to conduct stability testing during World War II, his career was near its end.

Ted Geary died on May 19, 1960.

Sources:
Maynard Bray, "Principia -- Recycled," Wooden Boat, No. 123 (1995), pp. 50-57; Steve Bunnell, "Ted Geary," Northwest Yachting, July 1991, pp. 46-51; Henry Gordon, "Ted Geary -- The Man Behind the Myth," Waterlines, May 1985, pp. 32-35; Thomas G. Skahill, "Ted Geary -- More than a Naval Architect, Part I -- From Sailing Canoes to Racing Records," Wooden Boat, #137, 1997, pp. 52-61; Thomas G. Skahill, "Ted Geary - More than a Naval Architect, Part II -- From Flatties to Motoryachts," Wooden Boat, No. 138 (1997), pp. 48-56; Michael R. Skalley, Foss: Ninety Years of Towboating (Superior Publishing Company, 1986), 169.


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Ted Geary sailing Sir Tom
Photo by Asahel Curtis, Courtesy MOHAI (Image No. 2002.3.1460)


Portrait of Pirate and Sir Tom, both designed by Ted Geary, racing on August 9, 1927
Limited edition print taken from an oil painting by Patrick Haskett of Seattle's Sea Commander Studios, Courtesy Center for Wooden Boats


Sir Tom crew, L to R Andy Joy, Roy Corbett, Ted Geary, Swift Baker, 1927
Courtesy Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society


Malibu, designed by Ted Geary, 1926
Courtesy MOHAI (Image No. 83.10.12,491.2)


Malibu launching party, Norman Blanchard on left and Ted Geary on right, 1926
Courtesy MOHAI


Diesel-powered yacht Blue Peter designed by Ted Geary
Courtesy MOHAI (Neg. No. 344-5)


Spirit, designed by Ted Geary, 1910s
Postcard


 
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