There is nothing more exciting to me than seeing someone accomplish a dream of theirs. It’s a guaranteed “feel good” moment that leaves one inspired to tackle some of their own. Ramsey’s Dream is a perfect example of never letting go of a vision.
I first heard about Ramsey Ludington through my husband, his mother had worked for him as his secretary for 40 years. (She always had the highest regard for him and in her eyes, he was the model of a perfect gentleman.) Rick had told me that Mr. Ludington, (always, Mr. Ludington) had built a boat in the garage of his office and when it got too big, he moved it to a pole barn, where he finished building it and eventually put it to water. He mentioned seeing it “in progress” a few times when he was at the office. He also said it was beautifully built and the craftsmanship was amazing. Over the next few years I would get to learn more about this project.
Mr. Ludington had been reading a 1967 issue of Mechanics Illustrated, when he saw an article on how to build a replica of the 1920s Tahiti Ketch. The vessel was known for its ability to survive massive storms in the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular choice to circumnavigate the world. That was the beginning of Ramsey’s Dream…a dream to build a boat and sail to Tahiti.
Though Mr. Ludington was quite familiar with boating and had boated all of his life, he had never sailed, and had certainly never built a vessel – but he kept that magazine as a reminder of his dream. As he got closer to retiring, the dream beckoned him. Several people had already followed the illustrated manual and built this dream boat…more inspiration, perhaps?.
In 1974 a second version of the boat came out, called the Tahiti II. Soon after that, he instructed his secretary (mum-in-law) to draft a letter, requesting plans for the boat and eventually received a guide book: “The Famous Tahiti Ketch, Her History and How to Build Her,” a 79-page, step-by-step guide.
Now in his mid sixties, the year was about about 1994 and he knew that he wasn’t getting any younger. If he was going to do this project he needed to start now. So he turned the garage at his office into a workshop and began his first steps of building his Tahiti Ketch.
He pasted the plans along one wall…
and drew diagrams along another.
Mr. Ludington attended to his boat whenever he wasn’t working.
After a while, the boat was getting too big to easily work on in the garage. And so it was time to find a new home, in the pole barn that he built on his property by Lake Ontario. Once the barn was built it was moving day. The vessel turned out to be too large to get out the garage door and he had to cut away at the side of the building in order to get it out. He also had to maneuver it out of the drive, which was both narrow and down hill. This was all accomplished with the help of friends and family.
He continued working on it for another decade at his house along the Salmon River.
While trying to fill in some of the gaps on the history of Mr. Ludington’s boat making dreams, I found several articles that talked about his project.
On October 8th 2006, Sean Hueber took this picture of Ramsey’s Dream…sailing on Lake Ontario. Sean had these words to say. “Never having built a sailboat before Ramsey set forth on building quite a large ship. He used the guide: “The Famous Tahiti Ketch, Her History and How to Build Her,” a 79-page, step-by-step guide. Starting in his garage he soon had to tear out a wall to take it out and put the project in a bigger building. He enlisted the help of his friends to help him with the project.
I recall seeing it in various states of construction in it’s latter home. It was an interesting curiosity, to see such a large ship being built as a hobby build.
Now at the age of 79 and 12 years after Ramsey started his project, the 30-foot Tahiti Two ketch, Ramsey’s Dream, has become a reality.”
I also found an article dated 1 July 2008 from The Schooner Sara B Log, which shared. “On the longest day of the year, marked by the 8th International Sailstice Observance, Sara B joined a half dozen other two masters for a gam at Sodus Point. From Hamilton at the lake’s west end, and from Mexico Bay at it’s east end, and from points between, five schooners and one ketch converged. Sara B with Chris, Sue, and Jim Aspenwall chugged down on a calm but beautiful first day of summer. Upon entering the bay, she saw Liberty gliding along with everything up, and Lotus enjoying a gentle bay sail. It was the first sail of the year for 90 year old Lotus and her young crew and she had a good number of kids aboard, nearly a dozen, I think. They looked grand, especially Liberty who had topsail and fish flying, along with her lowers.
We passed the evening with sea stories and various boat talk. After dinner Ramsey’s Dream came rolling in. Ramsy Luddington and his son had come up from Mexico Bay under power. Ramsey’s husky big Tahiti ketch complete with proud figure head, was a sight to stir the heart of any do-it-yourselfer. It took Ramsey fifteen years to complete her. He said he couldn’t have done it with out David. “Dave’s a tiger for work” he said with a smile.”
In another article, Ramsey’s Dream participated in September Boat Fest 2008. Lake Ontario Log Online reported:
“Denton had the old racer professionally re-habed and restored. At 36 feet long and with a six foot beam, she was a stark contrast to a husky 33 foot Tahiti ketch docked a few yards away. One could scarcely imagine more contrast than that between The sleek Swedish-built racer, and the homebuilt gaff rigged Ramsey’s Dream, a vessel crafted with long ocean passages in mind and designed for dreamers who wanted to escape the Great Depression’s gloom. Her builder, Ramsey Luddington, saw plans for the Hanna design decades ago in a magazine and never forgot them. After he retired, he started building. Fifteen years later, now on the far side of 80, he saw her swim for the first time on the waters of the Little Salmon River. We first crossed tacks with Ramsey’s Dream at the schooner gam last June.
Ramsey went to the Catskills for his white oak and walked the forest with the sawyer to select his for the little ship’s backbone and frames. He found a stash of clear grain western red cedar at an Adirondack lumber yard, and had it milled for the strip planked hull. And when asked about the varnished yacht interior furnishings, he said with a smile it was Home Depot’s best.
Ramsey and his son Spencer, himself a sailor and ocean racer of wide experience, motored up the lake from their home port the day before the show. Since her launch two years ago, they’ve gotten their ketch around to several Lake Ontario ports and were planning to squeeze one last trip to Canada in that fall. Will Ramsey ever sail her on saltwater? In my view he has already made a considerable personal journey of sorts with her creation. To an observer who once managed to craft a 14 foot canvas covered kayak with a lump and a flat spot, his venture of building a ten ton ketch seems of epic proportions.”
About the same time as the September Boat Fest, another article titled, Wooden Boats Are a Symbol of a Past Era, written on aubornpub.com said, “While some of the vessels were as small as a one-man canoe or rowboat, others were as large as a 33-foot sailboat and they all had a story to tell.
“The older people get excited about these older boats,” Scoville said. “It’s because they bring back memories and stories about growing up in this area. Telling someone the fun stories on this bay, that’s what this is all about. Everyone has a good story.”
For one man, his boat did not represent the past, but was instead a dream of what he would like to accomplish in the future. Ramsey Ludington, the owner of a 33-foot sailboat named Ramsey’s Dream, said he wanted to take his boat to Tahiti.
“My spouse is sick, so my plans are on hold,” Ludington said. “I’m not a young man anymore, but mentally and physically I feel I am good enough to go. But for now I need to stay here and take care of my wife.”
Ludington has spent the past 15 years building his boat, which was a replica of a 1920’s era Tahiti Ketch. The vessel was known for its ability to survive massive storms in the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular choice to circumnavigate the world.
But building his own sailboat was not a cheap hobby, Ludington said.
“If someone is thinking about doing something like this, they should know its not going to be cheap,” he said. “If people knew how much I spent they would think I was crazy. The cost for mine was easily six numbers.”
For Merrill and Laurna Hoffman, the event was a chance to finally see Ludington’s finished project.
“I followed Ramsey as he built it, and I wanted to see his boat,” Merrill said. “I have never been on it so I decided to come out here today and see it. Where he built it, he had to knock down a wall to get it out of the building and he had to get it down this narrow driveway. Somehow he did it.”
Despite being slower, heavier and more expensive than their modern counterparts, Merrill said the older boats had one thing that made them stand out.
“For these boats, its all in the beauty of the wood work,” he said. “I use to have a wooden sailboat too. They are really nice but it takes a lot of work, and the upkeep is expensive.” ”
Sadly, in November 2009, his wife, Janice passed away.
In August of 2011, Mr. Ludington had this video made of Ramsey’s Dream. It’s about ten minutes long and has no sound but gives some excellent views inside the boat. Some of the pictures in this article were taken from this video.
Mr. Ludington planned to take Ramsey’s Dream south to Daytona Beach and if he made it, he would stop in and visit his secretary for 40 years. After that he hoped to continue on south to the Florida Keys, where his brother lived. “Yes!” I thought, that would mean that I might be able to see Ramsey’s Dream and meet the famous Mr. Ludington.
Originally he planned to sail to Florida in July of 2012 but a storm came and lightning hit the boat knocking out the electrical system. The whole electrical system had to be redone which caused him to start in September.
When the repairs were completed he and another sailing friend set sail. His friend would continue on the journey for only one month because his wife would only let him go away for a month. Most likely they headed out on the Erie Canal route to the Hudson River and headed south.
He began experiencing problems with leaks and steering as he was heading to the mouth of the Hudson and went in for repairs. With the repairs completed they set sail once more heading out into the ocean. When they were in the ocean outside of New Jersey the swells were so big that they had to get towed back to shore. His son, an experienced racing sailor who was very familiar with ocean sailing helped him get through Delaware Bay.
Though I don’t know all of his route, Mr. Ludington mentioned while crossing the Chesapeake they stayed mostly in the center and only came into the coves to stop for the evening. Having boated on the Chesapeake many times, the water can get pretty choppy. I have to assume that the weather had been pretty good for him to be able to go into the center of the bay.
As far as I know the journey from there all the way to Orient, North Carolina had been fairly uneventful. It was in Orient that he and his shipmate parted ways. Mr. Ludington stayed on for another three weeks, realizing that if he were to continue he would need another mate for the rest of the trip. After searching around he was recommended a young lad in his early twenties named John. Though he was young he had plenty of experience and was eager to help him get to Florida and possibly as far as Key Largo to visit his brother and spend the winter.
Back in Florida the weather bureau had been reporting hurricane Sandy on the east coast. We had been concerned about Mr. Ludington because we hadn’t heard from him and didn’t know where he was on his journey. We were eventually able to find out that he was in North Carolina and had missed the hurricane and that he was planning on continuing to Daytona Beach.
On Thanksgiving Day, Rick’s son was cooking the feast when we got a call from Mr. Ludington, letting us know that he arrived in Daytona Beach and was at the marina. An invitation to dinner was accepted, perfect that it was Thanksgiving Day. I was incredibly excited that I was finally going to meet Mr. Ludington…and his new first mate.
Dinner was wonderful, truly the best tasting turkey I have ever had. Mr. Ludington is really quite the gentleman, very old school…it was delightful. John, his mate, was very interesting as well, quite a unique character. He’s vegetarian, big dreadlocks, very mellow and loves to sail. They both happily shared their adventures which was good because I was dying to know.
The next morning we stopped in at the marina to take a look at the ketch and got the grand tour. Mr. Ludington humored me and let me take pictures while I was there.
A few weeks later we got news that Mr. Ludington and John had made it to Key Largo where he planned to stay for the winter. Last we spoke with John, he was looking forward to helping out again on the return trip. I’m not sure if she’ll make it to Tahiti but Ramsey’s Dream has finally gotten her sea legs which ought to make Mr. Ludington quite happy.