41′ 1934 Starling Burgess Cutter
Little Dipper is a 41’ LOA Starling Burgess cutter built by Joel Johnson in Bridgeport, CT in 1934. With her plumb bow, slack bilges and sweeping sheer Little Dipper could easily be mistaken for a 19th century English cutter but her dynamic hull shape, beautifully tapered ballast keel, high ballast-displacement ratio and Bermudan rig identify her as a thoroughly modern, forward thinking 1930s yacht.
She was drawn at the height of Burgess’s career, during the downtime between the design of successful J-class America’s cup defenders Enterprise (1930) and Rainbow (1934). Burgess likely foresaw the eventual end of the big Universal Rule race boats on which he’d built his reputation and was already doing his homework, working on moderately sized, blue-water capable, cruiser-racers, when he was asked to draw Little Dipper.
The commission came from Buckminster Fuller, an eccentric 1930s futurist author, architect, designer, and inventor. The story goes that she was part of a ploy to get Burgess, one of the most talented aeronautical engineers of the era, to work on his revolutionary, aerodynamic Dymaxian concept car. Ploy or not Little Dipper was built and her owner and designer’s fascination with aeronautics is fully evident on close inspection.
Little Dipper is a rare package for yacht of her vintage: stately, pedigreed, exceptionally beautiful, but still comfortable, fast, seaworthy, and easily handled. She is offered for sale in excellent structural and aesthetic condition following an ’09-’10 refit with a new interior, a recently reconditioned Yanmar from Billings Diesel (2012), and a beautiful new set of Gambell and Hunter sails. A 2021 survey available on request.
Fuller’s ploy worked and Burgess went to work for the Dymaxian corporation in 1932. A boatbuilder named Joel Johnson began construction on Little Dipper in 1933 under Burgess’s supervision and at the very same Bridgeport, CT factory where the Dymaxion car was bring developed.
Her construction was interrupted for a time, presumably because Burgess ran off with and eventually married the Dymaxion project patron Nannie Dale Biddle, much to Fuller’s chagrin. Little Dipper was eventually moved to City Island, finished off, fitted with an Alden designed rig and launched in 1934.
Fuller sailed her for a few years then sold her in 1936 to Elihu Root, a member of the America’s cup J-class Enterprise syndicate and patron of Burgess’s.
She was later owned a man named Richard Baum who sailed Little Dipper extensively (engineless and mostly singlehanded) between New England and the Caribbean and documented it in his book By the Wind. As Llewelyn Howland noted in his biography of Starling Buress, for Baum, “Little Dipper proved herself to be an almost perfect vehicle for fast, safe, handy and comfortable sailing and passage making.”
Little Dipper’s current owner found her languishing in Liberty, NJ in 2006, purchased her and brought her north to Brooklin, ME where she underwent a significant refit in ’09-’10 with the help of Eric Dow’s Boat Shop, detailed below. She has cruised the Maine cost and been stored at Billings Marine in Stonington, ME since.
-Replaced 90% of deck beams
-new awlgripped dynel over plywood deck, sheer strakes and bulwarks
-new mast partners
-re-planked below the waterline
-checked keel bolts
-replaced frame ends and sistered where necessary (21 frames)
-Replaced aft end of the house, cockpit, cockpit coaming, sampson posts, wheel box hatch and forward hatch
-restored the original galley aft interior layout and replaced ceiling planking from the midships bulkhead aft
-Spars stripped of hardware, stripped to bare wood and revarnished with 9 coats
– new elongated doug fir bowsprit and bowsprit standing rigging
-Yanmar 3GM 27HP diesel engine – reconditioned by Billings Diesel, installed in 2012
-two blade bronze folding prop (offset to stb’d)
-Original Edson bronze wormgear steering system
Spars and Rigging:
-Solid sitka spruce laminated mast and boom
-Doug Fir staysail club
-Doug Fir bowsprit
-Harken jib furler
-1×19 standing rigging (jumper stays, whisker stays and bobstay new in 2012-2013)
-Recent running rigging
-Merriman primary winches
-Gamble and Hunter (2018) – Main, Staysail, Yankee in like new condition
-Older suit of Nat Wilson sails in ok condition
Raymarine C80 chart plotter – companionway swingarm mount
1 x 15 gal. Polyethylene fuel tank under the cockpit
2 x (30-40 gal. estimated) aluminum water tanks under port and stb’d berths
1 x 16 gal. stainless black water tank in bow
-P.E. Luke Heritage 2 burner propane stove
-Columbia stove works solid fuel stove