This collection of 2 photo albums of about 150 photographs and 2 composition notebooks of captain’s logs chronicle the waterlogged life of R.D. “Pete Culler,” who was a proponent of traditional wooden small sailing craft. He was well-known in sailing circles and there is more information on him at the end of this write-up. The dates of the items here range between 1928-1951. You can feel that you are along on the adventure as they dally up and down America’s East Coast. Captain Culler brought friends and family along for his nautical ventures. He also enlists their help in construction and repairs of boat projects. This is told through photographs and diary entries. They include:
A porthole shaped album (with a diameter of 11”) made of wood with circular pages, encompasses the winter of 1940-1941. The captain and his presumed lover spend the cold months traversing the warm waters of Florida. “The Prospector” is purchased in Fort Lauderdale and along the way they put sweat equity into turning this boat into a proper ship equipped with fresh sails. With The Prospector and their little dink, they take excursions in the Keys and the Everglades before heading back north enroute to Nantucket, Massachusetts. Photographs are glued directly to page. Most photographs measure 3 1/2” x 4” and are captioned with blue and red pencil. The pages have yellowed with age and the binding has broken. One photo appears to be missing and the ribbon binding is missing, making all pages and covers detached.
The large scrapbook (10 7/8” x 14 3/4”) with black covers spans the years 1936-1939. The photographs, however, are not in chronological order. Photos vary in size, though most measure 4 3/4” x 3”. This album of over 100 photographs showcases several Schooner ships along the east coast. Sites of note: Portland, Maine, Long Island’s Great South Bay, and City Island by Providence, Rhode Island. Several loose pages torn from the Inquirer and Mirror feature photos of Nantucket Massachusetts and are tucked into a blank page in the album beside loose photographs. There is a page of 3 blank post cards. Pages have yellowed with age. Some, not all, photos are provided with caption. Several photos are missing from this album.
The Sterling composition notebook is a detailed near-daily log of the captain’s experience on the water from April 2, 1948 to Oct. 7 1951, and used about 120 pages in this log. There are some unused pages and several receipts are tucked into the book.
The Champion composition notebook is the earliest log in this collection, by near twenty years. The notebook is less than half full of entries, with about 25 pages used. It tells the story about the acquisition and construction project of the ship “Spray” in Oxford, Maryland from 1928-1929. Loose in the notebook is a handwritten, itemized list of expenses, a hand drawn map of the nautical chart off the coast of New Jersey and brochure for The Harpoon Club in New York City. The log starts: “Diary of the construction of the Spray at Oxford, MD, at Mr. Conley’s yard, by purchase of material and hire of labor.?
An internet search or R.D. Culler reveals that he wrote three books on sailing and building boats and was well known in sailing circles. A review of his last book “Spray,” from 1978 says in part: “R.D. Pete Culler was a waterman, designer and builder who spanned the years from coastal schooners to IOR racers. He died in August and his last book, the Spray, while not intended to be his last word, is a fine final testament to his attitude about men, boats, and the sea. Among traditionalists and lovers of wood boats, he was a leading light. His other books, Skiffs and Schooners and Boats, Oars and Rowing, are widely read and highly respected. The Spray is Culler’s reminiscences about the building and sailing of his replica of Joshua Slocum’s yacht Spray. With his wife Toni, Culler spent 20 years living aboard the Spray, using her as his home and making a living with her by taking on charters and even freighting lumber along the East Coast. He writes about building the boat in Chesapeake boatyard, about chartering it in New England and the South, about rigging, sailing and maintenance in the Culler fashion……”.