The Alden letters

Five letters  from the design office of John Alden to Dr B O’Brien have survived.These are presented as a booklet  and also page by page.

Booklet display:

booklet cover


These letters  and associated commentary are available here. This will take a short time to load,please be patient. Once the booklet is open may I suggest you use the full screen button to make for ease of reading. full screen


Page by page:

If you click of the letter titles below, a copy of the original will open in another tab. These take a short time to load.  The quality  of the first letter is quite poor but just legible. The later 4 letters  are clear and easy to read.

Alden header 1-5-47May 1st  1947:

This letter seems to be first response to a request for a “one-off ” design for a cruising boat with a waterline length under 40ft. Alden sends preliminary plans for 0618,0832 ,0763 , 0638 and a small scale drawing of 0756 (Malabar XIII).  Alden extols the possibilities of 0823 which he describes as “a development of my former boat, Malabar XII only a little over a foot wider. She would make a very fine cruising boat and I think would have a fair turn of speed”   He notes that a locally built 0823 may get underway within a few months of writing. The proposed local boat has a lead keel but Alden states he would prefer an iron keel.  He  goes on to explain that while Malabar XII is a fine boat he is, at the time of writing, building a slightly wider variation.   Alden offered to sell a copy of the drawn 0756 plans.

Alden header 18-8-47
August 18th 1947:

Alden refers to correspondence from O’Brien earlier that month.  O’Brien has received a set of 0756 plans but apparently government rules of some sort made it problematic for O’Brien to transfer a payment for plans of a pleasure craft. Alden somewhat cheekily suggests altering the description to “fishing boat”. Alden insists that O’Brien keep the plans  sort out payment as and when able.

Alden header 6-5-48
May 6th 1948:

This letter now makes it clear that O’Brien has changed his project to that of  the 0823 design.

Alden header 13-9-49
September 13th 1949:

The first page of the letter has a typographical error and notes the year as 1939. The remaining pages have 1949 and the context fits for 1949. Dr O’Brien’s address is still Yacht Connella, Mosman Bay. O’Brien has made some rig change suggestions for his yacht. These Alden describes as excellent. Interestingly Alden uses his MalabarXIII experience as the yard stick to comment on O’Brien’s suggestions. The use 0823 plan is again confirmed.  Alden discusses the balance of the sail plan. Alden address the question of engine weight. Alden helpful encloses the cabin plan for 0823-f .  These letters and their technical discussion were made available to Keith after the 1997 to 2002 restoration was completed. The restoration team had made several choices based only on experience and sound principles  with respect to engine weight and sail balance. These choices were then found to have been supported by Alden himself in this letter.

Alden header 22-9-50
September 22nd 1950:

Alden has received some early photographs ofWraith of Odin on the stocks. Some technical comments about the mizzen rig were included. It is quite entertaining to hear a master naval architect express typical owner’s annoyance  at what a new owner is doing to his old boat.


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