Jean Dale Resoration Project
Jean Dale
Jean Dale


Artist Edition: 350
Size: 12 X 22
Price: $200

The Jean Dale: Prelude to a Memory
by Robert B. Dance

The classic North Carolina Core Sounder, Jean Dale has come to the end of it's working days, and now rests out of the water at Harkers Island, North Carolina. There are several classic designs of working boats that originated on the coast of North Carolina, and the Core Sound Sink Netter ranks as among the very best of those designs. The boats took hold in the 1930s, and were refined and built into the 1950s. Of those examples of Core Sounders, the most beautiful I have seen is the Jean Dale. The Jean Dale was built in 1946. I first saw the boat in the 1960s, and immediately began to use it in my paintings. WoodenBoat magazine ( Jan/Feb 2003 ) ran an article by Michael B. Alford titled, "The Core Sounders" which gave a comprehensive history of the design featuring photographs and several of my paintingsof the Jean Dale. At that time, I also tried to raise funds for the boat's restoration by offering a print of the Jean Dale.

jean Dale Then
Jean Dale Before

Unfortunately, efforts to raise money for the Jean Dale's restoration have not equaled the task at hand. The Jean Dale is rapidly deteriorating on dry land, and soon will be beyond Cape Lookout Classicsthe point of possible restoration. Should this happen, a prime example of the American workboat will be lost forever. This boat deserves to be preserved as a particularly beautiful rendition of the adage that, "Form follows function" in American design...."if it looks good, it probably works good". Hopefully, funds can be found to preserve this noteworthy boat, so that it may rest in a museum to be seen by those who appreciate American maritime heritage.

Note: The Jeal Dale Restoration is now complete! See the photos below or visit this beautiful, one-of-a-kind working boat in person at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center in Harkers Island, North Carolina. Proceeds from the sale of the limited edition prints "The Jean Dale" & "Cape Lookout Classics" purchased at the museum will contribute to the continued upkeep and care of the restored Core Sound Sink Netter 'Jean Dale'.

Click On The Images Above To See The Conditon Of The Jean Dale Before Restoration
Restored Jean Dale
Restored Jeam Dale
Restored Jean Dale
Click On The Images Above To See The Conditon Of The Jean Dale After Restoration

Should you be interested in this boat, you can find out more about the Jean Dale from these sources:

The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum (home of the restored Jean Dale), Harkers Island, NC:

WoodenBoat Magazine, Jan/Feb 2003, # 170; Pages 42-49 or ( for copies of the article )

Wildlife In North Carolina,   Article by Rodney Foushee, "One Plank at a Time" follows below:

More Paintings Featuring the Jean Dale
Click On An Image

One Plank at a Time
written by Rodney Foushee
for Wildlife In North Carolina Magazine

Efforts are under way to restore one of Core Sound's most important wooden fishing boats and preserve a tradition for future generations.

Note: The Jeal Dale Restoration is now complete! Visit this beautiful, one-of-a-kind working boat in person at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center in Harkers Island, North Carolina. Proceeds from the sale of the limited edition prints "The Jean Dale" & "Cape Lookout Classics" purchased at the museum will contribute to the continued upkeep and care of the restored Core Sound Sink Netter 'Jean Dale'.

Restoring the Jean Dale

Bob Dance
Artist Bob Dance works on a painting of the Jean Dale.

Noted North Carolina maritime artist Bob Dance remembers his first encounter with the Jean Dale: "It was in the late '60s, and my family used to vacation at Morehead City," Dance explains. "I would explore the whole area looking for subject matters to paint. On Harkers Island one day, I saw the Jean Dale for the first time at the very end of the island. It was the first Core Sound sink netter I had ever seen. I regard it as one of the three or four classic North Carolina boats."

Dance also witnessed the decline of wooden boat-building. "I noticed that the tradition was tapering off on Harkers Island. The younger people were moving away. That tradition has to be passed down from father to son or a good friend. These boats were no longer being built on the island. I decided to start photographing and painting the Jean Dale because the boat was so beautiful. I've always thought that something that looks good works well-form follows function. Things that look lousy usually don't work too well," Dance said. "Take that boat from 'The Perfect Storm.' That was an ugly boat, and it turned over at sea!"

Dance has featured the Jean Dale in many of his paintings over the years. "I have painted that boat well over a dozen times-maybe 20 or 25 times-in a variety of settings," he said. "I would come back every summer to photograph and paint the boat. Through all those years, you regard something you are familiar with as a friend."

Like a faithful friend, the Jean Dale continued to ply the waters of Core Sound until the late 1990s, when Harry Lewis' health began to fail. The boat that came to represent so much of the region's boat-building tradition ended up docked and decaying at a Harkers Island harbor. After Lewis' death his family donated the Jean Dale to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum in September 2000 for restoration and to preserve island traditions. But the aged boat badly needs repair. Besides suffering from weathering, its basic design had been altered: The doghouse up front had been removed, and a modern cabin had been built, changing the traditional lines of the boat.

That's when Dance came up with an idea to help raise funds for the restoration. "When I saw that it had been donated to the museum, I thought I should try to do something to help raise the money for the restoration of the boat," he said. "It looks like it needs a lot of work. A lot of people, besides me, are donating their time to this project."

In what has ubiquitously been named the "Jean Dale Project," Dance decided to paint an original painting of the Jean Dale and sell limited-edition prints with the profits going to the museum for the restoration. Others in the community have chipped in.

Workers from East Bay boatworks used heavy equipment to lift the Jean Dale and haul the boat to the museum. And an anonymous donor provided money for a concrete pad and framework to keep the boat in dry dock. Clarence Willis, along with other locals, is helping to restore the Jean Dale-providing labor and a lifetime of knowledge of a boat he helped build.

It's going to be a costly undertaking-requiring $60,000 just to build a roof to protect the aging boat from the elements, especially rainwater, which is the bane of any wooden boat. "She's failing fast," Clarence Willis explains. "It's going to take a lot to bring her back to the way she was."

But if anyone can do it, the people of Harkers Island can.

Despite her graceful lines, the Jean Dale was constructed strictly as a working boat in the 1940s. Handcrafted of longleaf pine and juniper planks, the sink netter was built to handle the rigors of year-round commercial fishing as evidenced by these photos of the boat in the late 1960s on Harker's Island.

The Jean Dale

What do you know about the Jean Dale?" I yell above the sounds of circular saws and hammer beats. The September sun is retreating westward toward Beaufort, and the salt-laden air of Core Sound is thick all around. Clarence Willis drives one last nail into a juniper plank and motions for his helpers to knock off for the evening. Tanned island men silently pack up their tools amid the sawdust and lumber and disappear in the fleeting light, leaving me alone with Willis and his son, Junior.

"What you want to know about her?" Willis asks back sheepishly, arms folded, with an old hammer in the crook of one arm and his strong back leaning squarely against the bow of the unfinished wooden skiff. He looks me over with the distrust of a stranger bearing beads for a one-sided trade. I understand his distrust. Here on Harkers Island, I'm considered a "dingbatter," an outsider. And it's folks like me-in Willis' and most other natives' views-who've changed this island, its people and their way of life.

"She is a Core Sound sink netter, right? One of the last of her kind left?" I know enough to ask the right questions.

Cape Lookout Classics"She was just another fishing boat-the Jean Dale. There was a time when there were 50 or 60 boats like her on this island," Willis responds matter-of-factly. "But there ain't many left anymore." His 71-year-old blue eyes flash back to the past, and I know he knows more. His leathered arms unfold and relax as he continues.

"She was a good sea boat built for Harry Lewis back in the early '40s" Willis explains as he lays down the hammer on a sawhorse. "She was a real fishing boat, maybe 40 foot long. Harry worked her year-round-shrimping and pulling nets," he said. "Sank twice and caught afire once, but they didn't give up on her."

And the Jean Dale didn't give up either. The planked boat, built of heart pine and juniper, was fished nearly continuously for 50 years, Willis explained, bringing back loads of shrimp, gray trout, spot and sea mullet to Harkers Island. Once, Harry sank her off Brown's Island in rough seas with a heavy load of jumbo croakers -maybe 120 to 125 boxes full. "It brigged up on him; and with so much weight, the stem went down. But they raised her and got her dry in a day or two and went back at it again."

Harry Lewis was the sole owner of the Jean Dale. And when he got too old to fish her, his grandson took up fishing the boat for a while. "She didn't owe Harry nothing," Willis said. "She had well paid for herself."

"Who built the Jean Dale?" I blurt out, guessing that Willis knows much more.

"Brady Lewis built her, along with some other men on the island. And I helped work on the Jean Dale when I was young," he explains. "Brady Lewis-well, he's the one that started this (boat-building) mess with the flared bow-'flow'r' we call it, and he taught me too. I quit school when I was 13 and started working for Brady. At first, he would just let me hold the planks. But he got to where he would trust me more to cut the planks."

Famed boat-builder Brady Lewis crafted the Jean Dale, with the help of others including Clarence Willis (above) who was a teen-ager at the time. Now in his 70s, Willis is working with others on Harker's Island to restore the historic fishing boat.

Famed boat-builder Brady Lewis crafted the Jean Dale, with the help of others including Clarence Willis (above) who was a teen-ager at the time. Now in his 70s, Willis is working with others on Harker's Island to restore the historic fishing boat.

The Jean Dale was indicative of the "Harkers Island boat," Willis explained. She was narrow, long and graceful with a distinctive flared bow-made famous by Brady Lewis-and a low transom and a rounded stern to prevent the fishing nets from hanging up when they were pulled in by hand by a three-man crew. She had a fairly flat bottom for a shallow draft to navigate the waters of Core Sound. But the flared bow, with just enough dead rise, helped cut the waves offshore in heavy seas. "The narrower the boat, the more dead rise," Willis said. "A narrow boat was a better sea boat. But you didn't let her get side-to in rough seas. You took your waves head-on. And the round stern worked good for pulling in the sink nets," he added.

The Jean Dale was fitted with a six-cylinder Chrysler gasoline automobile engine and had a 22-inch wheel (propeller), Willis explained. But she could make 18 to 20 knots in good conditions at 3,400 rpm's. And she had a distinctive "doghouse" up front where the captain could pilot her in rough conditions.

Brady Lewis-considered by many the father of North Carolina boat building-is credited on Harkers Island with developing the flared-bow boat. He devised a simple mathematical formula to lay up the narrow juniper planks in various widths in nearly seamless perfection to create the distinctive bow shape. "He just got it in his head, the flow'r," Willis said. "Besides, it makes a prettier boat anyhow."

Before the days of modern fiberglass, Brady Lewis taught Willis and many others on the island how to work out the calculations for the graceful curves of wood. In his nearly 60 years as a boat-builder, Willis has built hundreds of wooden boats, from skiffs all the way up to 70-footers. But he's never touched fiberglass and never will. "Can't stand the stuff. In my opinion, it makes a sorry boat-too easy to bust her with fiberglass. Wood is much stronger. I wouldn't even try to guess at the number of wood boats I've built. I've retired twice from it, but then somebody on the island wants me to build 'em a boat."

That's where this 24-footer he's working on came from. The plans themselves are not written down-each one comes from Willis' head, just like his teacher, Brady Lewis, did it. But too few builders work with wood anymore.

Willis wistfully thinks back. "I wish it was back like it was 20 years ago. There's too few working in the fishing now, and wood and materials are too expensive. There's still some juniper left, but no heart pine. And everybody wants fiberglass now. Used to be people made boats for people who used boats to work and earn a livin'. Then the big people-the moneymen-got into it with fiberglass. Naturally, the dingbatters came in too. They put the damper on us and wooden boat-building."

History of the Core Sounder

Built as a commercial workboat, the clean lines of the Jean Dale, with its flared bow and rounded stern, represent a pinnacle in North Carolina boat building, explains Mike Alford, former curator of maritime history at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. And the lasting popularity of the flared bow made famous by the wooden boat-builders on Harkers Island and Core Sound has spread up and down the East Coast and is still found in an exaggerated form in the modern fiberglass fishing boats of today.

The Core Sounders, as this class of boat was called, once dotted the small harbors of Harkers Island and nearby coastal communities. Sleek and gleaming white, they had a low, graceful sheer that swept up to a smart, flared bow, while the aft end terminated in a low, almost dainty round stern, Alford explained. There was a simple low cabin forward that sheltered a galley, a couple of berths for the crew and a bad-weather steering station. Directly over the station a hatchlike windowed box allowed the helmsman to poke his head up and look around. Built on the island, and in a few nearby mainland communities, they ranged in length from around 35 feet to more than 40 and were powered by single engines.

"In the building of boats, there is a general maxim that changes occur slowly and only when necessary," Alford said. "Probably nothing ever overhauled the boat builder's status quo more significantly, or as rapidly, as did the advent of the internal combustion engine."

The story of the Core Sounder began when the fishing community began to accept gasoline engine power as a viable alternative to sail. In North Carolina that was near the end of the first decade in the 20th century. Three decades later, the Core Sounder emerged. Although elements of its design and construction can be traced back to sailing craft, the Core Sounder represents what might be considered the perfection of a power-driven hull, explains Alford, not as the end result of a series of modifications to sailing hulls.

Boat-building has always been a major interest in North Carolina since its earliest days as a colony. Prior to the Civil War, boats built with logs were the rule. Following the war, two boat types dominated inshore fish-ery and commercial activities in the state. The round-bottom shad boat, with its versatile sprit-main and jib rig, prevailed in the northern sounds-the Albemarle, Pamlico and Croatan. Core Sound, to the south, was the stronghold of the sharpie-a flat-bottomed immigrant from Connecticut. By the late 1800s, sharpies were found as far south as Wilmington and Southport, and as far north as the sounds extended. But Core Sound was their stronghold.

By the early 1930s, with powered boats everywhere, the new challenge was a demand for "bigger and better" boats that could navigate the shoal sounds, contend with summer squalls and venture into deep-sea fishing grounds. Enter the Core Sounders.

Brady Lewis and those who learned from him began producing the first of the Core Sounders in the 1930s. Earlier versions were typically built on a 4-to-1 ratio of length-to-beam, and were powered by engines of 115 horsepower or less. Just before World War II and immediately after, boats experienced a trend that saw horsepower double in a short time, and length-to-beam ratios began a downward trend toward 3-to-1.

The Jean Dale represents the best of the postwar boats, Alford said. She is simple and clean, and has all the features in the appropriate proportions that give the Core Sounders their distinctive look: low freeboard, saucy bow flare and a graceful round stern. By the early '50s, the use of larger and faster engines resulted in less graceful proportions. Deeper and more robust, the round stern was no longer the sweetly balanced end of a sleek, easily driven hull. At the same time the flared bow sections grew more and more extreme. But the Jean Dale had the grace and charm that well-balanced elements of design give to a boat.

Prints for Planks

Jean DaleThe restoration of the Jean Dale is a major financial undertaking for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, explains museum director Karen Amspacher. "We've consulted with the Smithsonian and the North Carolina Maritime Museum on methods for restoring the boat," she said. "Our main goal is to restore the Jean Dale for nomination as a historic vessel to the National Register of Historic Places." That means replacing rotted planks and restoring the pilothouse to its original configuration -no minor feats considering the cost of labor and wood. Cape Lookout Classics The museum also wants to build a roof to protect the boat from the elements, and there are plans to eventually have exhibits and a teaching area to share the legacy of boat building with the public.

To raise funds for the $100,000 restoration project and subsequent upkeep of the boat, the Core Sound Museum has teamed up with artist Bob Dance to offer special reproductions of his painting "The Jean Dale" (above) and Dance's painting " Cape Lookout Classics". Proceeds from "The Jean Dale" edition prints were provided for the boat's restoration and proceeds from the sale of the "Cape Lookout Classics" edition will continue to benefit both the the Jean Dale and the Museum. To see the restored Jean Dale, visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum on Harkers Island, North Carolina.

Have any thoughts about this story? E-mail Author Rodney Foushee

Note: The Jeal Dale Restoration is now complete! Visit this beautiful, one-of-a-kind working boat in person at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center in Harkers Island, North Carolina. Proceeds from the sale of the limited edition prints "The Jean Dale" & "Cape Lookout Classics" purchased at the museum will contribute to the continued upkeep and care of the restored Core Sound Sink Netter 'Jean Dale'.


Artists' Fair-Market Value Deduction Bills
Making the Case to Congress to Treat Artists Like All Other Taxpayers

In 1969 when Congress repealed legislation allowing artists, writers and composers to take a fair-market value deduction for their works donated to a museum, library or archive, it essentially deprived Americans of their cultural patrimony. As a result, works donated by artists to nonprofit institutions dramatically declined. While artists can no longer donate works for a fair-market deduction, collectors who own those works can take the fair-market value deduction when they donate to a nonprofit institution.

When artists do not have the same incentive to donate that other taxpayers enjoy our heritage is often sold abroad or goes into private collections. For example:

  • Igor Stravkinsky planned to donate his papers to the Music Division of the Library of Congress the month the tax reform act of 1969 was signed into law. Instead, the papers were sold to a private foundation in Switzerland.
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York received 321 gifts from artists in the three years prior to the repeal, in the three years following repeal the museum received 28 works of art from artists — over a 90% decrease.
  • The biggest loser was the Library of Congress, which annually received 15 to 20 large gifts of manuscripts from authors. In the four years after repeal it received one gift.

Identical bills have been introduced in the House and Senate. Congressmen Amo Houghton (R-Corning, NY) and Ben Cardin (D-Baltimore, MD) introduced H.R. 1598 "Artists' Contribution to American Heritage Act"and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced S. 694 "Artist-Museum Partnership Act". Both bills have broad bipartisan support, with over 50 House members cosponsoring and seven senators. The Senate passed the bill last year, but the House did not accept it.

We urge Congress to:

  • Cosponsor H.R.1598 or S. 694.
  • Ask Reps. Bill Thomas (R- CA), Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the committee to help move H.R. 1598 to the House floor.
  • Ask Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of Finance Committee and Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Republican on the committee to move S. 694 to the Senate floor.
  • Pass this long-overdue legislation and restore nation’s cultural heritage to the American public.


  1. As federal support for arts and cultural institutions declines, the tax code should encourage donations from our most creative citizens for future generations to enjoy.
  2. Most nonprofit institutions have no acquisition funds to purchase creative works and must rely on donations.
  3. The tax code strives for "horizontal tax equity" — equal treatment to all similarly situated taxpayers. Artists should be treated as any other taxpayer donating a work of appreciated property

CLICK HERE TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND URGE THEIR SUPPORT OF H.R. 1598 "Artists' Contribution to American Heritage Act" AND S. 694 "Artist-Museum Partnership Act"!

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