• Bruce Burdge


    If you are, by chance, a wooden boat with deep feelings and a romantic soul, then the answer is: BRUCE BURDGE.

    Bruce is the éminence grise of Dutch Wharf. Not that he operates in an underhanded or devious manner. Not at all. We use the term in a kind-and-caring way. A ‘grey eminence’ alternatively describes a senior, sometimes grey-haired individual who is eminent for his/her accomplishments in the past, but who today acts as an advisor rather than a principal actor, and may be politically influential as a consequence of his honored status. Typically, they are distinguished retired professors or retired politicians with a good reputation. Maggie Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Nelson Mandela are examples. Bruce Burdge is another.

    Having now begun his fiftieth straight year helping clients in our yard, Bruce is assuming an increased role in advising the yard owner and managers about time-proven methods for repairing and restoring vessels of all types and vintages. His knowledge and hands-on sailing experience make him an incredible asset, not just of the yard, but also to boat owners who continually seek his advice on intractable problems.

    One of Bruce’s most endearing contributions is training and mentoring young apprentices. He gives unstintingly of his time and labor to insure that new employees are imbued with the yard’s culture and passion for excellence that has long been our trademark; a reputation we strive not just to perpetuate, but to continually advance. The marine environment is hostile: one marked by unwanted water incursions into a hull, sun damage to paint and varnish and numerous nicks and dings due to docking and maneuvering. Painters and carpenters arriving from non-nautical fields many times must be trained in ways to address these unique problems. Bruce is one of their teachers.

    Hundreds of rigging parts and fixtures pass through the yard every year. Bruce’s penchant for cataloging each and every windex, spreader, shroud roller and turnbuckle has become a mantra: “Tag it when it comes off, kid. Otherwise we’ll never find it in the spring.” With him on deck nothing gets lost or misplaced. “I may have lost one or two over the years, but I can’t remember ‘em.”

    Rigging and spar maintenance often get overlooked because it’s ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ until disaster strikes, usually when under way. (Yes, I mean way, not weigh.)* While Bruce may argue for the older expression, his knowledge of every conceivable type of rigging and/or sail configuration, not to mention his marlinspike skills, sets him apart in the modern world.

    He was the first full-time employee of Dutch Wharf serving at the side of Jack Jacques, the yard founder. Before that he was captain of a 45’ Atkins ketch and skipper of a Bahamian ketch owned by Goodrich Oil Co. Bruce also worked for Wyman’s Boat Yard in New Haven and Johnson’s Boat Yard in Short Beach. He served in the US Navy as a demolition expert at the end of WWII. After the war he restored and sold numerous small sail boats and was delivery captain of a 60’ yacht from Grosse Pointe Yacht Club to St. Thomas.

    When Jack passed away in 1988 his son Paul took over management of the yard. Bruce remained at Paul’s side. Together, they’ve demolished old buildings and built new ones. A larger lifting well was installed along with numerous improvements in equipment and operations. His stories of the yard’s evolution and the characters who’ve worked here are legendary. The annual company Christmas party, held in the carpenter shop, provides the perfect forum for their re-telling… and re-telling.

    If one could choose the perfect caretaker for his vessel, he couldn’t find a better man than Bruce. If in doubt, just give him a small test: a set of blocks for refurbishing, a wheel to be refinished, etc., then sit back and prepare to be dazzled. Guaranteed you’ll be back for more.

    Bruce is an active member of the Branford Yacht Club. We are fortunate to have his wisdom and unique personality in our yard – but you, the customer – are the primary beneficiary.

    • dates back to the old Dutchmen, Europe’s masters of the sea in the seventeenth century (even before Bruce’s time). They gave us — among many other nautical expressions — the term onderweg, meaning “on the way”. This became naturalized as under way and is first recorded in English around 1740, specifically as a maritime term. Some overly-clever individuals connected with the sea immediately linked it erroneously with the phrase to weigh anchor. It may be that the influence of other words ending in -way, especially anyway, encouraged the shift in spelling back to the original and in the process killed off a persistent misunderstanding. In any event, the word weigh has been dropped from most lexicons now and in the process killed off a persistent misunderstanding.