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by Bill Tapia
23’ 3-1/2”
19’ 3-3/4”
8’ 5-1/2”
3’ 8”
285 sq. ft.
Universal 15
10 gals.
20 gals.
Weston Farmer

Weston Farmer was born on November 16, 1903. When he died May 14, 1981, at the age of 77, he left a void in the world of boating that may never be filled.

He had the reputation of being an outspoken, no-nonsense kind of a man who preferred short phrases, abrupt telephone conversations, and direct language. Amateur boatbuilders, who loved and admired him, were always in awe of Farmer. He commanded a great deal of respect. Some boatbuilders even held a certain fear when writing or talking to Farmer about some problem or other regarding the hull construction of a Weston Farmer design.
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The CHERUB 23. Character and charm. There’s a lot to like in this little gem. She looks as if she’ll take to the ocean like a feather. A beautiful bow, a gracious sheer, and a typey outboard rudder.

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Of course all this was created in the minds of people, because Westy was one of the kindest people in the world. From my very first association with him, when I too was expecting to deal with a cantankerous old man, I saw that he was a soft-hearted, generous person. And generous with his mind, too. Always willing to help and share a bit of important knowledge as well as a good joke. And he could tell a good joke because he had a superb sense of humor.
my only regret is in not having had the opportunity to know him earlier in life. But I remember how towards the end of his life he was still planning things which had to be done, hoping he’d still have the time. He and I were working on an article on round hull plating which never got done. We talked about it during long telephone conversations which we made to each other across the country. His enthusiasm was boundless and constant. “I still have some things I want to do,” he told me more than once.

One of the projects that was almost left unfinished was the design of CHERUB. It was an idea he had from the thirties, when Sam Rabl put out all those great little wooden cruiser designs which backyard boatbuilders loved. CHERUB was inspired by Rabl’s BUDDY, the seventh version of his famous classic PICAROON.

Westy wanted his little cruiser to be built in steel. He had been fortunate to see the great success of his steel ketch TAHITIANA. He worked on CHERUB over the years, made the calculations and preliminary drawings. Still, before completing his design he wanted to build the first hull, sail her, and see what changes might be needed.

The late Weston Farmer shortly before his death in 1981

A Florida yard was selected to assemble the first CHERUB hull. When the hull was completed, Westy and Bylo, his wife of many years, flew from Minnesota to Florida for the sea trials. The launching of the first CHERUB was delayed for many hours because many details were still needing completion. They waited in the 90-degree heat for the little hull to be finished. The more Westy examined his design, the more he disliked what the builder had done. Changes had been made in the structure of the hull which Farmer had not designed nor approved. Yet, the hull went into the water like a feather and the sea trial was successful.

Once back home, Westy discussed his design again with his lifelong friend Nelson Zimmer. Zimmer has told me how in his early struggling years as a naval archtec he looked up to Weston Farmer, whose work was by then being recognized. When they met personally, their friendship was bound forever.

During the last years of his life, Weston Farmer fought a devastating heart ailmant. In and out of the hospital, he was always optimistic. One day he called me and said: "I just got out of the hospital." and immediately plunged in about some details we had left unfinished in a conversation a few weeks before and regarding the content of a previous letter. That was in November of 1980.


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With near fatal attacks as the one he had iust suffered, congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, many lesser men would have thrown in the winch handle. Westy just kept on going.

He also never lost his proper sense of values. Regarding a quote in The Steel Yacht, then published as a newsletter, he wrote me on April 9, 1981: “I was surprised to learn I was a famous yacht designer! Seems to me I have been in the pits, shoveling bull all my life. I do notice a great surge of name acceptance in the great amount of mail hitting here — far more than I can handle. Especially with having spent most of the winter in the hospital trying to stabilize my heart. I’d soft pedal the soft soap when you mention my name, I find it best to let the work demand respect. Please?”

And on March 4. 1981, while sending some material on TAHITIANA, he wrote: “Today I have to head back to the hospital. Don’t know yet, but I am sending this stuff along as insurance against being decked in bed again. Try calling me when you get this — any evening. And (I) can answer if I’m home. Yours. Westy,”

I spoke to him one more time. And then he was gone.

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