Recently, we had the privilege of seatrialing writer Ernest Hemingway’s 38-foot Wheeler Playmate fishing boat Pilar with Jim Moores, founder and president of wooden boat restoration firm Moores Marine. Well, it felt like it, anyway. In reality, we were aboard Elhanor, a 34-foot Playmate built by Wheeler Shipbuilding in Brooklyn, NY, the same year Pilar was built—1933. Moore’s Marine Yacht Center in Beaufort, NC, recently completed a six-month restoration of Elhanor that included replacing about 30 planks in her hull, re-wiring, re-plumbing and re-powering her, refreshing her interior and transforming her for an upcoming movie into Pilar, which Hemingway modified extensively for sportfishing.
“He had work done to it every year,” said Nate Smith, Moores Marine Yacht Center service manager, who oversaw the Elhanor project. The original Pilar, which is high and dry on Hemingway’s former farm in Cuba, featured one of the first sportfishing towers, a fighting chair and a transom roller for pulling marlin to the boat. There were no plans available to work from, Smith said. Instead, they took photos of both boats and had an artist superimpose Pilar’s silhouette onto Elhanor to form a template.
Driving from the new Pilar’s upper helm, we marveled at its gears, throttle and steering system, which Moores Marine also re-created from old pictures: Long pipes extend down from the tower to mechanically maneuver the systems at the lower helm below.
Moores Marine undertook this project for the producers of the upcoming film Hemingway & Fuentes: actor Andy Garcia and Edward Walson of Sunrider Productions. The film, which is about the friendship between the macho writer and his longtime Cuban sportfishing captain, Gregorio Fuentes, is scheduled to begin production in the Dominican Republic in January. Anthony Hopkins will play Hemingway, Garcia will portray Fuentes, and Elhanor will take the part of Pilar.
– Louisa Beckett
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