Throwback Thursday – Our Boat

By George Knoblach | Courtesy of Lydia Shaternik | Montauk Library Archives

Does anyone know whose boat this is or was? Lydia Shaternik, a friend of the Montauk Library, discovered a framed black-and-white photograph when she was sorting through donations for the rummage sale at the Montauk Community Church. She set it aside for the library, thinking it might be of interest.

“Our boat we built 1950 Don’s Cove East Lake Drive Lake Montauk N.Y.,” is written in black cursive below the photo. George Knoblach is credited as the photographer. There are also some doodles on a cardboard backing; they appear to be dimensions and/or angles of the sailboat’s rudder and hull.

Mr. Knoblach, who died in 2018, was a pioneering spearfisherman as well as a professional photographer. His obituary in the East Hampton Star said that swimming helped him recover from polio after he served in the Navy during World War II, when he had developed his photographic skills. Swimming led to diving, which led to spearfishing and underwater photography. Spending time in Montauk, where he also did a lot of sailing, sparked a long friendship with the high-profile photographers James and Kathryn Abbe, for whom he worked in New York City before embarking on another career teaching photography and running a photo lab at Pratt.

The Abbes lived in a small house on the ocean bluff at the eastern end of Old Montauk Highway. They had built it during the war, when lumber was scarce, so the original house was very small, using the space-saving design of a small ship and incorporating wood that was in the attic of nearby Second House as well as beams recycled from a Dominy house in East Hampton. James Abbe died in 1999 and Kathryn Abbe in 2014. The Fox news commentator Bill O’Reilly bought the oceanfront property in 2013, demolished the house, and replaced it.

It so happens that the Montauk Historical Society interviewed both George Knoblach and Kathryn Abbe for oral histories; photos in the library’s new Local History Exhibit Center include QR codes that link to those interviews in the library’s digital archives. Enjoy them! – and please let us know if you know have any intel about this sweet little sailboat and its owners.

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