Scale model of the Tahiti Ketch Benelly, created by Benjamin Severns after he finished building the yacht, and had completed a two-year cruise with his wife. The model is currently displayed in downtown Rochester, Indiana.

Evelyn is a modified Tahiti Ketch design built by Benjamin O. Severns. Originally christened BENELLY, she was built in Ben’s backyard in rural Indiana, to fulfil a dream of sailing and cruising on the Atlantic with his wife during their retirement. In this way she is like many other Tahiti Ketches, designed by John Hanna almost one hundred years ago: Tahitis were designed for dreamers, built by dreamers, and sailed by dreamers. They were marketed as the boat that you could build yourself, and then sail to Tahiti and back--and so original Tahiti Ketches, modified Tahiti Ketches, and Tahiti-inspired designs can be found sailing the world over. They are all similar yet each is different—personal touches by their builders and owners have led to countless variations.

Evelyn’s particulars are:

Benjamin Severns built Evelyn (BENELLY) mostly to the suggestions of a 1976 article published in Mechanix Illustrated, combined with his own research on the original design and other successful seagoing yachts. As an engineer, he drafted his own blueprints based on the designs to use throughout the build, and added in details he felt relevant to his own personal use. For example, Ben knew that though his wife Elly agreed to the cruise he would be doing most of the sailing and boat-handling, and spent particular time deciding on the boat’s rigging and reefing system. Hanging framed in his office he still has the drawings he sent to the sail manufacturer, outlining the specifications of the sails.

Inside Evelyn's cabin in 2016 (upper photos), and Benelly's original cabin in 1985 (lower photos).

Down below Ben arranged the cabin according to how he and Elly planned to use the boat; she has ample fuel and water capacity for infrequent visits to port, an accessible engine, a nav station, a galley with an oversized sink, drop-leaf table to seat four, and small head. Though Ben is not tall, her standing room is 6’3” and her v-berth is large. She was built with a two-year cruise in mind, and so she is simple but comfortable. With eight opening ports, a forward hatch, companionway hatch, square butterfly hatch that can be repositioned to open fore and aft or port to starboard, and two dorades she is well-ventilated in warmer weather, and a diesel heater on a cabin bulkhead keeps her warm in cooler temperatures.

Continuing the spirit and tradition of Tahiti modification, we’ve made our own changes as we’ve restored areas needing attention. Winches and modern jam cleats used to run the lines aft were popular in Tahiti Two era builds; we’ve removed those and chosen to run the lines more in keeping with other gaff-rigged vessels and closer to the 1920s traditions. We’ve also rebuilt the bulwarks to accommodate an open, running scupper – a feature visible in photographs of some other early Tahitis that we admired; this has solved trouble we were having with rot and water pooling on deck.

Below, we have added lights salvaged from ships to brighten her cabin during Maine’s long winter nights, and fitted them with LEDs. During summer’s sunny days, a roll-able solar panel, stowed away while sailing, is sufficient for keeping her batteries charged.