Wings & Water: Rugged Good Looks: The One That Almost Got Away

  • Michael Schulze

When Hatteras launched its first yacht, a 41-foot Convertible, in 1960, company founder Willis Slane dubbed the vessel Knit Wits—appropriate enough, it seemed, for a company led by a man who knew almost nothing about boatbuilding, financed mainly by textile executives, and located 200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in High Point, N.C. But over the next few years, Slane would give the lie to that name, swiftly building Hatteras into a yachtmaking powerhouse.

Knit Wits served as a company demonstrator for a while, until Louisiana lumber dealer Sam Robinson and three friends purchased it. "Fishermen around New Orleans had just recently found out there were blue marlin in the Gulf of Mexico off the mouth of the Mississippi River," Robinson recalls. "The problem was that you had to run about a hundred miles offshore to reach the hundred-fathom curve. The water out there can get pretty mean, so we knew we needed a really well-built boat." The new owners renamed the craft Sabalo, the name of Robinson’s company.

In 1968 they sold the boat to Dr. Leslie Warshaw of Lake Charles, La. Four years later Warshaw traded up to a Hatteras 45 Convertible and sold the vessel to Miguel Carco of Panama, who used her to fish Piñas Bay. It appears that the boat then was left largely unattended at the Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City, where she eventually sank.

In 1984, Dave Parker, who had become president of Hatteras following Slane’s death in 1965, resolved to find Knit Wits. He traced the boat as far as Carco’s ownership, but there the trail went cold. Finally, a relative of Carco’s revealed that the boat had been purchased by a fellow named Ted Albrighton, who had raised her but not yet made her seaworthy.

Curley Cook, a Hatteras employee who had helped build the yacht, acquired her from Albrighton and patched her up enough to put her in the water. In the late summer of 1984, Knit Wits returned to High Point, where Hatteras restored her in time for the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

These days the boat lies berthed at Hatteras’ facility in New Bern, N.C., a little worse for wear since the 1980s but still serviceable. With the company’s 50th anniversary arriving in 2009, it seems likely that Knit Wits soon will be seen again in all her glory.

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