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Omega 2

Chummy Rich’s Best (but maybe not last) Coastwise Cruiser

By Art Paine

Omega 2’s custom-designed and built windows add a luxury yacht feel to a workboat hull. Photo by Art Paine

Unlike boats designed by the methods familiar to modern yacht designers, using planimeters or splines or French curves, weight studies, computers or lines plans, the Mount Desert-built cabin cruiser Omega 2 was conceived in a vernacular way, defined by past experience, local lore, and eyeball. 

The story begins back in 1988, in Bobby Rich’s shop, located at the foot of my road in Bernard. During a slack spell, Robert “Chummy” Rich Jr. used his molds for a large built-down hull, and set up a spec boat, 42 feet overall and heavily built for offshore fishing. “I did this to keep the crew busy,” he told me. “If there was little to do, they could go over to the upper shop and make progress.” 

At the point where the stem, keel, deadwood, and transom were done, work picked up again. Chummy got word that Chuck Liebow, on Great Cranberry Island, was looking for work. Liebow had a good shop and a good reputation, so they made a deal to get the hull done. Chris Eaton barged the oak backbone, piles of cedar and oak, and the molds to the island. It turns out that a major part of the construction was actually done by George Spuracio, boatbuilder extraordinaire, who is now removed to parts unknown.

Walt Rich, Chummy’s brother, “was scalloping at the time, and every once in a while, we’d go over and check on progress,” Chummy recalled. 

The hull had very heavy scantlings—red oak ribs, 2 by 3½ -inch (split) on the flat, and Maine cedar planking, 13⁄8 inches thick. This being heavy going, what looked like six months work ended up taking the better part of two years. 

Once the hull was done and painted, it was launched, towed back to Bernard, and winched up the rails into Rich’s upper shop. By the time that Chummy got paid for the boat he was then building, he decided to finish off the completed spec hull as a cabin cruiser for himself. 

He did a sketch of his new boat, which he named Omega, with a flybridge up top, and then took it from there.

“I did like the flying bridge a whole lot, and outfitted it with duplicate controls and navigation gear,” Chummy said. “The boat kicked around for two or three years. When time came for an engine, the Cat Man (Caterpillar diesel representative) came ’round. He tried to sell me a 3208 V-8 but the price scared me.” 

“So, he says, ‘How’s about I just let you have it and you pay me eventually, when you can?” Chummy and I were sitting in his brother Walt’s shop, two old men grousing about how that wasn’t so long ago, but things don’t go much like that anymore.

I couldn’t help but be inquisitive about Chummy taking big chances in terms of design. No weights were worked out in advance, other than from past experience. And over the course of construction things changed. 

“I originally set her up for shrimp or scallops. Put the bulkhead in for the engine down ahead of it. Then when I wanted a sleeper yacht, when the engine came, I put it aft of the bulkhead,” he said.

I told him that in a design office this would be heresy. 

“Oh, we did that all the time,” he replied. “Compensated with batteries and tanks and stuff.” 

For the record, big diesels are the heaviest weight in a boat, so I asked the hard question: “Did you pre-launch for a waterline, or did the boat squat?” 

Chummy told me all the boats his dad and he ever built floated just right, on the waterlines that they had mostly guessed at. 

The most important factor for good looks in a boat are usually the windows. For “pleasure boats” Chummy’s shop often used tinted glass windows with rubber surrounds, custom made to his plywood patterns, in Alabama. Looking at photos of Omega 2, I think you’ll agree that with no formal art or yacht design training, his eye was triumphant. 

Of the windows, Chummy noted, “They lasted well but now I need some hardware-store black silicone.” 

Chummy lost the boat as part of a divorce settlement, but always liked it. “She’s not fast but will take anything. The engine just runs and runs. I had a little dinette in her and a nice head, even a generator,” he said. 

When he sold the boat for the cash, the new owner didn’t want the flybridge, so he removed it. “Much as I liked spending time up in that thing, she looks better without it,” he admitted.

Boatbuilder Chummy Rich is still game to take on new projects. Photo by Art Paine

Years passed and Chummy, Walt, and Walt’s son, Wayne “Coolie” Rich, built a smaller version of Omega, and several other boats. Eventually he got hold of and refurbished a 41-foot wood hull he saw at Hinckley Yacht Brokerage, and scabbed a bedroom onto the deck in the form of a used RV. People around Bass Harbor were evenly split between calling that one the “Waterbago” or the “Boatabago.” Meanwhile, Omega was sold again, to a buyer somewhere south on Cape Cod, then she went to Kittery and then again, to nearby Sedgwick. Three or four years ago a fellow in Deer Isle called Chummy asking if he might be interested in buying back that favorite old boat. 

So, what went around, came around. Chummy said the interior came to him spic and span. He resisted the temptation to paint her black, like most every Rich-owned boat.

“I always loved that boat. I even liked her gray, and kept her that way.  Only thing was it had a dinette I put into it, and somebody had taken that out to add a berth.” I plan to put it back just as it was; otherwise there isn’t a place aboard to sit down and eat. Or drink,” he said. 

Although he doesn’t drink so much nowadays, he was proud to show me a little fold-down flap he invented, as a place to uncork a wine bottle or to set a whiskey glass on. This and several other space-saving hinged features were mounted on beautifully made aluminum plates. This was a clever Rich Boat methodology I’d never seen before.  

“I don’t know if I’ll put the flybridge back up on top or not. I’ve still got that in my dooryard,” he said. “Omega is Greek or something, for the last and best. This is my second shot at this boat, so I call her Omega 2. I think that’s about the best, most fun, lazy man’s boat I ever built,” Chummy said.

I told him I thought it was, hands down, the Queen of the Harbor and that even if I had to twist some arms, I wanted to show it off in this magazine.

Then Chummy added, “But I don’t know. I might sell her and then build something else. A man’s got to have projects.”

Contributing editor Art Paine is a boat designer, artist, and writer who lives in Bernard, Maine.

OMEGA 2 Specifications

LOA:  42'
LWL:  40'
Beam:  13' 8"
Draft:  4' 6"
Disp: 28,000 lbs.
Hull:  White cedar over red oak, bronze fastened
House:  Marine plywood, fiberglassed and gel-coated
Power:  320-hp Caterpillar 3208 four stroke, turbocharged, intercooled
Cruise Speed:  10 knots  Max: 14 knots

Builder: Robert “Chummy” Rich Jr.


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