Heart’s Desire was designed by John Alden and built by T.H. Soul in South Freeport, Maine, 1925. She was originally built for Sandy Neilson of Marblehead but was run by a coalition of 6 (or so) out of the Camden Cruising club in Camden, ME. She lived there for an unknown period of time.

Since then the boat has been used for chartering and is known to have lived in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and St. Thomas. That we know of she has mainly traveled along the Eastern United States.

A point of confusion concerns her sister ship Venus, originally built as Piccaroon (Alden hull design #253B). This nearly identical boat was also built by T.H. Soule in Freeport, ME and launched in the same year, 1925. Upon searching the web for Venus, many photos claiming to be her are actually Heart’s Desire, distinguished by the heart in the topsail (in photos post 1980).

Additionally in the late 1960’s (?) Heart’s Desire was renamed Athena. It is unknown when these changes occurred except that documents from the American Schooner Association indicate this name in 1972 & 1973.

Originally built of long leaf pine over oak frames with a single large cabin, she was rebuilt in 1980 by Paul Rollins. She was then planked in oroko and the cabin was split into two. From 2010 to 2014 she has been again extensively refit by Matt Hobart, at Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Please see posts and the recent work page for more information about the refit.

Previous owners (Name – Dates – Port of Call if known):
A.S. Neilson & Syndicate – 1925  to ?
Pease Boatworks -?- Chatham, MA (Now Firstlight Boatworks)
Peter Stanford  1964 – 1973 – New York, NY (Boat was named “Athena” at this point)
(Unclear ownership: Howard Whitney ?? Arthur Allgrove ? (North Wilmington, MA)
Dave Stickney and Pam Burke – ?1979-1989? Newburyport, MA (Beaufort, NC to Florida)
Pease Boatworks – ? – Chatham, MA
? Frank & Tris Kane – ? to 2003 – Nantucket, MA or York, ME
Glen Schroeder – 2003-2010 – Barneget Light, NJ
Matthew Hobart – 2010-present – Vineyard Haven, MA

Do you know more about the history of Heart’s Desire? Do you have any interesting stories to share about the boat? Please leave a comment with any information you’d like to share or corrections you have.


  1. My grandfather, George P. Reynolds had the Heart’s Desire in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. We have a wonderful photo of my mother in my grandfather’s lap behind the wheel of the boat.

    I saw in the Boston globe today, In Arnold W. Hunnewell’s obituary, that his uncle, Robert Amory, had the boat at some point.

    “But it was earlier adventures that forged his love of boats. He spent many summers sailing the Downeast coast of Maine with his uncle, Robert Amory, in an Alden-designed schooner called Heart’s Desire. Mr Hunnewell wrote about those cruising days with verve in a guide penned just for his children, in which he carefully described the ins and outs of little-known harbors and hidden coves, many with colorful sounding names that he loved.”

    Sailing Downeast in the Heart’s Desire was one of my mother’s best early childhood memories

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your thoughtful note. We were not aware of Robert Amory owning or sailing on Heart’s Desire so it is always great to learn another little bit about her history. It is great that this little boat could bring joy to so many people over the years. We sailed a few years back (2014) with what must be your great uncle, Edward Reynolds, in Maine for a few days. He took us to many locations special to him and seemed to remember where every rock is located even after many years. It was an adventure and pleasure to sail with him and his family.
      Thanks again and we’ll try and update the blog a bit more!!

      1. Edward Reynolds is actually my mother’s first cousin. So my first cousin once removed. He is still sailing!

  2. I knew HD in the Pam and Dave years. We kept a sloop in the same harbor, and were fast friends. I have sailed on, run aground on, and delighted in our friends’ amazing and gorgeous vessel. It is a lovely schooner; glad it has more stories to tell!

  3. Peter Stanford and I (Norma Stanford) sailed “Athena” into the South Street area of NYC’s Fish Market, back in 1967. That beautiful schooner brought people to the waterfront and helped in our efforts to create the South Street Seaport Museum. It is wonderful to know that she is still cared for and loved.

  4. Peter Stanford acquired Heart’s desire and renamed her Athena in the mid 60s. Since I was very young at the time (born in 58) I don’t ‘now the exact year but from your records I’d say 66. We sailed on her early to mid 70s.

    I know dad sold her to some one who claimed to be able to keep up with the huge amount of work required to keep a wooden vessel of that age sailing. I am thrilled that she has survived this long! She was a magical boat.

    1. Hi Thomas, I have corrected the “Past Owners” history after reading more about your father’s ownership. He was quite an incredible writer and did much for the boating world. I recently found an article titled “Schooners are Made for Children” featuring yourself and mentioning your sister, Carol, who has also commented here. There are photos of you and siblings. It is in Boating Magazine, December 1967 issue.

  5. I sailed on Heart’s Desire a great deal as a child. Peter Stanford is my father, we called her Athena. I am going to check on this, I believe we had her in the family from 1966-1971. I have photos.

    1. There was an article in a 1966 Sail magazine written by my father, it has some interesting photos of “Athena” in it. I have found his old captains logs. He thought she’d been sunk. He thought she could never be rebuilt. I can’t tell you how amazed I am to have found out she still sails on. Great news!!

      1. Hi Carol we knew your father had owned HD/Athena from some articles I found searching a while back, not sure if it was the Sail Magazine one you refer to, though I am not sure he owned it in 1966. Honestly I did the research a while back but for some reason thought that article indicated it was owned by Howard Whitney at the time and somehow I also have Arthur Allgrove listed as an owner, I’ll have to go back. Did your father not run or have some connection to the Hyde St. Pier in New York City? I thought that was where he had “Athena.” As you probably saw she was rebuilt in 1980 in Maine by Paul Rollins under ownership of Dave Stickney & Pam Burke, who I believe bought her from your father. Anyhow, she’s still going strong and we hope to keep sailing her for now!

  6. Hi, my name is Douglas Reid and I sailed aboard Heart’s Desire at Antigua Classics Race Week in 2008 with my wife Beverly and a group of others including the famous yacht designer Nick Skeates.We have a blog Swiftwing’s web diary (Google it) and you will find photos of Hearts Desire and of the previous owner Glen Schroeder. Glen had sailed her down from the States to Antigua single handed. About a year later we saw her in an unloved condition at anchor in St. Thomas and I was very disappointed for her, she is such a lovely boat. I am delighted that you have rescued her and hopefully we will meet in the passing sometime. I keep Swiftwing at Indiantown Marina, Florida during hurricane season and sail her in the winter.

    1. Hi there thanks for your comment and sorry it has taken so long for a response. Matt bought Heart’s Desire from Glen after she was left in St. Thomas. He did a lot of work and rebuilt the rig. The forward interior is also all new (and we think more comfortable). Thanks for the link to Swiftwings, I had see those photos at some point when I was searching for information about Heart’s Desire. Well I hope all is well. No plans on Florida any time soon but if we ever end up there will drop you a line. Cheers!

  7. Glad to see that HD has fallen into good hands, and has had a Gannon and Benjamin rebuild.
    She was a lovely adornment to Newburyport’s harbor when she was owned by Dave and Pam Stickney in the 80’s, and we were sad to see her go when they split up. Dave got the house, and Pam the boat.
    I still see Dave around town, chugging along in his Model A Ford pickup….when it’s dry. He lives in Newbury on the Upper Green.

  8. I worked at the White Marlin Marina in Ocean City, MD in the summer of 1974. The Heart’s Desire, captained by Howard Whiney, was berthed there at that time. He was a heck of a good sailor.

  9. Came across this post by accident while researching Alden designs for an “R” boat project I am about to begin. My name is Bob Wastrom and I am a former partner with Pease Boatworks and a former owner of Heart’s Desire. We purchased the boat from Frank Kane on Nantucket where she had been left to rot more or less. Much work went into getting her back in shape, new sails by Roy Downs etc etc…..my family have many fond memories on her and you beat me to the punch, picking her up in St. Thomas for a song. I saI saw Nat at the wooden boat show a couple of weeks ago and he said you had done a fine job of getting her back in shape. I here you are up in the Canadian maritimes. If you make it to Newfoundland the is a little cove on the western shor called Hearts Desire. Best of Luck Bob.

    1. I am from Hearts Desire Newfoundland. I remember being told a story about how the town was named along with the other towns on either side of Hearts Desire. They are called Hearts Content and Hearts Delight. I was a little girl when I heard the story and now today I decided to see if there could have been anything to it. The story states the 3 ships sailed into Trinity Bay because there was a storm and they anchored in the harbours. Some people loved the serenity there so much that they decided to stay and make their lives there, they named the towns after the ships. I don’t know if there is any truth to this but This is my start to finding out if this is truth or not. Id love to see a photo or video of the ship today even if she has nothing to do with the history of “my” Hearts Desire.

  10. Hi again, just read “history” and saw that HD was built for an A Neilson. Jinker was built by August Neilson in 1941. A coincidence?

    1. Hi Jim, we don’t know too much about that early history but they could be the same people, we’ll try and research more when we’re back in the fall with more reliable internet and time on our computers!

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