Boat once owned by Glenville family now in Globe-wide race

New owner sailing around the world
Glenville's Johanna Nally stands near the Puffin with Istvan Kopar earlier this year near his Long Island home.
Glenville's Johanna Nally stands near the Puffin with Istvan Kopar earlier this year near his Long Island home.

GLENVILLE — For nearly three decades, Johanna Nally and her family felt right at home on the Puffin, a 36-foot sailing vessel that safely carried them all around Lake Champlain.

The Nallys no longer own the boat, but the Glenville family is still keeping a close eye on Puffin and its current owner, Istvan Kopar.

A Hungarian-born American citizen who lives on Long Island, Kopar and Puffin are three weeks into the 2018 Golden Globe Race, a nearly year-long, around-the-world sailing competition that began on July 1 from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France. Eighteen boats started the race, and while five have already decided to pack it in, Kopar and Puffin are still in the thick of things, as the 13 remaining competitors head south past the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa.

A professional sailor and U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain who has sailed solo for more than 60,000 nautical miles, Kopar purchased the boat from the Nally family in 2015. After Johanna Nally’s husband, John, died in 2009, Puffin wasn’t used as often and spent much of the year just sitting in Willsboro Bay on the eastern side of Lake Champlain.

“It got very expensive to keep it at a marina when we weren’t using it that often,” said Nally, a Scotia native whose husband, a Glenville native, worked at Knolls Atomic Power Lab for 44 years. “We just didn’t have the time to devote to it any longer, so we had a broker at the marina list it for us. Istvan was looking for a boat with certain qualifications to compete in this around-the-world race, so we knew he had special plans for it.”

With the help of modern technology, Nally is keeping a close eye on Kopar and the Golden Globe Race. That wasn’t possible in 1986, when her husband set sail from Britain to bring the boat home to Lake Champlain. It wasn’t an easy trip, and not long after starting, Nally was forced to wait out some bad weather in the Azore Islands off the coast of Portugal.

“My husband sent in an order for a boat to be built, and then he had to go over to England and bring it back to the U.S.,” said Nally, who has 10 children, 41 grandchildren and 12 great-children. “He, my son Matthew and another fella started to bring it back across the Atlantic before they had to stop in the Azores because it was hurricane season. He started in August, and then it wasn’t until late August that I got a phone call telling me that he got started. Then I got a phone call from one of the guys with him telling me that they had to stay in the Azores for a while. It was a long time and I only got two phone calls.”

Nally and his crew got to Charleston, South Carolina, in December, and then, with family (his wife, three daughters and one son) taking their turn as crew members, the Nallys navigated the ship northward through the Intracoastal Waterway before eventually getting to the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal. The Puffin also spent some time in the Mohawk River and the New York State Barge Canal.

“I remember coming around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor,” said Johanna Nally. “Then we kept it at the Schenectady Yacht Club for a few days because it was April and the Champlain Canal wasn’t open yet. Then we went back to the Champlain Canal and up to the lake. It had taken my husband about 40 days to come across the Atlantic and it took us about five weeks to get it from Charleston to Lake Champlain.”

The Puffin is a Tradewind 35′ design built by H & T Marine in Poole Dorset, U.K. According to Mike Nally, Johanna’s son, their yacht is in great hands with Kopar.

“He’s an amazing guy who has authored two books and gone solo around the world twice,” said Nally. “He was looking for something that matched the specs needed to compete in the race, so he bought the boat, took it down to Long Island and completely refurbished it.”

Unfortunately, Nallly said that Kopar, the only American in the race, has already experienced some difficulty on this trip.

“They’re not allowed to use any modern navigation aids, so they’re basically trying to replicate similar yachts and equipment that they used in the original race in 1968,” he said. “Istvan has had some trouble with the steering mechanism, but I guess he’s figured out a way to sleep at the wheel. It’s kind of nuts for anyone to do it this way, but It’s a pretty amazing group of pilots that are in this competition.”

The 2018 Golden Globe Race is being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston winning a similar event in 1968. Knox-Johnston was an English sailor and the first person to perform a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

All of the boats in this year’s event had to have been designed before 1988. The Nallys had taken a trip to Great Britain a few years before they bought the boat, and that’s when they came up with the name Puffin, a seabird found in the North Atlantic.

“My husband knew what we wanted in a boat,” said Johanna Nally, “and we had been to Northern Ireland two years earlier and noticed these cute, little birds strutting around looking like penguins. We learned they were called Puffins, and we found out they could swim very well but not land that well. I told my husband, ‘as long as you can keep your boat afloat, you’ll have a good chance to make it back in one piece.’ So we decided then to name it Puffin.”

Puffin served the Nallys well, but it wasn’t big enough for the entire family.

“When we left the marina in the boat, we stayed on it and lived on it for the weekend,” said Nally. “It had sleeping accommodations for four, a little kitchen and a bathroom with a shower. With 10 kids, we had to take turns. There was no way to get everybody on at the same time.”

For more information on the race and to keep tabs on the Puffin yourself, visit

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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