829 Southdrive

829 Southdrive

A New Jersey state of mind

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wooden Ships: Sultana Downrigging 2014

My brother Huck and I spent the day in Chestertown, MD
last Friday, for the first day of Downrigging festivities
orchestrated by the folks from the Schooner Sultana. The original Sultana was a Boston-built merchant ship that the British Royal Navy used to patrol the coastline of colonial North America, enforcing the Townsend Acts, or "Tea Taxes". In 1997, a replica of that schooner would begin to be built in Chestertown, and our Dad was among the original volunteer shipbuilders, devoting hundreds of hours of his time in re-creating this robust vessel.  

The first order of business was lunch at the Fishwhistle with 
Steve, from Log of Spartina
Steve home-built a 17 foot gaff-rigged yawl, 
Spartina, and has been invited to display her for the last few years.
I've read his blog for as long as I've been writing, and this was the
 perfect opportunity to not only meet him, but to get out on the
water in this gorgeous little sailboat. 

After a few minutes from leaving the dock, I asked the
 inevitable question and, I was sailing Spartina around the
Chester River.  It felt great to have such a lively boat beneath
me again after having sailed a big fat boat for so many years.

Everything about Spartina is immaculate...the spars gleam
of varnish and the cockpit is battleship grey. We sailed back and 
forth, and up and down for about an hour, and got some nice
shots of the ships that land-bound visitors could not.

Kalmar Nyckel was the largest visiting ship

Oyster schooner AJ Meerwald up from Bivalve, NJ.

Rosie Parks is an oystering Skipjack owned by the 
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

The pushboat was originally used to power the skipjacks to the 
oyster beds.  There, the sails were hoisted and dredging took
place under sail only.  Over the decades laws have changed,
and dredging can be done under power only two days a week,
but one of those days cannot be Sunday.  Sadly, these days 
most dredging takes place on power-assisted days only.

Miss Sue, a Hooper Island Draketail, was launched
in 2012, but has a 1930's vintage engine.  

Cargo schooner 'Lady Maryland' with the pink and green hull,
and Baltimore Clipper 'Pride of Baltimore II' inside.

Spellbound, a 1970 ketch from Oxford, MD.

Muriel Eileen

Silver Heel, out of Chestertown, is one of only
20 or so Log Canoes still in existence.  

Photo from Sultana Downrigging Website

Silver Heel with a slight heel.

Double-ended Sharpie Gaff Schooner, EE Moore,
built and owned by John Swain, Sultana's Master shipwright.

Silent Maid, along with Barnegat, a wooden motorsailer,
made the long trip from Barnegat Bay.  Friday was the only
day of the weekend where there was beautiful sunshine and
moderate wind.  Saturday was cold, blustery and rainy,
basically a washout, and Sunday was dry but cold and windy.
The non-profit attending ships lost a lot of expected  revenue
from the public sails that were to take place those 2 days.
 I just learned that the owner of both Silent Maid and 
Barnegat has pledged to donate money to the ships to 
compensate them for their loss of revenue.

The centerpiece of Downrigging Weekend: Sultana

Huck and I were allowed to get aboard for a few minutes
to sniff around the ship that's held together by the 10,000
trunnels that JW mostly made. Captain Tanya Banks-
Christensen was very accommodating and happily answered
 any questions we had.  She's been with the ship for several
years, first as a mate, and then as Captain.  

Of course I had to check out the galley.
The red bricks used for the oven/grill are from Williamsburg, VA.

Sultana coming back to the pier after a quick jaunt.
In the background to the right lies Barnegat, probably
awaiting a berth assignment.  Spartina is sailing directly behind.

JW sometime during construction of Sultana
in her yard.  He's holding the serving mallet
that was used to wrap the ship's shrouds with
manila hemp.  Action photo here.

Some of his work.

JW during a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party.
He relished firing any cannon or gun that involved
black powder.  The swivel guns (one below) were favorites of his.

Photo taken on an earlier visit

The red and black leather swivel gun covers were recently
replaced and it was suggested that Huck and I take them
home as mementos.  No-brainer.  I have become, since age
2 or 3, increasingly sentimental with each passing year.
I will find a place for them.

George Albaugh of Mid-Atlantic Musings
snapped this shot of us on the way to Sultana's office to
pick up the old covers. He and his wife made the trip from 
outside Annapolis.  It was fun meeting George and Steve
whose blogs I've followed for years.  Great people.

Home in NJ.  

Oh yeah, we had some oysters on Friday too.
Four times this amount. Big, meaty Chesapeake
oysters with a couple draft beers.  Perfect.

Spartina at dusk.  All wrapped up for the impending foul
weather forecast for Saturday.

This may just be my favorite shot of the day. 

So happy to have finally made it down for Downrigging.
Surprisingly, it was my first in the 10 years since Dad's
been gone.  We could feel him next to us, and he was
thrilled we made the trip.


  1. Wow. This post has everything. Lots of pictures of old boats. Some sailing. A bloggers reunion. Family history. Oysters. And beer. Not to mention 10,000 trunnels.

  2. Lovely overview of the day and meaning behind it.

  3. Great post Baydog. Thanks for sharing those on the water pix. Maybe you need a canon to go with those covers. I'm sure your neighbors would appreciate having an accurate noonday gun.

  4. Great pictures. I had to work on Friday and as you mentioned the weather on Saturday and Sunday was not the best so I putzed around the house.

  5. Wow. This post has everything. Lots of pictures of old boats. Some sailing. A bloggers reunion. Family history. Oysters. And beer. Not to mention 10,000 trunnels.....Hold on, is that an echo in the room?

    Love the story and pics!

  6. There are days when I wish I were you. And that's saying a lot! Great photography!!!

  7. Dave, you are sensational. Keep up that nautical spirit, family and friends applaud you. Love, Reno & Michele

  8. Nice images, Dave! They sure have some pretty boats there...

    1. Mitch, hopefully you got to sail this summer at least once

  9. Great post Baydog. I'm a bit jealous you got to see & sail Spartina, she is such a great looking boat.

    I love the history your family has with sailing.

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