A festive finale to the season for schooner Sultana

ON THE WATER

In the region

November 02, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY

Using a very sharp handsaw, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is scheduled to slice a 30-foot boat in half Friday. The executive carpentry will kick off this weekend's sailing festival in Chestertown.

The three-day event - officially known as the Down Rigging Weekend - celebrates the end of the sailing season for the schooner Sultana, a 97-foot replica of a 1768 vessel. The boat spends the warm months traveling around the Chesapeake and the cold months tied to a dock in Chestertown.

Seven other ships - including the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of a 17th-century oceangoing vessel, the 105-foot Lady Maryland, and new schooner Virginia - will be moored in the harbor to celebrate the event.

"It marks our last sail of the season," said Capt. Robert Brittian, who was reached by cell phone as he sailed the boat up the Chester River yesterday. "It started as a small get-together, and it's getting bigger every year. It is the end of the season, and it is a nice way to finish it off."

Organizers expect thousands of people to come to the festival.

Down Rigging Weekend begins at 1 p.m. Friday in Chestertown and goes through Sunday. Organizers promised maritime music and tours of the tall ships.

For historical accuracy, the newly finished shallop John Smith needs to be cut in half, said Drew McMullen, the president of Sultana Projects Inc.

"We think the original boat was made in two parts and held together with pegs," he said.

The shallop is a replica of a 17th-century vessel originally skippered by explorer John Smith. He led a group of settlers on a trip though the rivers and inlets of the Chesapeake Bay in 1608.

The original boat was cut in half after it was built in England in the early 1600s, McMullen said, adding that it was too big to be transported across the Atlantic in one piece.

The 21st-century version of the boat is being held together by about a dozen wooden pegs, and the two halves will eventually be caulked back together. Once the boat is deemed seaworthy, a group of sailors will retrace Smith's voyage around the Chesapeake, McMullen said.

Eight other boats - all in one piece - will also be moored near Chestertown for the weekend. Those organized enough to have secured tickets in advance will be able to go on a sail; the tickets are gone and there is a waiting list with 100 names on it, McMullen said.

McMullen noted that a ride aboard the Sultana isn't as fast as, say, a sail on one of the Volvo Ocean boats. But under sail, he said, it "has a sense of momentum" that newer boats lack.

"It is awesome. You have the feeling that you could plow through anything," he said.

The tall ships will be docked and open for visitors to tour Sunday, McMullen said. On tours, visitors can inspect the wooden blocks and pre-Kevlar lines.

"People really like wooden boats," McMullen said. "There is something really organic about them."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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