Model maker John Ferguson laughs with guests as he answers questions about his replica of the Brigantine Matthew Turner before a keel-laying ceremony for the boat in Sausalito Saturday, October 19 2013. The Brigantine Matthew Turner is believed to be the first wooden ship of its size built in the Bay Area in nearly 80 years. (Special to the IJ/Jeremy Portje)
There hadn’t been a birth like the one that occurred Saturday on the Sausalito waterfront for more than 100 years. A tall ship named the Matthew Turner officially came into being at a traditional keel-laying ceremony in a huge white tent filled by a crowd of sailing enthusiasts who will, in all likelihood, never see anything like it again in their lifetimes.
The keel beam, a slab of raw Douglas fir some 87 feet long, lay in the center of the tent, decorated with fresh flowers for a blessing by Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Daly, a Tibetan lama and an Aloni Indian.
“When a keel is put down like this, it’s the beginning of a ship,” explained Alan Olson of Mill Valley, 72-year-old director of the Sausalito-based nonprofit Educational Tall Ship. “This is sort of its birth. It’s becoming a real entity. It’s no longer just pieces of wood. It’s an important moment in a boat’s life.”
When the 130-foot long square rigger is finished two years from now, it will give 10,000 young people a year a chance to experience sailing in the bay and beyond firsthand.
“Kids will stay on board overnight and become part of a crew of professional educators and mariners,” Olson, a lifelong sailor and boat builder, said. “It’s an intense program.”
Since 2005, some 30,000 youngsters have already been sailing on another Olson vessel berthed in Sausalito, the 82-foot-long schooner Seaward operated by his nonprofit Call of the Sea.
For Saturday’s celebration, the Waterfront Pickers, a band of eight musicians, all of whom work in the boating trades, played bluegrass tunes and sea shanties from a stage set up at one end of the 140-foot-long tent designed specically for this project.
“There are only a handful of towns in the whole country that will build a tall ship like this,” said John Skoriak, a yacht broker and member of the Waterfront Pickers. “Most people will never experience this in their lifetimes. It’s also great that Sausalito, Marin County and the Bay Area at large gets a project like this. It’s a rare opportunity.”
The 2330 Marinship Way construction site was donated by property owner Skip Berg. After receiving community support, the project was approved by the City of Sausalito. Educational Tall Ship has raised about half the $5 million it needs to complete the ship, which will be built by both professionals and volunteers from the community.
For Saturday’s celebration, a scale model built by sailing enthusiast John Ferguson of Corte Madera was displayed alongside the keel beam, giving visitors an idea of what the square-rigged schooner will look like when it’s finished.
To continue reading and to see more photos visit www.marinij.com