A Pair of Wooden-Boat Celebrations

The launch of a new boat on Martha's Vineyard comes in time for multiple celebrations. "Shoreline" from our June 2010 issue

May 20, 2010

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Pamela Malcolm, wearing a sash of her family tartan, christens the 60-foot Gannon & Benjamin traditional schooner Rebecca of Vineyard Haven. With her is the the Rev. Charles W. “Woody” Bowman, who has just blessed the boat. Alison Shaw

On the island of Martha’s Vineyard, three miles off the coast of Massachusetts, it was the most festive launch in more than a generation: the christening of Rebecca of Vineyard Haven, a 60-foot, 76,000-pound schooner designed and built, plank on frame, at the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, one of the leading traditional boatbuilding yards on the U.S. continent.

Cannons fired around the waterfront village of Vineyard Haven, a Korean War-era Ryan Navion L-17 warbird laced the sky with white smoke, the ferry Nantucket fired jets of water from her stern doors, and hundreds of Vineyarders cheered as the largest sailing vessel to be built on the island since Abraham Lincoln’s election 141 years before rolled down the ways into the harbor at Vineyard Haven.

Indeed, the fuss over Rebecca was justified. As her hull slid gracefully into the water, admirers could only marvel-and breathe sighs of relief-at the project’s completion after the bankruptcy of her original owner. A long but finally successful search for a new owner averted the threat of a partially finished hull being left bone dry in the yard.


In 2010, Gannon & Benjamin mark 30 years of distinctive boatbuilding, and Rebecca begins her 10th year of stylishly carrying crew throughout the world’s illustrious cruising grounds. Schooner: Building a Wooden Boat on Martha’s Vineyard, chronicles the dramatic tale of how the fate of boat and yard became irrevocably intertwined. For more about Rebecca and Gannon & Benjamin, see below.

Tom Dunlop

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Schooner: Building a Wooden Boat on Martha’s Vineyard
by Tom Dunlop with photographs by Alison Shaw (2010; $45; Vineyard Stories, www.vineyard

In words and photography equally sharp and stunning, this story takes the reader from drawings to launch of Rebecca of Vineyard Haven, a 60-foot wooden schooner, by Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, the boatyard where the vessel was designed and built. The book’s publication is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Gannon & Benjamin, one of only a few yards in North America still devoted exclusively to the design, construction, repair, and maintenance of traditional wooden boats.


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