June 26, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter
EARLVILLE — In its prime, it cut an absorbing figure. A antagonism yacht with a bark of wrist-thick timbers and a half-acre of close captain overhead. Some sailors alleged its blazon “man killers” for their adeptness to about-face on biting captains and crews and capsize.
Elf was absolutely arresting back it was launched in aboriginal 1888 and during regattas forth the New England coast.
But it wasn’t so arresting in 1970, back Rick Carrion, a 19-year-old academy student, saw the baiter at the Granary docks on the Sassafras River. About a century’s account of owners had adapted the boat, bow to stern, to clothing their whims. The elements had wreaked calamity on its handsome oak and brass.
The 35-foot baiter had been bare of its advance keel for the war accomplishment – Apple War I – and accustomed one of lighter and cheaper iron, authoritative the baiter as ambiguous as a Hollywood starlet.
Over the advance of a year, Carrion talked the buyer bottomward from $8,000 to $1,500 and became appreciative buyer of the amphibian cipher violation.
“She was a mess,” says Carrion, afraid his arch and aural like the man whose dog has aloof formed in a mud pie. “Mildew and mushrooms growing beneath deck, almost a atom of acrylic on any wood. And she was demography on water. She was accessible to bore the aboriginal night.”
That’s hardly the case now.
In a committed adventure that would put any weekend do-it-yourselfer’s account to shame, the retired Cecil County abecedary is aural weeks of abiding Elf to its aloft glory.
The baiter is up on blocks now, as volunteers and apology experts barrel beyond the accouter and beneath the keel, sanding board surfaces to a glassy finish, caulking amid planks and painting.
By the end of July, Elf will be in area that has become about adopted to it – baptize – back the baiter is relaunched.
“She’s alone been sitting actuality for 16 years,” says Carrion, grinning. “But it’s account the wait.”
Elf will motor from Cecil County to Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum, area experts will fit it out with a keel, mast and sails, all congenital to carbon those in several 1880s bottle bowl photos of the boat.
“Basically, we’re activity to booty those images and accomplish them real,” says John Brady, the museum’s baiter boutique manager. “It’s a appealing big deal. It’s like architecture a 19th-century engine.”
The baiter is added than aloof a appealing face. Donald Street Jr., a acclaimed sailing author, amphibian insurer and wooden-boat expert, says Elf is the oldest baby yacht in the United States and the third oldest in the world.
Elf additionally is actuality acclimated to advise a new bearing of sailors to crew, affliction for and restore board boats. Back Carrion accomplished the amount complex in restoration, he founded the nonprofit Classic Yacht Apology Brotherhood and accustomed Elf to be acclimated to advise aeon abilities such as woodworking and ship’s carpentry. Once the baiter is operational, brotherhood associates will apprentice angelic aeronautics and piloting.
The brotherhood accustomed a $25,000 admission from the Maryland Historical Trust and $8,500 from the Cecil County Historic Commission. But the better addition came from billionaire financier Peter R. Kellogg, a board baiter enthusiast from New Jersey, who agreed to pay the estimated $135,000 for aggregate aloft accouter – sails, accouterment and bowsprit.
In an era of fiberglass and carbon fiber, a attitude surrounds old board boats.
On his way to acceptable the America’s Cup in 1987, Dennis Conner mused: “Why would anyone captain a artificial baiter unless they capital to cheat?”
Elf seems to booty the attitude to a new level. Shipwright Graham Ero aboriginal saw Elf as a abundant adolescent man back he bunked aboard the baiter at the Annapolis Baiter Show. Years later, while canoeing on the Sassafras River on the Upper Eastern Shore, Ero saw the baiter – afresh alleged Paz – and accustomed the profile.
He aing the brotherhood in 1991 and agreed to assignment back there was money and acquisition added projects back there wasn’t.
“I begin a dozen things, any one of which would accept sunk addition boat,” says Ero, who has been architecture and abating boats for 34 years. “This could end up actuality the oldest yacht in the world. That would be a nice legacy.”
Ero bound begin that he would accept to ad-lib because there were no blueprints or diagrams. Working from the 1880s bottle plates and photos taken by Gus and Vida Van Lennep, who endemic the baiter from 1932 to 1943 and brought it to Maryland, the shipwright got to assignment drafting new plans.
“It’s a detective story. We aloof had to put it calm like a puzzle,” Ero says. “We accept angry over every leaf, every bedrock to get this as authentic as possible.”
Ero fabricated a plywood arrangement for anniversary of the boat’s 29 pairs of ribs afore replacing them in alternating pairs, axis to stern, so that the baiter would authority its shape. For added strength, he commissioned atramentous locust cut from the Carrion ancestors acreage for white oak.
The apology has fatigued board baiter enthusiasts from the arena to watch and work.
“No one has sailed annihilation like this in 100 years,” says Bill Hamilton, who formed on New Jersey’s alpine ship, A.J. Meerwald, and affably describes himself as a “commandeered” Elf volunteer. “This is an acute boat. The aggregation is activity to accept its easily full. It’s like accepting a tiger by the tail.”
Already, Elf is authoritative waves. The National Sailing Hall of Fame and Building in Annapolis has arrive Carrion to tie up at City Dock, area Gen. George C. Patton’s Back and If was afresh displayed.
“We appetite to be able to advertise them. From our perspective, we appetite to be able to alarm absorption to America’s sailing legacy, and board sailing boats like this are a cogent allotment of that mission,” said Lee Tawney, agent for the museum.
Carrion, who can vividly anamnesis Elf’s aftermost boating on the Chesapeake Bay on July 5, 1971, can hardly delay to see the wind ample its sails again.
“Elf”s got a activity of her own,” he says. “I can’t delay for her aing activity to start.”
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