Friday, January 7, 2011

The Sloop Eleanor

It was standing room only in the back room of Wunderbar on Thursday night where people gathered to learn about the historic Hudson River sloop Eleanor and the new not-for-profit that's being organized to achieve her restoration. Called the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society, the group has aspirations beyond restoring Eleanor and returning her to the waters of the Hudson. Those aspirations include teaching and encouraging sailing on the Hudson and restoring other historic vessels. The Society has already created a website where you can learn more about the 108-year-old sloop, which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1982, and the plans for her restoration.

The project is the brainchild of Casson Kennedy, a ship restorer who learned his craft on Martha's Vineyard, and Louise Bliss, whose father, the late Philip Egan, acquired Eleanor in 1951. Last night, Kennedy noted that "even boats that are well-maintained rarely stick around for a hundred years" and explained that it was time for major work on Eleanor. He outlined the plans for her restoration. The first step is to build a pole barn over the sloop, which is now being stored at Joe Kenneally's Clay Pond Farms property in Greenport. The cost for the building is estimated at $20,000. The second step is to create a construction drawing, called a "lines drawing," to document the boat, which was built by prominent naval architect Clinton Crane, and preserve it on paper. This careful documentation will also guide the reconstruction of the sloop--the third step in the process. The reconstruction phase begins with determining what needs to be repaired and what needs to be replaced. According to Kennedy, every part of Eleanor needs some level of attention, but it is hoped that the reconstruction will be complete by 2013--to coincide with Eleanor's 110th birthday. 

Kennedy made the point that "what we do with the boat once it's back on the water is just as important as restoring the boat," and to this end, Joe Rapp, himself a sailor and sailboat owner, explained the organizational structure of the not-for-profit. He identified four committees, tasked with specific responsibilities: a Development Committee, to undertake fundraising, identify grant sources, and write grant applications; a Public Relations Committee, to get the word out about the project; a Program Committee, to conceptualize how the sloop will be used after it's been restored; a Building/Construction Committee, to identify and organize tasks that can be done by volunteers. Anyone who is interested in volunteering for a committee should contact Louise Bliss at (518) 828-7884. 

The restoration of the sloop Eleanor and its potential to revive sailing on the Hudson and be a catalyst for something greater--a boat-building academy, a sailing school, a historic boat festival all were suggested--are enormously exciting. Bliss expressed her hope that "Eleanor will be a star at Hudson's waterfront" and encouraged people to visit Eleanor "because boats have souls." This is definitely a project that can and should engage the whole community, but it seems regrettable that the restoration of Eleanor can't take place on the waterfront, in a building that already exists, where people--particularly local kids, commuters, visitors to Hudson--can easily stop in and see what's going on, instead of having to invest the first $20,000 raised to construct a new building fairly far from the river, in a location accessible only by car. The synergy of the restoration of a historic boat occurring on a waterfront rediscovering its maritime history and experiencing revitalization would be very powerful, and it would facilitate fundraising if the project could be seen in the context of a larger waterfront revitalization effort.    


  1. I love this boat project and hope it succeeds, but it's going to be much harder to get the community involved and excited if the sloop Eleanor is sitting in a pole barn along the highway in Greenport.

    Things often happen in strange and mysterious ways around here-- we put dump trucks on the riverfront and historic wooden boats inland.

  2. Out of Sight - Out of Mind

    This once in a lifetime experience should be only available at the waterfront. A walk to view the boat is a walk to reunite with the waterfront. It's also a way to meet your neighbors on so many levels.

    No one is going to walk to an industrial ruins site in Greenport.

  3. COULD the restoration of Eleanor take place on the Hudson waterfront? Is the idea being considered by the Society that met last night, or are they firmly settled in Greenport? Is there a building that Gossips has in mind that could accommodate the restoration on the waterfront? Is the waterfront zoned for such activity (now, or in its perhaps-to-be altered state)? It IS an exciting project... this enquiring mind wants to know more.

  4. Any chance anyone has an idea of where else the salt could be stored that's in that rusty old shed on the waterfront? Imagine that spot being used as a workshop/public viewing/training program. On the training program thread, I heard once about an apprentice program that was offered through a school district somewhere on the coastline that did just that and it turned some kids' lives around. If we're stuck with that shed, we might as well use it for something positive!!

  5. What about Dunn's Warehouse building - the one the City owns for which Galloway is proposing a 200 seat restaurant? That may never happen if it goes like some of his other projects. So why not put the boat in there. It's the perfect waterfront location for an ongoing project like that - and then on completion in 2013 it can just be slipped into the river.

  6. I attended the meeting at Wunderbar last night, and came away very impressed with the level of organization and commitment that has rallied behind the sloop Eleanor restoration project. It was one of the most hopeful and productive events I've ever seen in Hudson. My only disappointment is the proposed location for the undertaking. Hopefully a site could be found that situates the boat near the river. The best way to save our waterfront is to make use of it.