Sunday, October 25, 2015

Heading for Our Waterfront

Gossips has been following the progress of the S.S. Columbia in its journey to the Hudson River, but meanwhile, the story of the Apollonia, a 68-foot steel sailboat, and its remarkable, yet to be completed journey to our waterfront has been playing out. The story was told to Gossips recently by Nick Zachos, a founder of the Hudson Sloop Club and one of the principals in the group collaborating to bring the Apollonia to the Hudson waterfront.

The story starts with Craigslist, where Sam Merrett, of Full Circle Fuels here in Hudson, saw the Apollonia offered for sale at a fraction of what a boat of its caliber was worth. Merrett gathered a group of friends, and together they put a deposit on the boat immediately. The challenge was getting the boat to water. The boat was sitting in a backyard in Woburn, Massachusetts, where it had been for the past thirty years.

The boat was built in Baltimore in 1948 by the American Electric Welding Company. The first forty years of its life are yet to be researched and discovered, but in the early 1980s, it was out of water and for sale at a boatyard. That's where Joe Mchugh found it, bought it, and brought to his house in the country north of Boston. His plan was to fix up the boat over the next twenty years and then sail around the world in it with his family when he retired.

Thirty years later, with still much work left to be done on the boat, the prospect of traveling the country in an RV was more appealing to Mchugh, now a septuagenarian, than braving the open seas in a 68-foot sailboat, so he hired a yacht broker to help him sell Apollonia. The initial asking price was $200K. Potential buyers, however, were put off by the fact that the boat, which was still in Mchugh's backyard where it had been for three decades, was nearly impossible to move. Mchugh's house, which had been in the country, was now, thirty years later, surrounded by suburbia, and there were power lines and weight restrictions on the streets. After several price reductions, the idea of selling the boat through a yacht broker was abandoned. As a last effort before relegating it to the scrapyard, Mchugh put the boat on Craigslist.

Apollonia's consortium of new owners was not so easily discouraged by the challenge. As Zachos tells it, "After a lot of work and research, we finally found someone who thought they could move the boat to the water, and after two months of scheduling, pestering, permitting, and another sizable chuck of money, it arrived at Burr Brothers in Marion, Massachusetts."

Since Apollonia's arrival at the boatyard in Buzzards Bay, Merrett has been driving to Massachusetts to spend a couple of days at a time working on the boat and getting it ready to make the trip to Hudson. This weekend, a "crack local team" made up of "a mechanic (and newly licensed captain), a carpenter, a videographer, some farmers, an artist, an electrician, and a real estate developer" went to Buzzards Bay to apply some "finishing touches" to get the boat ready for the long journey home to Hudson. That journey, of almost 300 miles, will take the Apollonia from Buzzards Bay through Long Island Sound into Hell Gate and around Manhattan to Spuyten Duyvel and finally into the Hudson River for the last stretch of its journey home.

The plans for Apollonia once it arrives here in Hudson are still being developed, but according to Zachos the steel-hulled schooner has "amazing potential":
The boat is designed as a "blue water cruiser," meaning that it is capable of cross Atlantic journeys. This type of design lends itself to a host of other possible uses. The wide steel hull means that it is durable and stable. Its hydrodynamic lines give it fast and efficient movement through the water. It's a schooner which means that it has two masts, making the process of raising and lowering the sails possible with a small crew.
In short, the boat is capable of taking cruises of up to twenty people out for river sails and chartered tours. The pilothouse, multiple cabins, and layout could also be customized to host educational programming on or below deck. But possibly the most compelling use of the boat would be for moving freight up and down the Hudson. With a huge weight capacity and a sleek hull, the boat could make trips to the city in under a day, and when the winds aren't blowing, the engine will take over and keep her cruising. The beauty of this engine lies in the fact that the Detroit diesel's simple set up lends itself perfectly to be converted to run off waste vegetable oil. Lucky for us, this is what Sam does for a living at Full Circle Fuels. Old-fashioned wind power backed up by a veggie oil motor fueled from local restaurants will enable the schooner to move freight with an amazingly low carbon footprint and punctuality.
While we do not yet know whether her use will be freight, environmental tourism, education, or all of the above, or in what capacity she will be a part of the Hudson Sloop Club or perhaps her own venture entirely, we do know we want Hudson to be her home port, and we can't wait to bring her back home safe and sound soon.
Zachos promises to keep Gossips updated on all of the project's progress and none of its disasters.


  1. In one entrepreneurial stroke, these young people have demonstrated more imagination than can be found in the entirety of Hudson's government-produced Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.


  2. Nick and The Hudson Sloop Club are a long awaited breath of fresh air and inspiration for Hudson .

  3. This is really exciting news! A hearty congratulations to Nick and his fellow sailors!

  4. Great get captain Nick! She's a beauty and should have a gang plank linking her to the state launch parking lot.