It is amazing how much knowledge Nancy Solomon has accrued on boat building on Long Island. Solomon, executive director of Long Island Traditions, was an engaging speaker as she shared her extensive knowledge about the Boat Builders and Boatyards of Long Island, the exhibition she curated for the Oyster Bay Historical Society (now through Sept. 4).
Solomon has been researching the working traditions of Long Island’s baymen, fisherman, boat builders and restorers for more than 20 years. She gave richly detailed accounts of the many shipyards that have flourished and waned in the area, including ones lost to Hurricane Sandy. The lesson they learned in that catastrophe is that boats do best tied to their moorings or inside a building than when stored on land.
She also had stories of local interest. “When Jake’s (Jakobson Shipyard) closed, I was determined the Town of Oyster Bay not build a conference center there,” said Solomon. She was for the people who live and work on the water and it was the real culture to save, said the folklorist. What has persisted in that location is the WaterFront Center that teaches marine education and sailing; the Christeen oyster sloop that takes people out on the bay for tours; and the Ida May Project currently building the oyster harvester Ida May.
She summed up its start saying, the Ida May plied the waters of Oyster Bay from 1929 to 2009. David Short, master shipwright and two apprentices in four months created the frame and bow and started the interior. They had an on-site lumber mill. She showed a video of Dave and Bill Shephard working on the project. They are keeping to traditional methods of boat building, she said. Today there are different methods of caulking, but she quoted Dave saying the traditional method does more than “glue” parts together, “It introduces a lot of tension,” to the construction.
Solomon also had an insight into the building of Invader for Hunt Lawrence in Greenport. The Invader was built during the Civil War by the Hanff family of Hanff Boatyard. More than a century later, owner Bill Hanff sold it in 1991. Donn Constanza was looking for a place for his high-end restoration work, then in Newport, and John Costello bought the place. The two operate the facility on Sterling Place, Wooden Boatworks where Invader was built and launched. It is now part of the fleet of classic wooden racing boats at the OakCliff Sailing Center of Oyster Bay. Further talks on boat building are in the works and will be announced shortly. For more information, call the Oyster Bay Historical Society at 516-922-5032 or the Ida May Project at 516-305-9204 or search “Ida May Project” on Facebook.