The Schooner MARTHA – Making Something Beautiful Happen
May 19, 2016
Built in San Francisco in 1907-1908, the 68' B.B. Crowninshield schooner MARTHA remains a graceful and powerful presence on the West Coast. Now sailing out of Port Townsend, Washington, as a sail training vessel for kids and adults, she still has the power to astound us with her speed and with her good looks.
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– 1908 B.B. Crowninshield schooner Martha. B.B. Crowninshield was one of my favorite designers. Martha is kind of a jumbo dark harbor 17 and a half. Same designer, but a bigger version with a schooner rig and she’s just beautiful. She’s run out of here in Port Townsend as a kid and adult sail training program and she’s just impeccable and fast as hell. Last year, Martha sailed out of Port Townsend and headed south all the way to Baja, Mexico. Then came the big voyage for she and her crew, the trans-Pac race. From southern California to Hawaii. On her voyage home from Hawaii, we got invited to join her crew for her final leg from Victoria through the San Juan Islands to her homecoming in Port Townsend.
– He didn’t overthink it and neither am I!
– Me neither!
– Mm, better chew with your mouth closed.
– [Girl] Pie!
– [Woman] We can pull the ladder up. Just put it on the back.
– [Man] Okay ready?
– [Boy] We’re ready.
– One more heave.
– I really wanted to sail. I had grown up with stories of sailing and how awesome it was. I went out on the first trip, I was 13 and I had a cold and I was homesick and it was kind of miserable. I stayed in my bunk for like three days and only ate applesauce and then Robert said I think you really should come up on deck. Just try, and I, so I came up on deck and things got better. The second week was great.
– It’s fun watching Annie go from when she was really homesick to now she’s a captain and I mean she’s comfortable with steering her and she’s gone offshore and everything.
– Annie do you want to come do one zero nine?
– One zero nine.
– Watch the state ferry in Kitsap, he’s at the ferry dock in Lopez loading right now. And the tell ’em to watch the state ferries coming through on the pass, that trip bound for this way. So we’ll keep an eye but there’s no other traffic that I can see. Our programs have primarily been pretty straight up about coming on board Martha, learning what she needs and what our responsibilities are and to safely navigate her from wherever we’re going and back again. Give it a shot.
– One five zero. One five zero Toledo. Draw the line. Out in Desolation Sound there’s Roscoe Bay. Roscoe Bay’s really exciting ’cause we can only go over at high tide ’cause there’s a sand bar and so we always set our dinghy with a lead line and a walkie talkie and we have to measure the water and we go out ahead and we go like you know, seven feet, eight feet, six feet nope don’t go to the side of the channel. Right in the middle is a clear 10 to 15 feet. You’ll make it over here, and that’s really fun and we get in, we stern tie so we drop the anchor and back up to a little ledge actually like cliffside, put on snorkel gear, and go and chisel oysters off the rocks and every night we make s’mores and we eat oysters next to the fire and that’s always really fun.
– It’s kind of funny, you know, you get a group of kids on board and they may know each other. Quite often they don’t, it’s open enrollment, and there’s some interesting posturing going on and a plate of cookies comes off the oven and comes out, and these kids will jump on this plate of cookies like wolves, you know? And as the week rolls on, or a two week trip’s even better, the kids start to learn the ropes and they’re not tripping over their own baggage. They’re part of the ship now and they operate with the ship. By the end of the trip the kids come out with a plate of cookies and came around and make sure everybody gets a cookie. And you watch them, you listen to the banter and you listen to them around the nav table and they’re making good decisions, and they’re sailing the boat. She was designed in 1906 by B.B. Crowninshield of Boston and she was built and launched in San Francisco in 1907 by W.F. Stone boatyards, and she was owned and sailed in the bay, on the coast up until 1922, found a way down to southern California and was in the PHRF racing circuit for quite a few years. After James Cagney owned her for nine years through the ’30s and early ’40s, she came up here in 1968 and has been in the northwest ever since. In 1996, she was in need of a major restoration and through that was formed the Schooner Martha Foundation, and we’ve been with the boat for about 20 years now. Some of the things that were easy to maintain, like the deck furniture and the wheel and some of the cockpit varnish and things like that were in pretty good shape cosmetically, but the hull upper works and the deck were really soft. We wanted to remove all the iron and we decided to refasten in all aspects with bronze. It started a comprehensive plan going after the squeaky wheel, so the first year we built the transom and reframed the back end of the boat. The second year we put a new stem in the boat and some frames forward and deck framing forward. We topped our starboard side and port side. And then we did decks and systems. ’07, ’08 we replanked and reframed her bottom and put a new forefoot and steering post of the boat and then in ’12 we put in brand new deadwood and ballast keel rudder and a new foremast, and that kind of capped her structural restoration. Most of the work is done in house by the crew and volunteers for the foundation and we’re very fortunate to have the marine trades structure that we have in Port Townsend because we can lean on them for the expertise and or the horsepower we need to get certain things done. All these companies have actually donated quite a bit of labor and materials to our projects. This era, you know Martha’s era and through the ’40s we designed things very well. We took care of them, and here it is 108 years later and we’ve got young people enjoying her and come to festivals and we perform sail training programs with her. Harbormaster this is Martha, channel six eight. We are on our way towards Point Hudson under sail at this time, over.
– [Voice On Radio] So that’s great, thank you so much Robert.
– Hello adventurers!
– Oh hi!
– Good to see you. Pull in all your sails.
– That looks good!
– Chloe, why don’t you do the peak halyard? Blaine, why don’t you gather? We’ll do halyards, everything will be good.
– Okay let’s hop to it.
– All right, let’s go. Best laid plans.
– The thing that I like most about Martha is how everybody’s working together all the time to make something beautiful happen.
– Ready Annie?
– All right, easing!
– It’s a beautiful place to call home. So we’re fortunate that we get to come home from a great adventure, we love coming home to it.
– [Woman] Okay Mary.
– Hi Annie!
– Hi Robert.
– How you doing?
– Good! Welcome!
– Thank you.
– Welcome home!
– Yeah. Port Townsend’s always been a great place to sail to and from. It is good to be home. Pick up on two, pick up on one!
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