Here on the marsh at the edge of the Essex River, the ebb and flow of the tide is central to our life and work. While it is true that “time and tide wait for no man,” sometimes, just when it seems the time is right, we are faced with the wrong tide. In those moments it is important to take a breath, reassess, and remember that there will be other tides and better times.

We undertook the rehabilitation of the Sylvina W. Beal to help keep the tradition of wooden shipbuilding alive. We want to see this project benefit our community and engage and inspire others to value our rich cultural heritage. Until recently, we were looking forward to laying the Beal’s new keel this coming September 2021 and re-launching her in 2022. In order to do that it would take all of us pulling together right now and, unfortunately, now is simply the wrong time.

It has been ten years since we built the Ardelle, and after we finish the Beal, we’re not sure how many of these boats we’ve got left in us.  So we figure we might as well make the most of this project and do it when it will benefit the most people and the community the most. 

With this in mind we have decided to wait for the next tide (really, the next season) and lay the new keel in September, 2022 and launch her in 2023. Doing this will not only give us more time to better prepare for the work, but also give the Shipbuilding Museum and the Maritime Gloucester more time to make the most of it for the communities and schools they serve. There is enough preparatory work to keep us all busy until then, and the more we do now the better the vessel and the community will come together when the time is right.

We continue to spend a lot of our time working on the Beal. Much of her design is complete, a good deal of wood is cut, and we keep working to get ready for the project. Mary Kay and I are grateful for the support we received from the Mass Cultural Council and a number of individuals who have bought planks, trunnels and more. We have purchased most of the bronze fastenings we will need for the vessel, a generator, sails, and other accessories.

Thanks to local tree companies and arborists, the logs keep coming. We appreciate the help that several people have provided (in a safe and socially distant way) as well as the help so many others have offered. Since the pandemic has been raging, we have wanted to be part of the solution, and not part the problem. With the exception of those socially distant helpers mentioned above, Harold  has done most of the physical work on the boat alone. Although he enjoys this time, he misses the mug ups, the long lunches, the stories, the sharing of information, the camaraderie, and, of course, the help.

Relaunching the Beal in the spring of 2023 will give us plenty of time to tune her up and win the Esperanto Cup at Gloucester’s 400th anniversary Schooner festival. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Really, we think things are about to get a whole lot better for all of us, and that we will all be working and sailing together in the not so distant future. Until then, we hope you understand why we feel it is better to wait and do this project when the tide and time are both in our favor.

For now we will try to keep this blog up by making a new post every Sunday in the hopes that these posts will help keep you connected with this cool project and wonderful old boat.

Harold and Mary Kay