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Rotting barquentine loses race with time

Jan 1, 2003

For the 140-foot barquentine Regina Maris, built by J. Ring of Denmark in 1908, time is running out. Docked at the village of Greenport on the north fork of Long Island, N.Y., for the past seven years, Regina has been losing a battle against time and the elements. Despite the best efforts of volunteers, a local winery, and the Save the Regina Maris Foundation, which originally brought the vessel to Greenport from Boston in 1991, Regina is, unfortunately, too far gone to be salvaged.This assessment comes from Capt. Gifford Full, wooden boat surveyor of impeccable credentials. Giffy Full was hired to come to Greenport at the request of the village, which has been under pressure to assume liability for the vessel.Full's opinion was necessary because, since arriving at Greenport, Regina has been docked at Claudio's, a private facility in the center of town. The Claudio family recently decided that seven years was quite long enough and they put the foundation on notice that the vessel had to be moved.

It had long been assumed that the village was willing to take responsibility for the vessel, but, before doing so, Mayor David Kappel wanted to make certain that the village was not getting involved in more than it could handle financially. A previous survey of the vessel, done last year, indicated that about $100,000 would be enough to stabilize the vessel. Many observers, including the owner of the shipyard where the work was to be done, thought that estimate far too optimistic.

After surveying the vessel, Full and his associate Capt. Paul Haley discussed their findings at a village board meeting. Despite his very compassionate, low-key delivery, Full couldn't sugarcoat his findings: The ship is a danger and should be scuttled immediately.

"The vessel is very seriously deteriorated. The entire bow is rotten and the frames throughout are also extensively rotted," Full explained. "The stern is so bad that it's falling off, and this stern was put in place in the 1980s."

As the audience of Regina lovers caught its breath, Full continued, "There is no practical way to save the vessel and make it a public attraction. In my view it's a liability to the village of Greenport. It would be a serious mistake to spend money on that boat." Then, in an effort to assuage the shocked reaction, Full gently reminded all that, "These ships were never meant to last forever."

Despite his opinion some in the crowd were unwilling to accept his assessment, so attached have they become to the ship. Not wanting to lose the enthusiasm of the public, Greenport's mayor announced that the village would offer $100,000 toward the building of a schooner, which could be available on the Greenport waterfront. The ship would be built locally, certified to carry passengers, and would operate for the benefit of the people of Greenport and student sail training programs.

At press time, Save the Regina Maris Foundation was making necessary preparations to have the vessel towed and sunk. It is thought that the vessel could be sunk as a kind of artificial reef for local fish populations and remain accessible to recreational divers. Possible choices for a burial site are Long Island or Block Island sounds.

A local winery, Osprey's Dominion, which had established a Regina Maris label Chardonnay to help preserve the venerable ship, will donate future funds to the new schooner project.