PORT TOWNSEND — The SEA Marine lift hoisted a carefully cradled Felicity Ann out of the water Wednesday morning at Point Hudson, concluding a victory lap.
The restored wooden boat spent the summer season touring Puget Sound and showing off her newly restored beauty.
“I think the Felicity Ann is a lovely and capable vessel,” said Nahja Chimenti, one of her captains and a member of the Community Boat Project.
“If I were so inclined, I would surely take her across the Atlantic,” Chimenti said. “But I feel no need.”
Chimenti said the vessel performed well as it cruised to such marinas as Port Orchard, Bremerton, Gig Harbor and Bainbridge Island, guided by an all-woman crew.
“I had no expectations, but she handles very, very well,” Chimenti said. “She’s a very stout vessel, capable of sailing under light winds and heavy winds.”
After visiting eight ports on the first trip, the crew sailed Felicity Ann to Victoria and Orcas Island.
Chimenti said the response was vastly different depending on where they were.
“For the most part, we had plenty of people come up to the boat who had never heard the story before.”
“They would read half the sign then ask one of us if we were Ann and did you just do this?,” Chimenti said.
“ ‘No, that was in 1952,’ we responded. ‘That was Ann Davison, and she passed away 20 years ago.’ ” Chimenti said she was thrilled that several people knew the Felicity Ann story.
“There were also people who said they read Davison’s book when they were in school back in the ’50s and ’60s. They were fascinated to see the boat alive and well. It was a very special experience to meet those people.”
The Felicity Ann will be dry docked for the winter and undergo basic maintenance.
“We’ll give her a new coat of bottom paint,” Chimenti said.
“One of the things that needs to happen is that the waterline needs to come up another four inches. When she was first launched, she was very tender and the shipwrights suggested that we put another 1,000 pounds of lead in the bilge, which we did.
“Ann talks in her book when she loaded the boat for her Atlantic crossing, they had to raise the water line about four inches, so that’s what we’ll do.”
Community Boat Project members also will make the boat a bit more like it was originally.
“We’re also hoping to put the iron hoop back in that supports the mast that Ann had,” Chimenti said.
“When the boat school did the restoration, they took it out and put in a compression post. We’d like to return the iron hoop to its place to make the boat more accessible down below and a little more authentic.”
She said the group is in the planning process for next year.
“Part of this summer was to get a feel for what the boat was capable of, not just sailing wise, but people-wise, what the response was,” Chimenti said.
“We will probably do a little more lecture touring because we feel we’ve only just scratched the surface getting the story out. And it’s an amazing story. It isn’t just about the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic. It’s mostly about who Ann was and what she did, based on her past.
“Telling that story some more is important,” Chimenti continued. “We also want to get more people out on the water. We’ll look into ways to do some form of sail training and empowerment with this boat.”
Chimenti said one of the more distant dreams is to take the boat up the Inside Passage to southeast Alaska with a rotating crew so people could come in every week or two.
“That dream is pretty far out, though,” she admitted.
Sixty-six years after Davison departed England to became the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean, her boat was back in the water, lovingly restored after about 40 years of neglect.
The Felicity Ann never returned to England. It was owned by several people over the years, traveling from California to Alaska. When in Alaska, an alum of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding suggested that the owners donate it to the school for restoration.
The school received the boat and restored it from its keel up, using the original 1939 plans.The Community Boat Project finished preparing it for sea with new rigging and sails.
The boat was relaunched May 1 during a ceremony at Point Hudson and began its first tour from Port Hadlock on June 15.
The tiny boat will be back next year for another victory lap.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]