PORT TOWNSEND — The historic 23-foot wooden sloop Felicity Ann has kissed the water once again.
In a ceremony Tuesday witnessed by 75 craftsmen, supporters and enthusiasts, the Felicity Ann was celebrated as much for its unique history as for its new life as part of the Port Townsend/Port Hadlock boat building community.
Community Boat Project Director Captain Wayne Chimenti shared his perspective on the journey this boat has taken, from its initial construction finished in 1949 that had been delayed by the war, to Ann Davison’s historic transAtlantic sail, to the disrepair the vessel suffered before it was restored by the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding and the Community Boat Project.
“What I love about this story was that she wasn’t rebuilt by professionals,” Chimenti said. “It was a restoration project. It was student labor led by patient instructors — all volunteers and non-professionals, hundreds of people who have touched and worked on this boat.
“Now it will be part of the Port Townsend community.”
Chimenti said the community funded the project, raising $60,000.
“You start on any boat project and it consumes you. For this one, you aren’t just consumed by the project, but you have the whole world watching,” Chimenti said.
“This boat was written up in British and German yachting magazines. In its day, it was one of the most famous vessels in the world.
“Our community got to revive what was a lost story.”
Chimenti said the volunteer work hours total about four years of effort.
“There’s still some fit out to do and some operational costs yet to raise, but basically she’s done,” he said.
During the ceremony, Felicity Ann was blessed by Simon de Voil, an interfaith minister and boatbuilder from England. He said her tiller holds the inscription, “My boat is so small,” the name of Davison’s book, which comes from an old mariner’s prayer.
De Voil sprinkled Macallan whisky mixed with “mother nature’s rainwater” around the hull as he cited a traditional Scottish boat blessing. SEA Marine then gently lowered it into the water to mark her new life as an educational vessel.
Felicity Ann will set sail this week to a berth at the Port Hadlock Marina where the final touches will be done.
“We’ll finish off the rigging, finish some interior stuff. Determine what size outboard she’ll take. We have about six weeks to figure all that out. If everything works out, her debut sail will be the first week in June at the Classic Mariners Regatta,” Chimenti said.
Davison was the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic in 1952-53. Felicity Ann was designed and built by Mashfords Brothers Ltd. at the Cremyll Shipyard in Cornwall, England, in 1939 and was first launched in 1949. Davison bought the boat in 1952 and planned her 254-day voyage.
After several owners, in 2007, Felicity Ann was in a yard in Haines, Alaska, and had fallen into disrepair. The owners hired a Wooden Boat School graduate to work on her, but the job was too big and costly. The owners decided to donate Felicity Ann to the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding where the boat could be restored properly by students and faculty.
In 2017, the boat was handed off to the Community Boat Project, which finished the restoration.
The vessel is a double-ended hull with a traditional carvel plank-on-frame construction, the cast-iron keel is original but now boasts a purple heart center line, a sapele sheer strake and a mix of larch and red cedar planking.
Some of the work done by the volunteers included building a mast and spars, sewing a suit of sails, fitting out the cabin with bunks and lockers, installing electrical systems, and handcrafting a wooden tiller.
Funding for the restoration was secured through grassroots efforts led by Penelope Partridge and a grant from the Lorber Foundation; Beth Lorber stipulated that the vessel would be used for educational purposes.
On June 14, Felicity Ann will embark on a tour of ports and marinas around the Puget Sound including Port Ludlow, Poulsbo, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, and possibly Seattle and Gig Harbor.
“Our goal is to show off the boat and all the marvelous work so many people have put into it, talk about her history and what can be done by someone with determination and not that many skills,” Partridge said. “We’ll take her to the Victoria Wooden Boat Festival and she’ll be at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. She’ll be sailing again.”
The all-women crew includes Naijha Chimenti, Penelope Partridge and Carey Seefelt. Shoreside presentations will be given by Shelly Randall. The voyage is sponsored by Kitsap Bank.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].