Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 05 November 2010 00:00
Friday morning, Oct. 15 walking down the Western Waterfront pier to where the tall ships were berthed, you could see that the Gazela was being pushed east by the winds. As predicted, Oyster Bay was being hit by a nor’easter. The Gazela, usually tied up to the dock with four lines, was tied with double lines – eight – and at around noon, Captain Richard Bailey told the First Mate Patrick Flynn to make it 10 to keep the 600-ton vessel safe.
First Mate Flynn of Philadelphia said they had a good trip coming up from Philadelphia where she is docked and serves as that city’s maritime goodwill ambassador. There were light winds sending them up the New Jersey coast, as they just motored along. When they got to the Oyster Bay area they took the opportunity to sail east on the LI Sound and then turned back. Why? “Our crew are all volunteers so they were getting to experience her undersail and the weather was ideal for that,” said FM Flynn.
They tied up in Oyster Bay at 6 p.m. for the night. The crew lives onboard. They didn’t have to go to the WaterFront Center to use the shower – something most sailors appreciate.
“It’s a big vessel and we have three showers. We carry enough fresh water so we can take about 30 – short showers,” he said.
Captain Richard Bailey had his Jack Russel terrier, Jackson with him. “He’s 13 years old, that’s 90 for a human,” said the captain. He and the captain have been running the Gazela for five years, for 75,000 sea miles. “He’s getting happier being aboard,” said the captain, who comes from Wellfleet, on Cape Cod. “I was born in Hyannis in 1950: that was where the hospital was,” he said. He expected to have about a thousand people come aboard during the festival. Captain Bailey too had heard that last year’s Oyster Festival was rainy and windy. “If you can make it sunny, that would be great.”
And it was. The 2010 Oyster Festival was weather to remember. A perfect fall weekend. They were hoping for some donations from visitors.
The boat was built in 1883 and it always needs repair said the captain. He said the bow and the stern have been renovated and now the middle of the boat needed fixing. Boats need constant maintenance.
When the deepness of the Oyster Bay Harbor was mentioned, the captain looked diffident. Instead of commenting, he said to the First Mate, “It could be that the bow is aground.” They agreed that the front of the boat didn’t seem to be moving. They were in the spot the Nantucket “stole” for several years.
Captain Bailey said he had brought the HMS Rose to Oyster Bay around 1993/4. “We anchored in east bay,” he said, remembering. “I woke up and there were oyster boats all around me.”
With that, a “Bong” sounded for lunch.
Sharing the pier this year were the tugboat Deborah Quinn, one of the last electric-diesel tugs built by Jakobson Shipyard in Oyster Bay in 1957; and The schooner SoundWaters, an 80-foot replica of a Chesapeake Bay sharpie schooner, which was offering tours of the bay.
Walking back to shore, along the pier, the call of a wild turkey came out of Mill Neck by West Shore Road proving nature is all around us - at the Oyster Bay waterfront.
The Gazela is a three-masted 177 foot long Barquentine wooden ship that was built in 1901 in Portugal for the Atlantic fishing trade, sailing from Europe to Newfoundland and back with 350 tons of salted cod, flounder, halibut and haddock in her holds. As cod began to disappear off the Newfoundland coast, The Gazela and other Atlantic fishing vessels headed towards Greenland, plying the Davis Strait in search of fish. The strait’s high winds and icy conditions made wind navigation difficult and in 1938 her owner installed a Mannheim-Benz diesel engine. A rudder post accommodated the new propeller by extending the ship’s counter a dozen feet. The Gazela made her final fishing trip in 1969, capping a nearly 7-decade commercial run. Today, from her dock in Philadelphia, she spends the warm months cruising the Delaware River and the Atlantic Coast and the winter at in dry dock at Independence Seaport Museum.