Sunday morning (June 17) we discovered -- with an involuntary “Ahhh” – that the Belford Gray was back at a WoodenBoat School mooring in Great Cove, her boom and sails yet to be deployed:
There she rides: low like a loon, with her sharp Clipper bow, breath-taking sheer, and overhanging transom – all on a sturdy working body that looks eager to do things. Here she was yesterday afternoon as a storm was brewing:
She’s a Friendship Sloop, the iconic Maine working boat of the late 19th– early 20th Century. These highly maneuverable fishing sloops were conceived and built in Maine’s Friendship (Muscongus Bay) area and then evolved by wooden boat builders along the entire coast. (All images below taken in prior summers.)
Friendships are beautiful lying low in a fog or winged out, gasping for air:
The Belford Gray, now a WBS sailing classroom, is exceptional, even among her exceptional family of vessels. Her design is based on the class’s original design by Maine boatbuilder Wilbur Morris. Basic plans for such a design were found by WBS founder Jon Wilson in a 1907 publication. He gave them to famed Brooklin naval architect Joel White to refine and create construction drawings.
These plans were then used by WBS instructor Gordon Swift and his students over six summers of classes to construct the Belford Gray, which was launched in 1992. She was named in honor of another WBS instructor who was a highly respected local wooden boat builder.
The basic proportions of Friendship Sloops generally call for a vessel that has a width (beam) that is about one-third its length and a draft (underwater depth) that is about one-half the width. The Belford Gray’s numbers reflect that proportionality. She’s 28 feet and 6 inches long overall, 9 feet and 6 inches wide, with a draft of 5 feet and 4 inches. She's small, as many Friendships were; a good solo sailor/fisherman could handle her.