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W

hen the keel was first laid, the Great War was a dis-tant rumble a long, long way away. By the time the frames were lofted and sawn, the winter had closed in and she would have the cold on her bones until spring and her planks would complete her shape. It was late fall 1911 when the ways were greased and she slid into a ripple free Oyster Bay.

Ida May was purpose-built as an oyster dredger. She was a 30-year workboat with lines that evolved from the sailing dredgers and an attitude grown from the year-round Oyster-men whose tolerance for biting icy gales is as great as that for scorching New York summers.

Fitted with a massive 48-hp, 6-cylinder, in-line diesel, she was one of a growing number of powered working vessels on Long Island Sound, and was described as something of a wonder even in that late day. Her twin drum donkey winch, which ran from a single power take-off on her diesel, was a later installation, but this allowed her crew to handle up to 18 tons of oysters and clams per day.

Power dredging is a simple dragging of a steel rake some 4 feet across along the sand and mud of the seabed. The rake

is flown like a kite on tethers run from booms (port and s board) and supported by a short, stout pyramid-stayed m The rake digs itself into the bottom, as we would want a good anchor to. It is overpowered by the boat’s motor an just as we would not wish a good anchor to do, it drags. T rake tows a chainmail bag which allows the sand and silt pass through, but larger items like oysters, clams and roc are collected.

When the skipper decides he has collected enough weigh the dredge, it is hoisted aboard and the contents are spill out on deck for sorting and cleaning. A huge weight of sh and rock could be accumulated on the deck during a day’ work.

As large areas of the bays are shallow, and some of the highest yielding areas are very shallow, Ida ’s hull had to b able to float in 3 feet of water or less. More importantly, s had to be able to load up and still get through the shallo and back to the landing dock. These attributes were achieved by a very large beam and a massive internal ke The keel was molded vertically almost two feet thick and sided a foot wide, but only five inches of it protruded fro below her garboard to find and nudge wayward rocks asi as she headed back to deep water.

By Eric Holohan, Instructor Westlawn Institute

Ida May at Her Final Resting Place

Sailing Oyster Sloop Christeen

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