Jun 07, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
After spending 20 years in a Connecticut warehouse, the very first Lightning Class sailboat-made and launched in Skaneateles in 1938-journeyed more than 300 miles to return home. Lightning No. 1, as it is known, arrived at the Skaneateles Historical Society in the early evening of June 7 to begin its temporary stint on display in the SHS’s new Boat and Transportation building on Hannum Street.
The ship’s arrival marked the culmination of a long and intense lobbying effort by the SHS of the Mystic Seaport maritime museum, which owns the craft.
“It’s very exciting that the boat is here after we’ve been trying for four years to get it,” said Society President Karlene Miller. “We feel it belongs here in Skaneateles, not stuck in a warehouse in Mystic, Conn., where nobody can see it or appreciate it.”
Skaneateles has a nearly 80-year history of fine ship building, beginning in 1886 when Bowdish and Sons began a shipwright business on Jordan Street, and ending only in 1965 after the closure of Skaneateles Boats, Inc. It was this latter company that first manufactured the Lightning Class sailboat.
The SHS-indeed all Lightning sailors-had known for years the location of Lightning No. 1, but when the private owner wanted to sell, the Society was unable to make the purchase. Once the boat was sold and then later donated to Mystic Seaport, the SHS, particularly board member Joe Spalding, began the discussions that ultimately led to the current loan agreement.
For the journey to Skaneateles, Lightning No. 1 left Mystic Seaport at 8 a.m. Monday and arrived on Hannum Street shortly before 5 p.m. It was an “easy” drive of 350 miles, said Dave Ryel, of Dave Ryel Transport of Fredonia, who was contracted to haul the ship.
“It’s a very special boat,” Ryel said. “I stopped at a boat shop on the way up and it created quite a bit of excitement.”
Despite an initial uncertainty as to how to move Lightning No. 1 from the trailer on the street into the Boat and Transportation building, it took the 14 volunteers – including the entire staff of The Sailboat Shop-only about 15 minutes to complete the task and carefully settle the ship onto its display cradle.
“It’s great,” said John Jablowski, co-owner of The Sailboat Shop, after helping with the move. “It’s an amazing piece of history.”
Lightning No. 1 is on loan to the SHS for two years, although the Society hopes to convince Mystic Seaport to allow the ship to remain permanently.
The Society’s new acquisition, along with a Comet sailboat, a Rhodes Bantam sailboat, and multiple antique canoes and rowboats, all built in Skaneateles, will be on display at the historical society’s new Boat and Transportation building, which is projected to open in early July.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.