Schooner Huron Jewel – A New Tall Ship for Drummond Island

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A few years ago I started thinking about building “The Next Boat”. The current boat is in good shape, sails well and has been a lot fun for 17 years. It grew (see Metamorphosis in the May 2015 Digest) in the planning stage from 18 to 20, 22 and finally to 36 feet long on deck. But, while it grew much longer and somewhat wider, it didn’t gain much in headroom. So, the combination of a need for a bigger boat with more room fused with a desire to sail a tall ship with passengers and produced a new plan.

I have been captain of several big sailing vessels around the country and the Bahamas, and have built several boats, so the idea of building one to sail close to home seemed natural.

This new boat plan only grew in length a few times; the last was to better accommodate the marine toilet (seemed important to have). Various limitations of water depth and haul-out facilities on Drummond Island produced a plan for a boat 60 feet on deck, 14 feet wide, schooner rigged with two masts, centerboard and of shallow draft. She will be named Huron Jewel and be able to carry six passengers on trips, both day trips in Potagannissing Bay and longer voyages to the North Channel.

The inspiration for the design is an early 19th-century Baltimore Clipper-type Virginia pilot schooner whose measurements were taken by a French naval engineer in 1820. The lines were later re-published by Howard Chapelle, the American naval historian. Reuel Parker, a leading light of the wooden boat fraternity, adapted the plans to modern building techniques and built a successful boat twenty years ago that still cruises the East Coast and Bahamas, proving the validity of the concept.

In working out my ideas about a new boat, I drew heavily upon Mr. Parker’s experiences and developed a plan further adapted to current wood/epoxy construction and US Coast Guard rules. The sail plan is that of a typical 19th-century schooner, gaff rig with four lower sails: jib, staysail, a boomed fore and main. A main topsail will be part of the working canvas, making about 1700 square feet, with an additional fisherman staysail for lighter winds.

Full size mock up before lofting.


Full size mock up further along before lofting.
Full size mock up further along before lofting.


My wife Julie and I, with the help of friends, have built a boat shop, 32 by 72 feet and are currently in the lofting process, which involves drawing lines on the concrete floor based on a full-size model temporarily pinned together to get the dimensions just right. We have already acquired two Yanmar diesels for power, and a tiny wood stove made in Benton Harbor, Michigan for heat and the proper aroma of woodsmoke that belongs on a traditional schooner. We are sourcing as much material as possible through suppliers and manufacturers in Michigan, and have pledges of volunteer help from the local community.

The hull will be planked in Douglas fir (milled in Michigan) and sheathed in epoxy (made in Bay City, Michigan) and fiberglass cloth. The interior will have eastern white cedar, as well as birch and other hardwoods. The masts will be of wood as well. We’ll be carrying almost 14,000 pounds of ballast, mostly lead, but also counting the engines’ weight and other gear, like anchor chain.

We plan to launch in Drummond’s Big Shoal Bay in the summer of 2017, after building the hull and turning it over next summer to finish the interior.

She will be a very fast and stable boat, suited to cruising around the rocky shores of Drummond Island, the Les Cheneaux Islands and the North Channel; also capable of extended voyages to the Caribbean.

– Captain Hugh

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