New Gem in the Crown

with 2 Comments

July 1, 2018

Reprinted with permission from the July 2018 issue of the Drummond Island Digest

A New Gem in the Crown of the Great Lakes

On June 23, 2018 at Drummond Island Yacht Haven’s marina, the newest tall ship of the Great Lakes was launched and christened. After two and a half years of construction with the help of over fifty volunteers and countless hours, Schooner Huron Jewel touched the water for the first time.

Elegantly floating in the clear waters of Potagannissing Bay, Drummond Island, hundreds of spectators came to witness the launch and christening. Judge Michael MacDonald honored her with the following remarks:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you here for this very august occasion. For me, it is a tremendous honor to address you today, to represent my family heritage in the settling of Drummond and to recognize the contribution of Hugh and Julie Covert to the development of our Island’s prosperity. The event which draws us here today is another historic event for this Island we call home and is evident in the beautiful vessel which rests before us.

To paraphrase the poet Lewis Carrol, “The time has come the old Judge said to talk of many things. Of sailing ship of love and dreams and the adventures that they bring.”

So today I want to talk of these certain things, of ships and dreams and love.

If you are at all familiar with Drummond you well know that our community is the center of a great fresh water archipelago, comprised of over 50 islands. It is a labyrinth of channels and bays and harbors. Historically it was occupied by native people and economically it is the strategic gateway to the upper lakes region and beyond.

It was among these protected geographic features, mainly Harbor Island, Bald Island, the north shore of Drummond and the village of Detour that the local history of boat building is rooted. In 1868 J. Wells Church, the chief architect of the Island’s maritime industry settled and homesteaded Drummond’s very own Harbor Island.

This geography provided Church and his wife, Rosalie Lasage the opportunity and inspiration to begin and grow what would become the first boat building industry on Drummond. Church and his sons-in-law, George Leonard and Frank Mesatigo and later his grandson Philo Leonard would become renowned for their novel designs and builds. Their talents can be seen in photo and half-ships housed in the Drummond Island and Detour Passage Museums that depict boats such as the Naida, the Drummond, the Juanita B., the Sam C. Taylor and the Whalen to mention just a few. Thus, it is fitting that Hugh and Julie have chosen this location in the shadow of Harbor Island to launch and christen their vessel. Not since the early 1920s, nearly 100 years ago, has an island born Lady graced our shores.

These past events I just spoke of are offered as a historic reflection that is intended to illustrate how the talents and dreams of others benefit all of us. They invoke in each of us the love for the beauty of our Island and a deep appreciation for the pioneering spirit of those both past and present, a spirit which should speak to each of us in a positive creative way. For they create and build that which most of us can only dream.

The common elements of all ideas are rooted in dreams. It is in our dreams that all things are possible. That is, a desire to bring into reality a vision only found in the mind of the dreamer. It is a personal vision to create something that can be shared with others. The ship you see here today is just that. A physical manifestation of a dream. Dreams such as those which give rise to a ship like the Jewel are found only in the minds of a select few people. The minds of ship builders. Their passions are really obsessions; obsessions understood only by seafarers, the people who live, work, sleep and dream under the cloth of a sailing ship. These individuals possess skills and talents to construct from pieces of wood beautiful creations which cause wonder and amazement to the rest of us.

The building of the Jewel is well documented. Her creation is recorded in the calculations, drawings and field notes of Captain Hugh Covert and have been memorialized by the Coverts in the many articles in the Digest. In these articles Hugh and Julie give thanks and recognition to the many volunteers who have given of their time and talents to help make this dream come true.

The Jewel is the ninth sailing vessel designed, built and skippered by Hugh. It’s design and construction reflect the depth of his knowledge and the underlying quiet nature of this remarkable man. This latest creation by Hugh, known as the Jewel, has no equal. Every component of her is hand-crafted from one or more of eighteen different species of wood such as Douglas Fir, Sycamore, Larch, Osage Orange, Persimmon, Black Locust, Tulip Poplar, Spruce and yes, Drummond Island Cedar. Each specie was chosen by Hugh for its own individual properties.

Please understand that this is not a vessel extracted from some mold or pressed from sheets of metal. Rather is constructed with a spine that embodies the soul of a sailor and possesses the very DNA of the many hands that built her. She is in many ways like Eve, built from the rib of man and in time under the command of Captain Hugh and first mate Julie will develop her own personality as she plies the lakes, rivers and coastlines that lie ahead of her, in search of adventures.

Today if you tour the ship and I encourage you to do so, you will see her in the first phase. Her inter-workings in full display. You will see her engines, fuel tanks, helm, windless, galley, passageways and crew quarters, navionics, plumbing and electronic components, all built from Hugh’s design and in compliance with Coast Guard requirements. In phase two, the ship will have it’s interior completed and its mast, boom and riggings fitted.

However, what you won’t see are the hundreds and hundreds of hours it took to bring the ship this far, the many nights of calculations, the weeks and weeks of travel between home on Shelter Island and the building site on McKenzie Point, 16 hour days, freezing temperatures and the love and perseverance between a man and woman with a dream.

A total commitment of their entire physical, mental and financial resources. A tremendous odyssey most of us would hesitate to undertake.

In closing, I would remind you of the Island motto, ”Drummond Island: Gem of the Huron.” Well, today thanks to Hugh and Julie Covert, the Island has another precious gemstone on its shore.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Huron Jewel.


Dreams – dreams do come true

Hi I’m Julie. I’ll try not to cry too much, they are tears of joy because Dreams do come true. I moved to Drummond eight years ago. One of the first New Year’s eves as Hugh and I were waiting for the clock to strike midnight, we said what do you want to do? Tell me your Bucket List. I wanted to go snorkeling in Belize; he said “I want to build a schooner.”


You have to name it in order to make it happen. He named it. A few years later we looked at each other and said, let’s do it we’re not getting any younger. We looked at what sacrifices we would need to make, we said “Let’s do it.” I asked him what it would take, he gave me his best estimate, we said “Let’s do it.”

So what makes a schooner? It’s her shape, the alignment of the sails and masts, the forward mast being the smaller of the two and the sails running fore and aft. Schooners are traditionally made of wood, some are made of metal, some are made of blood, sweat and tears. Fortunately we only had to hand out over two-and-a-half years about four bandaids. But I got a lot of bruises. This one [schooner] is wood, epoxy, fiberglass, peanut butter pretzels and friends.

Friends who I would like to introduce at this time to say thank you. Your help made this happen. Your friendships made this labor of love enjoyable. These folks gave up precious vacation days to work on her, learned new skills, or got completely covered in epoxy that they had to shave their arms. (Epoxy doesn’t come out of hair very easily). Some labored next to Hugh and me long past supper.

As I call your name, I know some of you are here, I’d like you to come up front with me.

Over fifty people over two-and-a-half years. Keeping track of friends and volunteers dropping in and out over two-and-a-half years is a little tricky. If I forgot you I apologize. This (looking at the volunteers present) is just a small smattering of those who have gotten sticky and dusty and dirty with us and put their love in this boat.

We’d also like to thank our sponsors:

Sune’s Home Center and Paul and Janis Gratowski, unfortunately they had business obligations and prevented them from being here. We thank them for their encouragement and helping us source as much of the building materials as possible. It’s not easy getting materials to this remote island, but they really helped us.

We’d like to thank Denny Bailey and his Drummond Island Yacht Haven crew for helping get her in the water and giving her a port to call home.

We’d like to thank Chef Ross Kaplan for delicious meals that kept us fueled and allowed us to work into the lengthening hours of the day.

And lastly my amazing and talented husband – never in a million years did I think I’d build a boat let alone a 78 ft Schooner. From all of us “Thank you” for your patience and willingness to teach us.

And in a few weeks we will be able to share with you the delights of flying on the wind, caressing the water and sailing the dream on the Great Lakes aboard Huron Jewel. Thanks for coming out.

The building crew volunteers:

1. Doug Almoney

2. Katherine Andrews

3. Nick Asztalos

4. Dave Bardsley

5. Dan Barkel

6. Ryan Bennett

7. Bob Bonte

8. Klaus Brixa

9. Pete Buley

10. Katie Burkhart

11. Tom Burkhart

12. Rod Buxton

13. Rich Curtis

14. Scott Danforth

15. Andy Dircksen

16. Tom Doerr

17. George Fulk

18. Dixson Gerber

19. Betsy Granek

20. Don Grishke

21. Chad Hockey

22. Alan Hosler

23. Roger Jaarsma

24. Dave Jaeckels

25. Jeannie Kenny

26. Rich Kriepe

27. David Leanza

28. Judge Michael MacDonald

29. Nick Martinez

30. Bruce MacGregor

31. Julie “The Cook” MacGregor

32. Rex Masingo

33. Rachel McKay

34. Steve Nitz

35. Aric Peine

36. Rich Peine

37. Steve Peine

38. Amy Olenzek

39. Larry Reeves

40. Les Richwine

41. Scott Roberts

42. Jennifer Starr

43. Chris Taylor

44. Bill Thiel

45. Trish Thiel

46. Kirk Tyler

47. Sue Tyler

48. Don Waller

49. Eric Walton

50. Bob Welstead

51. Bill Williston

and Max the Dog

Words from Captain Hugh:

Well hello folks. I really want to thank you all for coming out and witnessing this culmination of our dream today. So many of you have helped and it’s nice to see the support of the community. I want to thank my lovely wife for her support and sacrifices, over the last several years; lots of time, lots of late nights and sacrificed part of a finger for that matter to this project.

It’s been a long time coming, we’re glad to see this boat in the water and we’re here today. We have this greenery on the bow. In the old days we made everything out of wood; we need to remember the trees these wooden vessels or wooden buildings came from. It’s traditional to have a little bit of greenery to remind us of where this structure comes from. And also, for a schooner especially, champagne is not really a schooner man’s drink of choice, it’s more like rum. So we have some fifteen year old good rum here that we’ll christen this boat with today.

We named it Huron Jewel to reflect Drummond Island. We wanted it to mean something to us as well, H for Hugh, J for Julie, Huron Jewel. It seems to fit the boat pretty well; a happy happy choice there. And now we’ll attract the attention of the sea people [by pouring rum on her bow] and christen this boat Huron Jewel.

2 Responses

  1. Bob Anderson
    | Reply

    I am the guy that built your small cannon and you made me fill with pride when I seen the picture of Chris Taylor loading the cannon.
    Bob Anderson
    Tulare Calif. 93274

  2. Roger Jaarsma
    | Reply

    I am Roger Jaarsma a good Canadian friend of Hugh and Julie I met them in 2010 in the North channel at an anchorage after a very windy day. They were on his last boat a sharpie he had built. I was very impressed at how well she sailed. I called out to Hugh and Julie and asked if I could take a photo of there boat. Hugh said sure. I took the photo and I went on to make dinner. A few min later Hugh and Julie were paddling up to us in their dingy. We invited them aboard and talked about the days weather and places to see. Hugh said if you come this way (Drummond Island) you are welcome to anchor in the bay by his house. The rest is history. I later found out that trip was the first time he had taken Julie on a sailing trip. They were just in the beginning of there relationship. Over the years I have been up to visit Hugh and Julie many times. Then he started talking about this boat he wanted to build. I was thinking he must be crazy but then he showed me the beginning drawings and we went outside and he had a long line hanging along the side of his house. Hugh said this it the way it will look. Well then I guess I can help when I can. So we started to un pack and un stack rough cut hardwood and start up the machines and mill the wood. This story go on and on. Julie and Hugh are incredible people and I am blessed to know them. We had long days of planking the boat thousands of feet and epoxy and many weeks of fellowship. Now to see Huron Jewel complete I feel like I have a part of the ships sole in me. It makes me proud to see some of the pieces I made as part of the boat above the water. I will never forget going into the forest and cutting two damaged trees down and dragging them out with Hugh’s jeep loading them on a trailer taking them back to the schooner house ( where she was built ) stripping the bark off the trees and then leaving them for the winter to dry out. The following year I actually made the two booms and shaped them to the way they are now. Hugh showed me what he wanted and I was off. I do believe that things happen for a reason. Never give up and always follow your dreams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ready to go sailing?