Steeling away: a voyage from Mississippi to Martha's Vineyard
The Mississippi drawls were a dead giveaway, and so were the deep tans. Contrasted with the New England accents and the vestiges of pale winter complexions on the Tisbury town dock, it was clear that these voyagers were not from here. But when Gene Klinck glided into Vineyard Haven Harbor at the helm of Island Rose, a striking 34-foot cutter-rigged sloop made of steel late on Tuesday afternoon, June 2, it was most definitely a homecoming of sorts. That much was clear from the enthusiastic greetings of a welcoming party that included many friends, family members, and much of the Island's boatbuilding brain trust.
Steel is an unusual choice of hull material for a recreational sailboat, and many of the Island craftsmen who offered help and advice are far more skilled at working with fiberglass or wood. But steel was the natural choice for Mr. Klinck. He owns Metaline Products, a steel fabrication firm in Utica, Mississippi, where he built Island Rose in "eight years of weekends." The design is by the noted yacht designer Ted Brewer, but much of the knowledge that went into it came from Martha's Vineyard. Gene's brother Charles and sister-in-law Heather have a home in West Tisbury. In 2004, Charles Klinck commissioned the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway to construct the 29-foot wooden picnic boat Ilona, which is moored in Vineyard Haven, and Gene Klinck was a frequent visitor at the G & B yard.
"I read everything I could read, asked every question I could ask," said Gene Klinck. "When I would come for a visit, I would go down and poke around. Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin were so good about stopping and explaining things."
Phil Hale and Rick Haslet of Martha's Vineyard Shipyard added advice and support. Mr. Klinck cites help from Edgartown sailing enthusiast Jim Martin, who sailed several legs of the voyage up from Mississippi. He also mentions Bruce Slater of Chilmark, a perennial competitor in the Moffett Cup, as another close tie on the Island. Inspiration came from a chart of Martha's Vineyard, usually hung within sight of Mr. Klinck as he worked. The chart still holds a place of distinction on the boat's navigation table.
The voyage of a lifetime for Mr. Klinck began on April 21 in Biloxi, at 5:30 in the afternoon, in the rain.