Oxen team up with volunteers to haul out Mabel for maintenance

Sidney Morris, The FARM Institute educational director, guides oxen Apollo and Zeus up the beach as Sky Larsen assists with a lead rope while hauling Mabel up the beach for routine maintenance. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

To illustrate the way the routine maintenance of boats used to be done, Sidney Morris, education director at The FARM Institute, hitched up Zeus and Apollo, a team of young oxen from the nonprofit’s Katama farm, and hauled Mabel, a 28-foot, gaff-rigged, Nomans Land boat, out on the beach next to Gannon and Benjamin boatyard in Vineyard Haven harbor Monday afternoon.

A team of eight AmeriCorps volunteers from the middle Atlantic states, who have spent the last four weeks learning about sustainable agriculture at the FARM Institute in Edgartown, assisted in the project.

“We painted the bottom and oiled up everything there was to be oiled up,” said Jeremy Mitchel Flores, 22, an AmeriCorps volunteer from North Carolina.

The boat project was a one-day public service project that Mr. Flores said is required of all AmeriCorps volunteers during each of their five rounds of training.

The AmeriCorps program is a ten-month U.S. government-sponsored training program that places adult volunteers in intensive community service work with the goal of helping others and meeting critical needs in the community and teaching life and job skills, according to their website. The volunteers work in five different training situations over the ten-month program. Mr. Flores’s previous training round was learning to fight fire, including forest fires.

Mabel is modeled on a traditional Nomans Land fishing boat. She was built by West Tisbury boatwright Miles Thurlow ten years ago when he was 19 years old. He built the boat for Vineyard Voyagers, a sailing training program started by Mr. Morris.