Raider, a 1910 Bristol Channel pilot cutter, a type of British sailboat, long in storage at Capt. Bob Douglas’ cement warehouse in Vineyard Haven, was laboriously rolled through Five Corners Friday night, and onto a landing craft Saturday afternoon.
Nested in the landing craft, Raider subsequently headed to Wickford Shipyard in North Kingston, R.I., where new owners Jennifer LeComte and Capt. Dominic Zachorne plan to get the vessel shipshape for a Christmas sail back to Vineyard Haven. An owner of many storied wooden vessels, Capt. Douglas kept Raider preserved for decades in storage. Capt. Zachorne previously worked for Capt. Douglas, LeComte told The Times. “He was a deckhand at 14,” she wrote, “worked his way up to skipper of Alabama. He was a mate on Shenandoah for many years.”
Preparations for the move went on throughout the day on Friday, with part of the vessel poking out over the sidewalk along Water Street and drumming up curiosity as passersby attempted to get a glimpse of what was going on. The vessel began its shimmy from the warehouse Friday night at about 11 pm. Five Corners was partially closed to traffic as shipwrights and volunteers, under Capt.Douglas’ observation and Capt. Zachorne’s command, slowly angled the old pilot vessel out of its resting place and onto the street with short tugs from a forklift. Crew from nearby Gannon & Benjamin were among the volunteers at work with sledgehammers and pry bars, coaxing steel rollers to incrementally move Raider forward.
At one point Water Street was completely closed after the vessel fully emerged from the warehouse, stern-first, turned, and then led with its bow toward Beach Street Extension. Early Saturday morning, Raider was parked in a cradle near the beach at the end of Beach Street Extension. Later in the day, the landing craft Paul Brown, a repurposed military vessel, half-beached in the sand near the Black Dog dock. Crew and volunteers built a wooden block and plank path for Raider to cross the sand, and the vessel was nudged and coaxed into the landing craft to a round of applause.
Capt. Ethan Rossi, master of the Paul Brown, said Raider’s tonnage would be easily handled by the landing craft. Rossi estimated Raider to be 20 tons, and the Paul Brown has a 100-ton capacity.
“Dominic says what attracts him to Raider [is] the history of the vessel, [its] connection with his friend Bob, and the preservation of maritime history,” LeComte emailed. “This is a very unique vessel. Very few of them left in the world. Of the hundreds of original Bristol Channel pilot cutters, there around eight left in the water. I grew up always in and on the water, sharing time with my family. I developed an appreciation for classic wooden boats through Dominic. Raider is a solid workhorse. She’ll easily accommodate family, and carry us through whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”
Updated with new details from the move.