Just about everyone dreams about the future when they are in high school and sometimes those dreams even come true.
One of my dreams, early on, at least related to sailing, was to retire at 55 and to be able to go sailing and not have to return to work after a brief two week vacation. In the interest of total honesty, I missed my deadline by one year and retired at 56, six years ago. Better late than never.
It seems that Brian D’Isernia, when he was in high school back in the 60s, had a dream to build a replica of a Grand Banks schooner, and a few years ago, he realized that dream.
In 2014 he launched Columbia, a replica of the famous Essex MA built schooner by the same name, believed to be the fastest of the US Grand Banks schooners at the time, perhaps fast enough to beat the reigning champion, the Lunenberg schooner Blue Nose. Unfortunately, she foundered in a storm so was never able to test her speed against the Blue Nose.
This is a photo of the launching of the original Blue Nose. The Bluenose II, a replica, now sails out of Lunenburg as a goodwill ambassador for Nova Scotia. As a point of interest, when Brenda and I were newly weds back in the 70s, we took a car trip to Nova Scotia and went for a day sail on Blue Nose II. I still remember that day and oddly, the sweater that Brenda knitted and wore aboard. She’s been knitting nearly every day since then but that’s another story.
This short video is of old film footage of the original Bluenose racing her Gloucester rival, Gertrude L. Thibault. It’s old footage and I expect, colorized.
Anyway, back to Brian and his dream. Brian began his career as a fisherman aboard a long-liner. Eventually he decided that he’d be better off building fishing boats than being a fisherman and founded Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City Florida.
Interestingly, among the many fishing boats that have been launched at his yard, over 350 and counting, he built the Andrea Gail, made famous buy the book The Perfect Storm.
He even built at least one of the Staten Island Ferry boats. Over the years Brian has done very well for himself, building fishing boats, ferry boats, oil rig support ships and most recently he won a contract to build a number of USCG cutters. That’s pretty neat and apparently his first military contract. After many years Brian still had that dream to build a replica of Columbia and finally realized his dream when she was launched in 2014. This photo shows the original Columbia and Brian’s Columbia sailing together. How dey do dat?Anyway, all of this is background for my chance visit aboard Columbia when I was in Antigua. As port captain for the Salty Dawg Rally that brought 55 boats to Antigua last November, I got to know many folks on the island as I planned for the fleet’s arrival. Along the way I got to know Franklin Braithwaite, commodore of the Antigua Yacht Club and owner of A&F sails in English Harbor.
I had commented to Franklin that I’d love to get aboard Columbia and he encouraged me to introduce myself to the captain and get a tour of the boat. Anyway, I did get a tour and she’s beautiful.
Columbia’s owner is rightfully proud of her and the crew is enthusiastic as well. This video is worth looking at. It shows her launch and sea trials as well as some great clips of her down below. She sailed this year in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and received line honors for being the first to cross the finish line. I caught this shot as she roared toward the finish line with a “bone in her teeth”. A while later she participated in the “parade of ships” into historic English Harbor. My buddy Franklin sitting on the starboard side in the stern. On her way out of the harbor. Big boat. On the dock in English Harbor, looking regal. Nothing quite like a schooner bow to set the heart a racing.
Lovely sweep to her deck. All that blue tape is because she was getting her varnish freshened. Big forward deck still wet from the morning shower. Serious wheel. True to her heritage complete with her name cast into the rim.
I was particularly struck by her no-nonsense traveler hardware on the main boom. Huge shackles and a really neat central attachment fitting. Note the leather covers on the shell blocks in the lower right. Beautifully stitched.
An impressive mix of hardware at the main mast. And, of course, classic lignum vite dead-eyes and beautifully served stays.
How about the fitting for the goose neck and the wonderfully machined belaying pins. Note the leather padding under each pin. Nice touch.
The day that I visited they were just cleaning up from racing mode so my shot wasn’t as elegant as this. It’s a stunning spot, a perfect place to enjoy a G&T, I’d say. I’ll take extra lime in mine!The chef proudly showed me the freezer. Lots of room to keep the crew well fed. The salon was very comfortable, like a real home. Catch the watertight doors. Really impressive and the boat has a number of watertight bulkheads as she was built to a very high safety standard. How about the tufted leather settee cushions?Lovely view forward, complete with watertight bulkheads and the forward mast beautifully varnished. Bummer about the port list. The photographer, not Columbia.It’s hard to get a good shot of the sleeping cabins but I was able to find one from a professional photographer . And, yes, I got permission… I would sleep there! I’d even make my own bed. However, I expect that the Stew wouldn’t approve of my bed making skills, I know Brenda doesn’t.
Of course, what’s a schooner without fishing dories? These competed in the Gig Races in English Harbor and did well, I expect. I understand that the were built in Nova Scotia very recently.
So, there you have it. A boy with a dream and a man who fulfilled that dream.
Columbia, a grand lady, that’s for sure and Columbia is proof that dreams do come true with hard work and perhaps a bit of luck along the way.
What a treat to be aboard such a remarkable vessel and best of all, she sails under the American stars and stripes, unfortunately rare as most owners set up offshore companies and register their boats in other countries.
I understand that their summer plans have her in Gloucester MA, home town for her namesake. I wonder if they need crew? Hmm…
Perhaps I’ll close with a short video that captures the action and Columbia during this year’s Classic Yacht Regatta in Antigua. Columbia wasn’t alone among the many beautiful yachts participating but surely was the “belle of the ball”. I can’t wait till next year. I’ll be there…