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Marketing The Oyster Boat Ida May

When can you give a holiday present and do a good deed at the same time? You can when you purchase a marine print from the Ida May Project (IMP).

Artist Ken Marcell has created several prints for the IMP Corporation. Mr. Marcell worked as an industrial designer and an architectural illustrator. He is a Pratt Institute graduate. He grew up on Long Island and here, he developed his love of boats and sailing, naturally.

Currently Mr. Marcell divides his time between here, and living in Sterling, Massachusetts, just north of Wooster. “I grew up in Syosset and learned to sail in Oyster Bay, so this is a bit of a homecoming,” he said, seated in J Building on West End Avenue on the Western Waterfront — the former Jakobson Shipyard property. “I remember Jakobson’s Shipyard as a kid.

“I remember seeing the HMS Bounty here, during the ’60s, after the movie was made,” he recalled. [The HMS Bounty replica ship sank during Hurricane Sandy near Hatteras, N.C.] 

It appears that so far, the Ida May hasn’t caught the imagination of the public and funding is at a standstill. Although according to IMPC board member Gregory Druhak, the Ida May requires more money than oyster sloop Christeen and the board so far has taken the approach of looking to find three to six major donors (individuals or corporations) with amounts from $50,000 to $100,000 to make sure the project has enough money to get through to completion. Funding has come in to keep the project going, but not enough to complete it. 

The board has been hesitant to ask for smaller amounts from a wider group of people for fear that if, say an individual donates $1,000 (a lot for an individual) and the project stalls, then their donation would be for naught and that will leave a bad taste in the community. Those that have donated to keep the project going are cognizant of the situation and the current risk and are effectively the type of angels sorely needed and appreciated when things get rough. The board had anticipated that a wide public campaign would be undertaken once the end goal was, while if not certain, at least reasonably within sight, which is not the case.

The shipwright, David Small, who gave Ida May a favorable bid, and his apprentices were sent home early this year, but are still on call. Volunteers have been ad-hoc working on ancillary tasks required by the project that don’t need a shipwright. Activity is slow.

The board unanimously paid the shipwright’s rental obligation through the end of September out of their own pockets, a painful decision but the right thing to do. The rental is closed and the shipwright has permanently moved out. In the meantime he and his apprentices have had to find other work in his home state of Maine. They have a personal relationship with what they and the volunteers have begun to create, and they are eager to come back and finish the task. For them it is a matter of pride.

Clint Smith, the project  president, is admant that, like oyster sloop Christeen, the Ida May will be completed.  If large donors don’t aren’t found, that means a professional schedule will likely not be kept. The shipwrights contract will have to be revisited, both for his sake and the project’s. The project will drag out and take longer and be more difficult and ultimately cost more. But Mr. Smith feels it will get done, said Mr. Druhak.

 Different Scenarios

The Christeen arrived in Oyster Bay to much fanfare and some drama, including its capsizing in Mill Neck Creek. The oyster sloop Christeen carries 22 people. There are established limits to the number of people who can sail on a ship. She carries 20 people, a captain and a volunteer crew member. There is a need for a larger boat for marine education and recreation in Oyster Bay. When the Ida May is finished she will be able to carry about twice that amount of passengers. She will be powered by an engine and can venture out into Long Island Sound and even the near ocean – which means it can travel all around LI. The Ida May was built by the Flower family and used to harvest oysters from the bay from about 1925 to 2003. She was originally going to be an outdoor exhibit in front of what was to be a marine education building on the Jakobson Shipyard location. Time caught up with the Ida May with the result that she had to be re-built — but using today’s marine standards which has many benefits.

Working Boats

 Just as there are cars and trucks, there are boats and and working boats. “There is more intrinsic romance in a sail boat,” suggested Mr. Marcell. Still, Mr. Marcell enjoys painting boats like the Christeen and the Ida May.  “These are working boats. They have a definite grace to them based on their functionality. They follow the rule that form follows function.”

 Mr. Marcell likes the romance/aesthetic of the wooden boat. “Nowadays boats are made of fiberglass in a big mold. It is so different from the shipbuilding methods prior to the middle of the 20th Century.” That is what is so appealing about working on building a ship like the Christeen and the Ida May.

Mr. Marcell volunteered  during the rehabilitation of the Christeen during the winter of 2010-2011. He did some frame cutting for the Ida May, “I did it with a lot of help. I’ve also done some maintenance on the boats.”

He has assembled a body of work around the ships: a painting of the Christeen; one of the Ida May as she was in fine trim; and he is planning on doing one of the Ida May that is the half skeleton of today, and half finished boat. “So people can get a sense of how the transition took place.” Currently the Ida May is “Down to its ribs.”

Like many people who love being at sea he said, he doesn’t currently own a boat, “I’ve found it’s a lot less expensive to have friends with boats.” But he has owned his share, from a Sunfish to a Laser to a Day Sailer to a Hobie Cat. He’s not a power boat enthusiast.

“I always enjoyed my time in a sailboat on the water,” he said.

Most recently he’s crystalized his interest in marine art. He recently finished a painting of a 1920s commuter boat. “It is the type of ship the denizens of the North Shore used to get to lower Manhattan,” he said. His is called a Cigarette. Hammersley was the original builder. He saw one in a boatyard in City Island and decided to paint it. “It took 12 years to get it done. It was one of those ‘I’ll get around to it projects.’

“I called Mystic Seaport for research. They have extensive files of boat plans. They provided me with the original plans for the boat. That helped to get the proportions correct. The plans are 50” x 30”. I could have built the 72-foot boat in my basement with them. It is a 2-scale. The scale of the plans is that a half-inch is a foot.”

 Print Sizes:

The Christeen and Ida May prints are archival quality, using superior inks and papers. They are offered in two sizes, 2/3 size and 1/2 size, both framed and unframed. There are four frame moldings to select from. Specs are as follows:

• 2/3 size Christeen print framed 31”x 30” $365. Unframed print  23”x 22” $150.

• 1/2 size Christeen print framed 26”x 25” $315. Unframed print 19”x 18” $125.

• 2/3 size Ida May print framed 30”x 20” $310. Unframed print 22”x 11” $125.

• 1/2 size Ida May print framed 25”x 18” $270. Unframed print 17”x 10” $115.

They are available through: The Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corp. P.O.Box 386 Oyster Bay N.Y. 11771. You can email them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by  contacting Ken Marcell at 484-643-3353.