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Fundraising Fuels The Work

“We want to work,” said the Ida May Project volunteers, standing in front of the wooden boat as they met in J Building on Wednesday, April 24 to hear a new proposal by the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation board (COSPC). At the heart of the delay in the work has been their concern over lack of funding. The current board wants 75 percent of the needed funds for completion of the project available before any new work begins. But Volunteer Ray Wulff has come up with “Plan B,” a way to cut costs to lessen the amount of money needed for the job but which will extend the time line to completion from 18 months to three years. The board wanted to meet with the volunteers on the 24th to see what they felt about the proposal and to try to get a commitment from them saying they are willing to put in the needed time.

Jack Hoyt, COSPC treasurer, said fundraising has been hard in these economic times, especially after Hurricane Sandy. He presented Plan B, which will use more volunteer labor working with local shipwright Josh Herman of Huntington who will work on a part time basis overseeing the work. He said, “It makes it harder to raise funds when there is no activity going on,” but he added that some of the dedicated volunteers have been working during the down time. They recently restored a tractor and refurbished the sawmill damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

He explained that Plan B replaces Shipwright Dave Short of Maine, who they deeply respect, instead using the services of Shipwright Josh Herman, who lives locally. Short worked on the original Christeen of which only the keel was able to be retained.  

Herman was the shipwright on the recent restoration of the Christeen as they replaced the keel after several years of having her “ply her trade in Oyster Bay.” That reconstruction was finished recently and he impressed the board. He has shown the board that he can do the job and he said he is willing to support Plan B.

Speaking on Wednesday Josh explained he would work about four hours a week, which still necessitates finding a volunteer project manager who will be on hand on a day-to-day basis to give direction and to see that the time line for purchasing supplies, giving out assignments and overseeing the workers will be adhered to.

He wanted the volunteers to commit to being there on a regular basis and wanted the doors of the workshop to be open to the public so they can see the work that is going on. Herman said the former volunteers now have experience in working on a ship and know how to do much of the work, including how to put in items such as the decking, but that he will be there for critical work such as putting in the engine heads.

Volunteer Hank Tiska, who worked on the first Christeen oyster sloop project, had information relating to his knowledge of the difficulties working without the needed funding on hand.

Captain Pete Macandrew [of the Christeen] expressed what the other volunteers seemed ready to agree on, their desire to work on the ship. He wanted the board to provide the needed long lengths of white oak to allow the volunteers to get to work quickly. He said they currently have some white oak tree pieces, in shorter lengths, that can be fashioned into planks using their sawmill to quickly get hands on the job.

Saving Money

Hoyt gave estimated figures on their finances to give an idea of the relative benefits of Plan B. He said Plan B would come in at a savings of about $170,000. Using the current board’s rule that 75 percent of the funds be available before work continues, they now need only $130,000 more to do the job. Hoyt stressed that what they need now, are non-boat building volunteers for publicity, communication, fund raising and coordinating those efforts.

Board member Jamie Deming explained the board’s concern in that it has to answer to the donors, showing them that their money is being used wisely and with a finished project in view. The concern is their not having enough money on hand to complete the job, which might result in it not be finished but rather, sold off.

To actually begin working on the boat now, before further fundraising would take $16,000 according to both shipwrights. Although the COSPC has white oak trees on their lot, ready for the sawmill, those lengths will be short. They need straight long lengths of white oak. He said he could ask the board to consider giving them half that amount to get the work started.

Both groups wanted the other to commit to the project and Josh agreed that the half amount would enable the work to get started since the building costs the COSPC money even while closed. Volunteer Bill Shepard spoke for the group saying, “It’s a shame to stop the whole project for the lack of only $7,000 to $8,000,” adding that people would see activity and be more wiling to donate to the project. “If you do something it will increase your chances to raise funds,” and said, “Invest and gamble [on the money coming in].”

Hoyt said he was getting a sense that there is enthusiasm for the project and said, “We ought to have something moving,” adding, “I hope you understand the board’s concern.” He said he would report to the board and get their decision. The board is being revitalized with new members.

Captain Pete Macandrew of the Christeen endorsed the project saying, “This boat has a purpose. It is a beautiful boat and people will love the Ida May as the Christeen is loved,” that the community will support it when they see something happening.

Some Advice

Putting the facts on the table, volunteer Hank Tiska said all they needed were three things, money, material and manpower.  He added, “To do the boat in three years we need the materials now to work with.” From his expertise when fund raising for the Christeen he said that they had a plan, regular meetings with volunteers and when they went to family foundations they could show them that the boat was 35 percent complete. “Still they wanted to know how the boat will sustain itself afterwards,” he said.

Working Together

The WaterFront Center and the COSPC work together. While Jamie Deming is on the WFC and COSPC boards, so too, Clint Smith is the COSPC president and on the WFC board. The WFC will eventually take over the running of the Ida May. “We build them and they run them. They have the marine education classes and the Ida May will fit right in with the Christeen. The major thing is that the Ida May will hold more people.”

Plan B includes monthly meetings with the volunteers to keep everyone informed on how the work is proceeding. Getting the community involved with the project is another key to its progress, Smith added.

The meeting was the first in a while and Hank Tiska had questions on the state of the Ida May plans. Longtime board member Gregory Druhak said new ones are being generated to conform to information from the Coast Guard. The first plans were preliminary. He and several other people have been working with Ian McCurdy who is drawing up what will be the actual plans.

He voiced the one of the original concerns of the board, “If we don’t have a commitment from the volunteers, maybe we should close down the project.” He was expressing the hard facts the board has been considering.

Donations Accepted

The Ida May Project is one that will eventually benefit the Oyster Bay community. It has the capabilities to become an ambassador for Oyster Bay, as a boat powered with an engine that can travel the Long Island Sound. The COSPC sold T-shirts and prints of the Ida May and made a few thousand dollars during last year’s Oyster Festival. This year Bay Day will take place on Sunday, June 2 from noon to 5 p.m. along West End Avenue where J Building is located because Beekman Beach is being used as a staging area for the work on West Shore Road. That should give them greater visibility for further fundraising.

If you would like to make a donation to the Ida May Project, you can send it to: The Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation; P.O. Box 386; Oyster Bay, NY 11771.