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Ida May Needs Workers And Funds

Building J at Oyster Bay’s Western Waterfront is again up and running as the Ida May Project builds the 40-passenger oyster boat that will be operated by the WaterFront Center. The Ida May Project of the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corp. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve Oyster Bay maritime heritage by involving the community in traditional boat building.

Bill Shephard, Herb Scheirhorst, President Clint Smith and Project Manager Hank Tiska were there on a recent Thursday. Smith had left at around 2 p.m. to get a part he had at home they needed to fix the tractor they use to move the logs they cut to size in their saw mill. Fixing their equipment and cutting logs are some of the many projects that encompass the work.

The men are there on West End Avenue, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., working on the boat and they encourage visitors as much as they welcome workers and donors.

Tiska said they are still looking for funding and volunteers willing to work. “Anyone is welcome. They don’t need any special skills. We can match you to a job with those you have or we can teach what we have learned.”

Josh Hermann, the shipwright for the project comes in one day a week to keep them on track and well trained.

That Thursday Shephard was happy to point out the newly installed sheer strake, something like a wooden belt, to keep all the upright frames tied together from the bow to the stern. They prepared the long curving piece of lumber in their hot box. The wood was steam heated using a boiler fed with their lumber scraps to allow them to gently bend it to the needed shape. The piece was sealed in place with black tar, to keep the joining waterproof; then it was painted to keep from rotting; it was clamped in place and the hardware was installed, making the boat look more ship-like.

They also have the deck beams in place. You can actually walk along the deck now. All around the boat large sawhorses support boards that create a circular catwalk so that the men can work on whatever project they are doing on the outer hull.

“It’s going to start looking like a boat as soon as we get rid of those crossbeams,” said Tiska.

The entire boat was made of wood they milled themselves, so they make a lot of scrap wood and sawdust. The scrap wood went to feed the boiler of the steam box.  “Every few months, there’s a guy who comes down, who has cats and uses the sawdust as kitty litter,” said Tiska. It’s a green project.

The current work began in earnest, in November 2013, when they signed on shipwright Hermann who has all the needed experience to oversee the project, explained Tiska. If you would like to be involved they need people for lots of jobs including carpentry, communication, fundraising, public relations, historical documentation, education and their website. Jamie Deming has written several newsletters filled with great information on the people involved in the work.

If you are interested, there is an application to fill out, references are requested and the project manager must approve volunteers to operate the heavy equipment like hand power saws, band saw planer, jointer and the sawmill.

If all this intrigues you, why not give it a try.

“We have a job to match anyone’s skill and we’d like people to come down and visit us,” Tiska added. And if you like trains, you can see them too, passing by south of the building. The Western Waterfront has something for everyone.

When the project is completed in about three years, the ship will be available for marine education, fishing excursions, public tours of the harbor, dinner cruises and for private charters and corporate events. For more information please call 305-9204 or contact them at the Ida May Project, PO Box 386, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.