GTPulse: 40-Year-Old Local Boat Comes Out Of Retirement
There are many different types of ships and boats that line the Traverse bay. Visitors and residents alike are fortunate to have so many options for taking a relaxing sail on beautiful Lake Michigan. As fall approaches, opportunity to sail will start to dwindle when temperatures drop so now is a great time to be out on the water. If you’re looking to go out for the first time, or have a unique sailing experience Maritime Heritage Alliance is debuting a not so new way to sail; they are preparing their oldest boat to get back out on the water.
Heather Jenkens, head of the small boat committee at Maritime Heritage Alliance has worked there for 15 years and told me a bit about Gracie. She is Maritime’s oldest boat. She’s about 40 years old and is named after the daughter of the Maritime vice president.
“She’s named after Rich Brauer’s daughter who used to bring them cookies to their work site. She was the absolute first.” Heather said.
Gracie hasn’t sailed in nine years, instead she has been living a relaxed, retired lifestyle consisting of staying home and making the occasional appearance in parades like the Heritage Parade as well as the Log Cabin Days in Old Mission. Gracie is a Mackinaw boat, which were used mainly in the 1800s to transport fur between Canada and the Great Lakes. Gracie’s retirement coming out was sparked by Heritage Coast Sailing & Rowing inviting Gracie to a race, specifically a Mackinaw Boat Conference. The conference will be on a Saturday with the race following on Sunday. Heather couldn’t be more excited about the old gal getting a second wind.
“It’s all about Mackinaw boats and the history of the impact they had in Great Lakes fishing industry and what they were used for. So, it’s this big historical conference. She’s the oldest one that’s going to be there.”
When I arrived at Maritime Gracie was getting worked on. She will have a fresh coat of paint, light black, tan and gray colors before her first night in the water in a little over a week.
“We wanna actually have her launched within the next 10 days. We are doing a sail, paddle and row show next Saturday the 7th and I’m hoping she’s floating there by then right here, right across the street on the coal dock. I’m hoping we can get some people out on her.”
Not only is she getting a full body makeover, Gracie is also having oars handmade made for her. Oars are specific to each boat, size and scale are a factor so it’s important for them to be custom, especially since Gracie will be using oars to compete in the Mackinaw boat race.
“The thing about this race is that they don’t sail them, and Gracie has two masts. They won’t sail them, they’ll row them so part of the fun project is we’ve been building her oars from scratch. I had no idea how much work actually goes into them. I think we’re still on step 50 of an 80 step process.”
Beyond the race, Gracie will be up available to go out sailing to people who are interested. She will be docked in the coal dock with the rest of the Maritime fleet. Heather has never sailed Gracie in all her years working for Maritime, but that is going to soon change. When asked if she planned on sailing Gracie, Heather didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“Heck yeah. Absolutely. Instead of history sitting on a trailer I have generally always learned and preferred to learn by experiencing things. I wanna sail it I don’t wanna look at it. I think it’s a great way to expose people to more traditional sailing rigs from the Great Lakes. You don’t see it the same way at a parade.”
If you would like to sail on Gracie, contact Maritime Heritage Alliance or head over to the dock’s on Saturday September 7th. Maritime will be taking community members out to sail on a few of their fleet.