In summer, The Village Community Boat House offers free rowing from Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Come winter the boathouse stays open so that its skilled boatbuilders can teach the craft to others, (also for free). This year the builders realized that they needed to make more room in the boathouse before they could build another boat. So they decided to donate a vessel to some worthy seafarers.
The gift boat, a Whitehall Gig, is a model of the traditional four-oared 19th century boat used to ferry ship captains from their moorings over to the Whitehall Street pier. Boats from the Village Community Boat House are so esteemed in the rowing world that the chosen recipient, Station Maine, sent the town’s mayor to receive the gift.
On Sunday December 19, Mayor Ed Glaser of Rockland took possession in an informal riverside ceremony. Members of the Village Community Boathouse gave the Gig a fresh coat of paint — black and white with a yellow racing stripe —and a champagne sendoff. But the crowd wasn’t in an entirely celebratory mood.
“We’re like a family that has to give away a beloved pet,” said boathouse President Sally Curtis. “We wanted to be sure it would be well cared for and used to help folks, especially young people, get out on the water.”
Lorne Swarthart, head of the boat-building program, was pleased that the boat he’d been rowing and repainting for 20 years would go to Station Maine. The nonprofit club has an innovative and entirely free youth seamanship program.
When Mayor Ed Glaser arrived with his borrowed boat trailer, VCB founding member Ruth Lindner was glad to see that “Mayor Ed knows his way around a boat house.” In a speech, Glaser said that before becoming Rockland’s mayor he’d been its Harbormaster for 13 years. “I’ve done enough amateur boat building in my life to appreciate professional craftsmanship like this.”
Then he hitched the 25-foot boat to his truck and headed north. If you’re in Maine this summer keep an eye out for a 19th century Hudson River Gig in Rockland’s 21st century harbor.