Modern Meets Antique in Greenport’s Maritime World

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A wooden boat constructed at Wooden Boatworks in Greenport. Peter Braune photo
A wooden boat constructed at Wooden Boatworks in Greenport. Peter Braune photo

By Gianna Volpe

While the annual fete is often about the boats lining Greenport’s docks, the 28th annual Maritime Festival this year will also be about the boats we build.

The kick off Land and Sea Gala on Friday, September 22, will be held at the Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding Co. on Carpenter Street, and will feature a workshop with boat builder Anders Langendal and his sons, Erik and Christian. One of the highlights of the festival once again will be the weekend’s classic boat exhibit in Mitchell Park on Saturday and Sunday, September 23 and 24.

This will be the last year the event will be run by Pat Mundus — whose own classic 57-foot East End charter yacht will appear among this year’s vessels — before the reigns are handed over to the Maritime Festival’s vice chairman, Dave Abatelli.

“I’ve been to every Maritime Festival since it began 28 years ago and the classic boat exhibit has become the single-most popular aspect of the festival,” said Abatelli, a former Greenport village administrator. “I’m really thankful to [Pat Mundus] for getting it going because we’ve always displayed a few boats, but we never really had the outreach she was able to get.”

This annual celebration of maritime history is one that may be attended by thousands, but Mundus — the daughter of legendary shark hunter Frank Mundus — notes the festival’s backbone is made up of those who currently work the North Fork waterfront.

“I’ve been running the classic boat show for seven years and the reason I do it is because I want spectators and people visiting Greenport to see that this is our new maritime tradition; That we don’t just have tee shirt shops and ice cream cone places,” said Mundus. She added while the lion’s share of new industry supports recreational boating either in building, storing or maintaining, custom boat work is also an important part of Greenport’s boating industries.

Anders Lagendal in his workshop. Gianna Volpe photo

“A lot of customers who can afford fine art — instead of buying paintings or architecture — are turning to wooden boats because it’s art and function made from materials that are dwindling on the planet and becoming more rare all the time,” she said.

Anders Lagendal successfully jump-started the market after he built the 30-and-a-half foot vessel Eighty Four a decade ago. He subsequently garnered a commission to build a second boat within two days of bringing the vessel — which sports hand-made hardware and materials like laminated ash, mahogany and teak — to the Shelter Island Yacht Club.

“He wasn’t even done with the rigging [when he received the first commission],” Anders’ eldest son, Erik Lagendal, said with a laugh. Five Lagendal-built gentlemen’s daysailers, inspired by naval architect and boat builder E.W. Etchell, may be found in Mitchell Park Marina during this year’s classic boat show.

“I’ll bring Eighty Four, I’ll bring The Atlantic and I might bring the Herreshoff and the Doughdish,” he said.

The job of maintaining, repairing and restoring boats is labor-intensive enough and the eldest Lagendal son said building one takes roughly 1,200 hours; but Maritime Festival attendees are able to instantaneously enjoy the finished fruits of the labor.

Mundus says September is the perfect time to flock to Greenport for gawking at gorgeous, classic wooden boats “because they come here in the fall for Greenporters to work on them, restore them and make them beautiful for the spring when they all go off to their owners, private docks or moorings elsewhere.”

But beware, the act of eyeing a particularly beautiful boat can be addictive, according to Ray Hartjen of the East End Classic Boat Society, which raffles a wooden boat each year that was hand-built on the East End.

“People — especially women — will come up to our boats, put their hands on it and massage it,” said the 86-year-old president of the club, which has been building boats on land leased from East Hampton Town for $1 for more than two decades. “They drool over them and think, ‘We want this’ and what it is they’re seeing is a hand-crafted boat that’s well-finished and hand-varnished.”

 

This year’s raffle vessel is a Sunshine Tender with a trim made almost entirely from wild cherry lumber that Hartjen had trucked in from Southern Maryland in the early 1980s.

According to Hartjen, the winning raffle ticket is drawn during a club party that occurs annually on the first Saturday in December. Last year’s winning ticket belonged to a local woman who lost her son to a heart attack years before. “When we pull the ticket, we rotate this drum and a young lad put his hand in and pulled her ticket — 7214 — which represented the date of her son’s death,” Hartjen said. “It was very uncanny; it’s one of those things that just takes your breath away.”

For the organizer of the Land and Sea Gala, Sarah Phillips of First and South, it is exactly these kinds of incredible connections — those that exist between people, communities, industries and even generations — that take her breath away when it comes to Greenport’s annual Maritime Festival.

“Collaboration both of past generations and traditions fused to today’s culture — the wooden boats, the ice boats, the knot tying — it’s all very ‘of the past’ but still desired tangibly by today’s sailor,” Phillips said of celebrating what was a major wooden boat-building mecca from the mid-1800s through World War II. “You have billionaires funding the remodeling of boats from the early 1900s and men and women dedicated to building them. It’s insane.”

But we’re talking about the best kind of insanity here. Wooden Boatworks’ Donn Constanza believes villagers’ ability to dream big and go bigger will be what makes the Greenport Maritime Festival home to a serious international classic regatta one day, an offer for which, he said, is “on the table.”

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