Dream boat makes a splash at sanctuary

ALPENA – The Heritage 23 vessel was installed in the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center on Thursday for public display. This boat was built by the Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing organization, after the classic regional style Mackinaw boat of the mid-1800’s. It took the builders around four months to complete the vessel with the rigging installed.

The Heritage 23 started as an idea in a coffee shop in Tawas between four friends, and is now the design vessel for the Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing organization. The group was looking for a way to emphasize the Blue Highway and the historic US-23 Heritage Route. Heritage builders said that Pat Labadie was instrumental in getting the design for the Mackinaw style of the Heritage 23 boat.

In order to build the boat, HCSR members had to send the idea to Scotland to first have a digital design made of the boat by Richard Pierce. Then they sent the digital design to a kit designer, Alec Jordan, of Fife, Scotland, and after the kit design was made, sent it back to the United States to a kit maker, Hewes and Company, of Maine.

Once the kit was made, the hands-on work began on the Heritage 23 in April of 2012. Dave Wentworth, Joe Czaika, Dave Gilles, and Leo Chartier took all of April, May, June and July to build the vessel and her rigging.

“The purpose of building the vessel was to preserve the historic regional design, and to facilitate modern techniques with traditional designs,” Dave Wentworth, one of the builders of the Heritage 23.

The organization is patterned after the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, which uses the St. Ayles Skiff as the design class for the regattas and events it conducts each year. In two years, 25 St. Ayles skiffs have been launched, with another 29 under construction. The sport is attracting participation from all ages, men and women alike.

Heritage Coast hopes to have similar events here and along the Lake Huron shoreline using the Heritage 23 as the design for the events. A few goals of the Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing organization are to increase friendly competition and break down barriers with other communities. They hope for future community benefits from the build such as teamwork, community support and a dedication and focus of interest for all members involved.

“A group in Marquette is currently building another vessel and there is already another build in Wisconsin,” Wentworth said. “We would like to see more of these under construction in all the surrounding areas.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.