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Designing the Super Gundalow

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This was truly maritime history come alive. Modern viewers saw first hand what was once a common sight along the Piscataqua—a ship taking to the sea. The crowd roared its approval when, after a last tug, the first gundalow successfully launched in a century slid down the embankment toward the river. The crowd groaned in unison at the crunching sound of wood against wood as the heavy ship veered suddenly, crashed into the pier. and ripped out one of its sturdy pilings, then settled back peacefully in the waves.

A quarter century later, the Captain Edward H. Adams still plies the waters, but this authentic reconstruction was not designed to sail free. The original plan was to use the vessel as a floating maritime museum. It was to remain tied up to the dock across from Strawbery Banke where it was built. In recent years, the Gundalow Company, formed as a separate nonprofit agency, has been towing the Captain Edward Adams from town to town, reaching more than 10,000 visitors and school children annually. Those valuable programs will continue aboard the Captain Adams that has been towed each year along Mother Nature’s highway from Portsmouth to Newington, Durham, Stratham, Newmarket, Exeter, Dover, Kittery, York, and South Berwick.

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But times aren’t what they used to be. To bring passengers aboard a floating gundalow, Coast Guard regulations mandate a host of safety regulations and an onboard engine. The new gundalow, like modern reconstruction’s of historic tall ships, will be adapted to meet those Coast Guard rules.

As last week’s tall ship visit proves, people love sailing ships. Thousands of visitors fought the traffic and walked a good country mile to tour aboard the Pride of Baltimore, The Prince William and the Spirit of Bermuda. But with the exception of these rare visits, Portsmouth’s memory of the Age of Sail is fading. Unlike many of its sister seaports from Providence to Plymouth and Boston to Salem, Portsmouth has no tall ship of its own. Well publicized attempts to reconstruct the Raleigh (seen on the NH state seal) and the Ranger (made famous by John Paul Jones) and other historic ships have, so far, failed. The cost is high, many millions of dollars, but the return is great.

Right now, Portsmouth has the Captain Edward Adams, and soon, a second flat-bottomed sailing vessel that will go boldly where no gundalow has gone before. The more historic sailing ships we see along the Piscataqua, the more the memory survives. And by keeping a close eye on our rivers, this little ship will help keep our Seacoast ecosystem alive and well.

FOR MORE information and to support this project visitthe Gundalow Company web site.  Quotation from The Piscataqua Gundalow by Richard Winslow III, recently published in paperback by Peter E. Randall.

Copyright © 2007 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved. Robinson is the editor and owner of the popular regional web site SeacoastNh.com.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017 
 
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