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Friendship Sloop provokes passion in owners

More than 20 of the lovingly restored vessels are expected at the Maine rendezvous, July 25-29


More than 20 of the lovingly restored vessels are expected at the Maine rendezvous, July 25-29

At the turn of the 20th century, Friendship Sloops — manned by fishermen hand lining for cod, mackereling, seining for herring and dropping lobster traps — dotted the waters off the coast of Maine. Barrels of fish, caught daily on these boats, were shipped to Boston to be sold in the city’s booming fresh fish market.

Today, having long been retired from their laborious days of fishing, Friendship Sloops are mostly used as pleasure boats. The boats are treasured by owners for their comfort, graceful lines and historic significance.

One group in particular that can’t get enough of these boats is the Friendship Sloop Society of Friendship, Maine. Its members are gearing up for the society’s 45th annual Homecoming Rendezvous and Regatta, to be held in Rockland, Maine, July 25 through 29.

“It’s a great chance for people to experience antique sailing vessels you used to see working along the coast of Maine,” says Miff Lauriat, a Friendship Sloop Society member. Lauriat owns a 25-foot Pemaquid named Salatia.

“You get to share stories, meet a great bunch of people and see some beautiful boats, too,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Some 20 to 30 sloops are expected to participate in the five-day homecoming and regatta. Friendly three- to 10-mile races will be held in Rockland Harbor from July 26 through the 28th. Awards will be handed out at an afternoon ceremony.

“Some of the boats that show up are nearly 100 years old,” Lauriat says. “Most of the fleet is 25 years or older. To see these boats and to see them race in the harbor really is a novel opportunity.”

Lauriat points out that there will be a number of interesting sloops at the event. One of his favorites is Chrissy, owned by Harold and Kim Burnham of Essex, Mass. Launched in 1912, she was constructed by noted Friendship Sloop builder Charles A. Morse.

“Looking at Chrissy is like stepping back to the 19th century,” Lauriat says. “She definitely wins the prize for the most authentic-looking Friendship Sloop.”

The celebration will include a 25-mile sail from Rockland to Friendship for the annual Friendship Day. This is a “low-key” event, according to Lauriat, that includes numerous onshore activities and, weather permitting, a parade of the sloops through the harbor.

In the late 1800s, with Boston’s fish market rapidly expanding, Maine’s fishermen needed large, deep boats to keep up with demand. The result was the Friendship Sloop, made primarily in the town of Friendship.

According to a report written by society historian Betty Roberts, original builders constructed these sloops varying in length from 21 to 50 feet. Their masts were stepped far forward so they could be handled with the mainsail alone for hauling lobster traps. Standards called for the beam to equal one-third the overall length, and the length of the mast to equal the length overall plus half the draft.

Use of the Friendship Sloop as a fishing boat ended in the early 1900s with the increased practicality of motorboats. By the 1920s yachtsmen began purchasing Friendship Sloops for recreational purposes.

The Friendship Sloop Society, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1961 to encourage the building and sailing of Friendship Sloops, and to provide a medium for boat owners to meet and enjoy their boats.

“These are floating, active museums,” Lauriat says of the sloops. “Everyone who owns a Friendship Sloop is a curator, responsible for keeping this passion, our passion, going.”

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