After seven years, a replica of the historic oyster dredge Ida May looks like a boat, albeit one without planking or a deck house. A nonprofit organization has been working to build a close copy of the Ida May, to ensure that the maritime heritage of Oyster Bay, Long Island, remains living history. Now, volunteers gather two days a week to work with shipwright Josh Herman and his assistants on the replica, which is about two-thirds done. It originally was scheduled to be completed by 2013, but needed more funding. A $125,000 state grant could allow for fulltime staff and launching as early as 2020, if volunteers can raise $100,000 to $150,000 to qualify.
“We’ve made steady progress; it’s just slow,” said Jack Hoyt, vice president of the nonprofit Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corp. The project got off to a quick start in 2011 thanks to a $125,000 donation from singer-songwriter Billy Joel, who worked on another oyster dredge in the harbor as a teenager. The Ida May Project so far has spent more than $500,000. Remaining work includes buying a diesel engine, shaping the mast and more. “The mechanicals have to go in, the pilothouse has to be built, and the deck and hull planking has to be completed,” Hoyt said.
The replica Ida May will be a foot wider than the original 45-foot-long, 15-½-foot-wide hull; will have a more rounded and larger profile below the waterline; and will ride higher in the water to be more stable and meet Coast Guard regulations for carrying 40 passengers. “We’re using 100-percent accurate traditional boatbuilding methods,” Herman said. “The differences are that there might be more power tools involved than when the boat was built in the 1920s, but the techniques are the same.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue.