Ellida under sail. Courtesy photo.
Ellida: A Vintage Schooner Comes South By Matthew Cole
he first thing you notice as you take control is how light and agile the 85-year-old wooden helm feels in your grip. As she heads upwind, sheets and winches stand ready to carry her through the tack. With each of her sails smartly set, you ponder the physics of moving 39 tons of wood, iron, brass, lead, sails, rope and people so adroitly across the surface of the water. Looking forward along 65 feet of Oregon pine deck, you track a distant spot on the horizon with the bowsprit and find the Ellida simple to keep on course. This is what the schooner Ellida is designed to do,
instill all who sail on her with the ethereal experience of being under wind power. Driven not only by the wind, she moves under the force of human intellect. Fitted out with state-of-the-art 1920â€™s yacht technology, Ellida requires an adept crew to sail her. As she begins to make way, gently heeling onto a beam reach, the commonplace world of daily living falls a million nautical miles off the stern. Designed by renowned naval architect John Alden, she called the New England coast and Great Lakes home up until late 2006. Dr. Austen Riggs, a Massachusetts psychotherapist, ordered her construction, and the boat was launched in 1922 at the Charles Morse Boatyard, in Thomaston, ME. Nine years later, she was sailed to Marblehead, MA, where she remained under the ownership of Henry Lee Shattuck, a Boston attorney, for 22 years. During World War II, her nation called upon her to serve as a patrol vessel. Armed, perhaps, with only a radio, she may have called in the location of German U-boats sent to menace the North Atlantic. In 1953, the Ellida became the summer destination of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ballard. The Ballards spent their summers sailing the boat around Marblehead entertaining friends. In 1989, the Ellida changed hands and spent the next decade in Gloucester, ME, until Capt. Paul Williamson and his wife Kris purchased her in 1999. They brought her to Rockland, ME, where she served as a charter vessel. In 2006, Dr. Scott Geise and partner Keith Schneider fell in love with the Ellida and brought her to the Great Lakes where she continued to serve as a charter vessel. Curious about Southern waters, the partners decided to open the Ellida to new sailing grounds along Southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico with her homeport at St. Petersburg in Tampa Bay. With her course laid in, Ellida sailed to Lake Ontario where she began her journey with a trip through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Erie Canal. With a main mast reaching 78 1/2 feet, the Ellida would require demasting in order to make the trip through the Erie Canal system. On October 11, 2006, a crane gently lowered her masts from their seats and laid them gently along the deck, a snug fit as her overall length reaches 80 feet. At this early stage in the voyage, owner Keith Schneider, along with his son Nick and a few additional crew, hit their first major hurdle. The canal syswww.southwindsmagazine.com