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October 4, 2013

Smooth sailing ahead

Boat shop's whaleboat will be launched Sunday

AMESBURY — Lowell’s Boat Shop will launch its recently completed replica whaleboat on Sunday as part of a ceremony to celebrate the end of the long-running project.

The 28-foot, 19th-century replica whaleboat will be launched from the shop’s dock into the Merrimack River about 1 p.m., and then the boat builders and apprentices will row it up the river toward Alliance Park and back again.

Once the boat returns, it will be placed on display in the boat shop for educational purposes until the spring, when it is slated to sail down to Mystic, Conn., and accompany the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last extant whaling ship, on its first voyage in nearly 100 years.

Pam Bates, executive director of Lowell’s Boat Shop, said the whaleboat is the largest boat that has been built at the shop in a century, and she encouraged members of the community to come out and see it for themselves.

“There’s a donors and members reception at the boat shop, and the public is invited to view the launch from the parking lot and along Point Shore,” Bates said.

Work on the whaleboat began early last year, when Lowell’s Boat Shop first announced their goal to raise $100,000 for the project. Construction began in the fall of 2012, and work on the boat’s exterior was completed in May, shortly after the shop met its fundraising goal.

Boat shop manager Graham McKay led the construction effort along with boat builder Jeff Lane and their team of high school apprentices, and over the past four and a half months, the group focused on completing the boat’s interior and preparing it for its eventual journey.

Whaleboats — which are open boats propelled by oars — were carried by the larger whaleship and lowered to chase the whales when they were sighted, according to the boat shop’s website. They are built for speed and maneuverability, yet strong enough to stand up to the force of the whale being hunted.

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