By Mac Cerullo
---- — 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.
Next spring, the whaleboat will be sailed down to the Mystic Seaport to be placed aboard the Charles W. Morgan, which is in the midst of a massive renovation to prepare for its 38th voyage. It is one of nine whaleboats that will accompany the ship.
First built in 1841 in New Bedford, the Charles W. Morgan made 37 voyages before it was retired in 1921. When the ship’s renovation is complete, it is expected to embark on a six-week journey to some of New England’s most historic ports, including New London, Conn., Newport, R.I., Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown and Boston.
Upon its return, both the Charles W. Morgan and the replica whaleboats will be placed on exhibit in the Mystic Seaport.
This weekend’s ceremony will include a preview for donors at 11:30 a.m. and a reception for donors and members at 12:30 p.m. Bates said the public is invited to hear the opening remarks and view the launch itself, which will coincide with the 1 p.m. high tide.
Bates also thanked the donors who helped make the project possible, including the Peter R. and Cynthia K. Kellogg Foundation, the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, the H. Patterson Hale, Jr. Foundation, the Provident Community Foundation and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation.