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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Anne of Mystic
130 Year Old On First Trip South
April 8, 2015

F
ans of boats travel to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut to see the large wooden boats from earlier centuries. For one weekend in March, visitors to Oriental’s Town Dock got a similar taste in the form of a boat from Mystic. anne
Anne at Oriental’s Town Dock in late March.

Anne, a 130 year old working boat that used to carry tons of oysters on Long Island Sound came to Oriental bearing stories. These were happily shared by her owner, Geoffrey Jones, who like the boat, hails from Mystic and was on his way home after taking Anne as far south as Key West this winter.. He’d pulled Anne in to a slip at the Town Dock one Saturday in late March and within a few hours, had welcomed several dozen people aboard.

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Oriental’s harbor as seen from the wheelhouse of Anne.

Anne’s a story he clearly liked to tell. Starting with the fact that her name carries two syllables — it’s pronounced ‘“Annie” and Jones says there are more than two for that. She started life as a gaff-rigged center-board sailing sloop, then a decade later took on an engine, likely powered by coal and steam, then in 1905 it was converted to gas engines and then diesel. A John Deere engine occupies a space under the table in the cabin.

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The John Deere engine beneath the table in Anne’s cabin.

Geoffrey Jones says the boat was built to settle a tab. In the 1880’s a grocer in Smithton, Long Island had customers who were in arrears on their grocery bills. With good roads lacking, he also needed a boat to carry goods to his store. Jones says the grocer figured those who owed him could pay off their debt by building him a boat.

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Geoff Jones in the cabin of Anne, the boat he and his father restored. Above in the wheelhouse is Reef, his Golden Retriever who’s travelled south to Key West this winter and is now heading north to home, in Mystic Connecticut.

The construction would be done on the sly as they wereusing wood from a forest owned by a wealthy seasonal visitor, on the thinking he’d be out of town during the construction. But with work underway, word came that the landowner was coming from New York City to his country place. which meant the workers had to hide their incomplete hull and wait for his departure. The boat builders covered the partially built boat with foliage in the woods, (Geoff Jones says this had the benefit of the wood not drying out in the sun.) They finished the job in the fall when, with the landowner back in the city, they could once again work in the open. Anne was launched in 1884, and has spanned the sail, steam, gas and diesel eras.

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Flags flying on Anne reflected in the waters of Oriental’s harbor in late March. The flags spell out her name and 1884, the year she was built in Smithtown, NY to settle some grocery tabs.

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She is a shoal draft — drawing just 3-1/2 – able to get in and out of the shallower waters off of LI and CT. (Sometimes, says Geoff Jones, she’d go up to docks, other times get intentionally beached on a falling tide, during which wagons would bring goods out to be loaded.) For much of the 20th century, she was one of the work boats owned by the the family of Lawrence Malloy.

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Photos of Anne in earlier times. They appear in the book, ‘Working Thin Waters” written by Geoff Jones’ father, Stephen Jones.

Geoff Jones says he’s known Anne all of his life, as his family were friends of the Malloys. His father, Stephen Jones, a nautical writer and owner of West Mystic Wooden Boat Company, chronicled Lawrence Malloy’s livelihood in his 2001 book, “Working Thin Waters,” named for the waters traversed by Anne and other boats of her kind.

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Vantage of the harbor from the port side door to the wheelhouse.
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Geoff Jones on deck Anne..

A dozen years ago, Stephen Jones bought Anne and the boat became a father-and-son project. That meant a new engine, electrical system, plumbing, and working over the wheelhouse, the 3rd in the vessel’s history. The current one is a replica of Anne’s first — quite different from one era’s wheelhouse that, he says, looked more like a chicken coop.

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The wheelhouse of Anne, looking aft

Her striking form goes a long way. Geoff Jones says there’s limited varnish on the exterior – one hatch way. The rest of the exterior is stoutly functional. Capping the rails is angelique, a hard wood that can take a knock. (In answer to a question about the angelique, it was alternatively described by Jones as a “pesky rain forest” wood.)

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The galley in Anne’s cabin.

She is still, 130 years later, occasionally a working boat. Just before leaving Mystic in November, Geoff Jones says, an issue arose at a Mystic Town Board meeting of a fishing boat that broke free. Anne took on the job of towing it to a “scrap heap” says Jones. (And on his trip, Jones says he’s towed two boats to land.)

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When at home, Anne is tied up in downtown Mystic — 500 feet north of the bridge and 900 feet from the Mystic Seaport. Even there, in a town with the Seaport and its classic boats, Jones says Anne “gets a lot of attention” with passersby stopping to take a closer,look and ask questions about her.

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A beefy water pump in the galley.

Oriental’s harbor watchers aren’t shy about asking questions of visiting boat captains either, though some visiting boat captains have expressed peevishness at the enthusiasm for and questions about their character boats, Jones was not in that camp.

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Some details about Anne

To answer the basic questions, he had a small sign made to sketch out some of the boat’s story and stats — such as her 48 foot length and 16 foot beam. The sign was propped against the wheelhouse. Beyond that, he welcomed visitors aboard Anne’s decks that used to haul so much — as much as 12 tons. He genuinely liked to talk with visitors at the dock.

“Don’t bring something like this and not answer people’s questions. If you’re not up for that….” says Jones, “Anchor out. Or get a Tartan.”

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Within an hour of Anne’s arrival at Oriental’s Town Dock, she was attracting passersby who wanted a closer look.

For all her years, and all of her cargo hauls, Anne had never been south of New Jersey. That changed half a year ago, when Geoff Jones decided he wanted to go away for the winter – a timely choice as Connecticut was hammered by snow and cold.

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Geoff Jones says that before he left Mystic in November he knew there were some towns he definitely wanted to visit. Oriental was one of them. Jones and his dog, Reef ,briefly stayed in Oriental in the fall and more recently in the spring when boat and crew stayed two nights at the

He himself – sans Anne – had made boat deliveries between Beaufort and Norfolk over the years and wanted to do the whole of the ICW and see towns on the way. It was also a chance to spend time on the boat he and his father had worked on. He set out on November 4 and headed south. The destination was not necessarily one to find by compass.

“I say that I arrived at my destination when I stepped on board Anne on November 4. Everything else was incidental.”

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Anne (pronounced Annie) at Oriental’s Town Dock in March. She was on her way back home to Mystic, CT. .

One can appreciate how, after the years of work, being aboard Anne — purposeful, yet cheerful in her steadiness — seemed satisfaction enough. The wheelhouse and its light varnish is open and airy, and the cabin below, where the engine hides under the table, light in its way too. The boat seems well-loved.

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Tea kettle storage.

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In the wheelhouse, a photo shows Anne laden with oysters. She could carry 12 tons.

Geoff Jones says, it just turned out that the southernmost point, the ending point in his trek would be Key West (his take: a “perpetual frat party.”) He toyed with venturing further to the Dry Tortugas but the open waters of the Gulf and the shallow-keeled Anne seemed an unsteady mix. “This is more of an inland boat,” he says.

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From his perch on the wheelhouse floor, Reef, takes five from the action of barking greetings.
After less than a week in Key West, he pointed Anne north and to what he says he had more interest in seeing – some of the towns along the ICW.

On this, Anne’s most extensive trip , she did get tested. Jones said he and the boat got “beaten up crossing Port Royal Sound” in South Carolina Winds of 25-30 knots were throwing “solid green spray over the top of the wheelhouse,” he says. The salt was “good for the wood” on his boat, he notes, “but not for the metal bits.”

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Forward deck on Anne.

On the whole he says, Anne handled well. Despite displacing 16 tons over her 48 foot length, Jones could coax 6 knots out of a gallon of gas, so long as he kept the speed to that. (It drank 10 gallons per hour if he pushed it to 10 knots.) The trick was not to go so fast as to throw a wake, which Jones defines as “the measurement of the ineffectiveness of your propulsion system.”

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Sink in the wheelhouse.

At the beginning of the trip, Geoff Jones was accompanied by a friend who brought along a motorcycle and side car. (The wide deck accommodated it easily..) But they were off the boat after meeting an old girlfriend in Maryland. For the rest of the trip it’s been just Geoff and his Golden Retriever, Reef. Man and dog had stopped in Oriental on their way down the ICW. He said it was one of the towns he decided to see even before leaving Mystic because he’d heard of the place and a while back known some people from town. In that fall visit, he stayed at the Oriental Marina.

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Lever in the wheelhouse.

On the way north this spring, he decided to return, even though on that day he says he “could have gone another 6 hours” and made some headway up the waterway. On this his second visit, he scored a slip at the Town Dock.

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Anne’s starboard bow, at Oriental’s Town Dock.

While there though, Geoff Jones kept tabs on the clock and the 48 hour free stay at the Hodges Street dock. When it was suggested to him that he might be able to stay for a third night, given there didn’t seem to be any waiting boats in the harbor, Jones said he couldn’t do that. He said he’d heard the same line in the fall. Back then, the words were spoken by a boater who was overstaying at a slip at the Town Dock, while Jones was in fact waiting at the Marina for a space to open up.

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Geoff Jones on board his 131 year old boat, Anne, at Oriental’s Town Dock.

So despite the seemingly empty harbor and no demand for his slip, he wouldn’t stay a third night at the free dock. “I just don’t want,” he says, “to be that guy.”

His third night in Oriental, he paid for a slip at the Oriental Marina. The next day, boat and crew pointed north on their ramble. He figured there would be a dozen days of travel, though most likely not straight through. At the end of the trek, once back in Mystic, Geoffrey Jones says, Anne would go back in to literally being a work boat— as Jones does maintenance work on moorings his family owns in the waters off Mystic.

He says he’d like to take Anne on another ICW trip some other winter.

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Shells in the wheelhouse.
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Anne, in an earlier depiction.
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Windlass at Anne’s bow, worthy of a working boat.
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Geoff Jones in Anne’s cabin with Reef in the upper left opening to the wheelhouse. On the table (which covers the diesel engine) is a copy of ‘Working Thin Waters’ about Anne’s previous owner. It was written by Stephen Jones, Geoff’s father with whom he worked to restore Anne.

Posted Wednesday April 8, 2015 by Melinda Penkava


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