Guild President’s Newsletter – February 2015

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Letter from Guild President, Al Ponessa to the Guild:

A lot is going on these days getting ready for a forthcoming Gazela and Poplar dry-docking which is scheduled for April. We will be using a dry-dock at Rhoads, Inc. in Philadelphia. A few of us met with Rhoads in January and have had several calls with them since to discuss the scope of work. We have also engaged a ‘Project Manager’ to help us get ready. Patrick Flynn will be the ‘lead shipwright’ for the work. Other positions will be filled over the next several weeks. The date has slipped a couple of weeks from April 1 due to some emergent repairs to the road in the vicinity of the dry-dock. As soon as a contract is signed with the actual dates I will let you know. We anticipate about 4 weeks in the dock.

During the dry-docking there will be opportunities for a limited number of volunteers to work on both Gazela and Poplar. Dry-dock safety precautions will have to be followed of course, but Rhoads is open to us using volunteers to supplement their workforce and other hired shipwrights. A fundraising event is also being planned while we are docked. As we progress, necessary information will be shared with all hands.

Several of us had the opportunity to attend the Tall Ships America conference held in Philadelphia on February 4th through 6th.   It was an exciting event and I learned a lot since it was my first conference. We made good contacts with not only other tall ship sailors, but also with key industry and Coast Guard people. They were uniformly impressed with Gazela and our plans for her.  The editor of Marlinspike Magazine, was interested in publishing a story about our forthcoming dry-docking. Thanks to Lisa Kolibabek for suggesting this great opportunity.

Several board members and Marine Committee members had the opportunity to meet with our insurance agent at the conference. To address some of the underwriter’s concerns, we presented the short term plans for Gazela and Poplar as well as a vision for future maintenance. The agent appreciated that we took the time to explain our situation.  Just about a week ago he informed us that our underwriter would renew our insurance but with some restrictions based on the most recent survey (commissioned by the underwriter in late November). Those restrictions, unfortunately, prevent us from sailing this summer.

Based on what we find in the dry-dock and on pulling the masts for some much needed maintenance, we should be in a position to ask for some of the restrictions to be lifted for next year. I know this is not good news but, as I have said many times, ships (all ships) need routine maintenance including periodic dry-docking. A good preventive maintenance schedule is not only good practice but mandatory to keep things ‘ship shape’ (and to remain insurable).

Although Tall Ships events in Norfolk, Cape Charles and Greenport, NY are out, we have been in discussions with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to see how both Gazela and Jupiter could participate in and benefit from Spruce Street Harbor Park (SSHP) events this summer. As some of you know, the Jupiter Steering Committee is applying for a Certificate of Inspection for Jupiter (well done to Mike Matulewicz and the Jupiter volunteers for moving this along). I think both ships can benefit enormously this summer not only during the Tall Ships events in Philadelphia and Camden at the end of June, but also with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Penn’s Landing expected again during the summer at SSHP.

Finally, I hope to see many of you at our annual dinner this Friday. It is always a fun event and a great opportunity meet and socialize with shipmates. Please try to attend.

Thanks for all you do and fair winds, Al Ponessa