The story of the design and construction of the schooner, Rebecca of Vineyard Haven, the largest wooden vessel to have been built on Martha’a Vineyard since the days of Abraham Lincoln.
At first glance, it would be easy to consider Schooner to be a “coffee table book.” In one sense, it works very well as one. The photography by Alison Shaw is stunning and the layout of the graphics and sidebar text is beautifully done. It is easy to pick up the book, flip through the pages and get lost in the vivid imagery and the succinct captions.
It would be a mistake if that is all you do, however. Tom Dunlop’s account of the birth of the shipyard, and the growth of Rebecca from an idea, to a sketch, to a design, and finally to a sailing schooner is fascinating. At the heart of the tale are Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon who began repairing wooden boats on the beach at Vineyard Haven and go on to found the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, where the Rebecca will be designed and built.
Dunlop follows the construction of the schooner one step at a time in language that is clear enough for the layman but still engaging for those who have spent a bit of time in boatyards. We follow along with the shaping of the angelique timbers, imported from the jungles of Suriname, for schooner’s keel; to the cutting of frames; the planking of the hull and the construction of the masts. We encounter a major fire at the shipyard, which misses the Rebecca, and the bankruptcy of the original owner of the schooner. Ultimately, the story told in Schooner has as much to do with those who built this beautiful schooner as it does the construction itself.