This afternoon, JP Vellotti — who spent the last year desperately trying to save the Laurel, the last powered oyster dredge built in the 1800s still sailing — sent this sad email to “06880”:
I want to say thanks for all you have done. The last post gave a good push, but I ended up selling only 130 oyster knives — far short of the goal of 500. Almost half came from the Westport area, so kudos to those readers who supported the project!
Ironically, the ship’s graveyard turned me down as they felt Laurel was too old and too historic to sink there. I tried one last time at Mystic Seaport. They said no previously, as they no longer want any boat donations (and can barely afford what is in their collection).
This time, my pitch was just to tide her over for the winter under shrink wrap. Again, the answer was no.
As the director of Mystic Seaport told me, there just isn’t an interest in supporting maritime history anymore. And after their Charles Morgan project, they are financially tapped.
I think I tried every non-profit museum from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay. Two that had promise (and a Laurel connection) also fell through. South Street Seaport in NYC is actually liquidating its own vessels, and the Greenport Maritime Museum on Long Island didn’t have the wherewithal to fund or even raise funds for something like this.
So tomorrow (Saturday, November 16), at 7 a.m,, Laurel will be pulled ashore and broken up. The payloader is in place, as well as a tugboat to guide her in. This past week, as I prepped for the hopes of bringing her to a shipyard, I removed all her mechanicals, and the pilot house and cabin. She is just a bare hull now. She floats well, and does not leak a drop.
Two and a half years ago, I stepped in to prevent her from being crushed. In what has ultimately become a Greek tragedy, what I set out to prevent was inevitable. It turns out you can’t change the tides of fate, can you?
My sincere thanks again to you and your readers.