The schooner Sultana is a remarkable example of what can happen when a grand idea sparks the imagination of a group of exceptional people. The idea—building a reproduction of an eighteenth-century schooner to be a floating classroom on the Chesapeake Bay—originated with John Swain, and in the foreword to this book he sums up the many facets of a shipbuilding project that became the focus of community spirit. He invites readers to share in the experience, and share they will as the pages lead from impossible to absolute reality.
The book tells Sultana’s story through two perspectives. Lucian Niemeyer’s outstanding photographs provide an exciting visual presentation, tracing the entire process from cutting the lumber and laying the keel, to launch day and sailing the bay. Drew McMullen’s carefully crafted text guides the reader through the day-to-day progress, describing unique details as only an active participant could do—he was the project director. While both views chronicle the construction of the vessel, they cover far more than shipbuilding as they introduce the many shipwrights, craftspeople, and volunteers who dedicated time and effort to completing the schooner.
The historic Sultana was built in Boston in 1767 and purchased by the British Navy for use as a revenue schooner to patrol East Coast harbors. The story of the original vessel is told in chapters that alternate with the account of the new Sultana, which was built in Chestertown, Maryland, and launched in the spring of 2001.
The end product is a lasting legacy for the Chesapeake Bay region and beyond, a unique floating classroom. The diminutive schooner is used as an educational tool to allow visitors, especially young people, to understand their maritime past better, to experience the primitive conditions under which twenty-five crewmen lived for many months at sea, and marvel at the skills of the boatbuilders who made the modern Sultana possible.