Tall ship built in Marin County getting 1st taste of saltwater

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ByEric Thomas KGO logo
Friday, March 31, 2017
The Matthew Turner tall ship is seen in this undated image.
The Matthew Turner tall ship is seen in this undated image.

SAUSALITO, Calif. (KGO) -- The first tall ship built in Marin County in more than century will get its first taste of saltwater Saturday.

Volunteers - many of them retirees - did most of the work, but one day kids will benefit.

The short trip from a construction tent to a boat ramp where she will be launched Saturday is one of the smaller trips the big ship will take in the future.

"When I walked through that tent, I said the same thing everybody else did - wow," volunteer Dan Higgins said.

Higgins is one of dozens of volunteers who have spent the last four years building the Matthew Turner ship.

They used timber cut down in Mendocino County that was shaved into planks and steamed for three hours so that they can be molded into place.

"It's very intricate, a lot of bending, laminating and cussing," volunteer Franz said.

The price tag for the ship was $6.5 million, which is less than half the cost of buying one that's already been built.

"We felt by building a boat we would be building a community," volunteer Alan told ABC7.

Kids will be the ultimate beneficiary. When the turner is finally ready to set sail, organizers hope to take 15,000 young people per year out on the water and get them closer to nature.

"When they go out aboard a ship, what they do matters and they have to look after the ship, their crew and themselves," Alan said.

Higgins is a veteran boat builder who splits time between Alaska and the Bay Area, but he says every volunteer starts the same, regardless of experience. "Everyone who walks in the door starts with the same thing: a broom. Sweep the floor and as you meet the shipwrights and tell them your expertise, then they mold you into that department," Higgins said.

But, moving the ship doesn't mean they're even close to being done. The mast must still be attached and the electronics put in place. They hope to be finished by late summer or early fall.

Click here for more information, and to help with the project.