ESSEX, Mass. — A small crowd was on hand, enjoying cookout fare and live music, for the rebirth of the Maria.
Volunteers pulled open the doors of Harold Burnham’s waterfront barn, greased the rails leading into the water, and helped Burnham guide the Maria into the Essex River.
Aboard for the ride was Alden Burnham, who has been learning the art of shipbuilding from his father, Harold, a master shipwright, since last September when the two received a traditional arts apprenticeship grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Alden is the 12th generation of Burnhams to carry on the shipbuilding tradition in Essex. His father is the 28th member of his extended family to run a shipyard since Essex became incorporated, the 11th generation to build wooden ships of sail at the end of Burnham Court along the Essex River.
As an introductory project, the father and son worked together on the Maria, a 22-foot friendship sloop built 47 years ago by Harold’s father, Charles, and named Maria after Harold’s mother. The Maria was the first boat built by Charles Burnham. It was built at Essex in 1970, launched in 1971 and sold to make money for Charles Burnham’s next boat project in 1972. The boat had been out of the water, drying and rotting, for years when the Burnhams bought it back.
Harold had given Alden pointers, but Alden did most of the work. Charles Burnham, now in his mid 70s, occasionally dropped in to see what his grandson was doing.
The launch took place during the 2017 Annual Festival in the Shipyard next door at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum.
For more information: The Gloucester Times, www.gloucestertimes.com