A tall ship that's no tall tale: brigantine Matthew Turner unveiled

- An almost $6.5 million, volunteer boat building project came out of its giant building tent into the light of day. We went to Sausalito for the unveiling of the brigantine Matthew Turner. She harkens back to another era, but she will soon be one of the crown jewels of the Bay.

At a length of 131 feet and weighing in at 175 tons, the handmade, twin masted tallship Matthew Turner, sure doesn't look like the newest ship on the Bay, but tomorrow it will be.

It is named after the longtime builder of tall ships, who built 228 ships in Mission Bay and Benicia in the 1800s and early 1900s, when such ships ruled the waves. "He built the first ships for the Matson Line, brigantines, just like this is. He built them for C&H Sugar and Spreckles," said Alan Olson, Matthew Turner Project Director.

The idea for the ship came thirty years ago The design process and fund raising began 15 years ago. Construction, almost all of it, by hundreds of dedicated volunteers, took four years. She'll be put in the water tomorrow where, in the next two months, her masts, rigging and sails will be installed.

"For education, primarily for youth, youth of all ages and of all backgrounds, although we do have adult programs also," said project director Olson. "That's a good idea. I don't know if kids these day really understand sailing ships, but I like the concept," said Patrick Sinnott who walked his dog to the site to watch the ship emerge from it's construction tent.

Volunteer shipbuilders are in awe of those who built the original Turner sailing ships. "Tough as nails.  I can't imagine, I can't imagine doing this without modern equipment. I think it's baffling to think about doing this work without power tools," said volunteer shipbuilder Jessie Mann. "None of us working on it have ever done anything like this. We've done boats on a smaller scale. but nothing this epic," said volunteer shipbuilder Dan Higgins.

Hundreds of spectators came today just to see it towed a few hundred feet to where it will be put into the water tomorrow. "It means so much to the whole community and it's good for the entire Bay Area," said spectator Barbara Rich.

"See the ship going down this narrow road here.  Partly just to see how they're gonna do it because it's an amazing engineering feat," said spectator Julie Ansell, whose brother is a volunteer.

The Matthew Turner is already scheduled to sail to Mexico in December and later in trans-ocean Pacific Cup Race. She might even be on the Bay, in full regalia, for Fleet Week in October.


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