NORWALK, Conn. – Shenton King remembers summer days sailing on The Hope out of Norwalk Harbor. Now he’s taken control of the 65-year-old boat in order to preserve it for future sailors.
“She represents a time in history that is soon being forgotten, where people made things by hand and tool, rather than clicking a mouse to receive something made in China a week later,” King said.
The Hope is the last sail-powered oyster fishing boat on Long Island Sound, dating back to the 1940s. Greenwich oysterman Stanley Chard and his nephews built the boat, supposedly using a piece of a tree felled by a hurricane for the keel. The boat set sail in 1948, with the name “Hope” made as a statement on the flagging shellfishing industry in the area at the time.
After he retired, Chard used the boat for personal trips before selling it to the Spratt family in 1971. Spratt used it for his own trips until turning it over to the Norwalk Seaport Association in 1981. King’s father led the Seaport Association at the time, and he fondly remembers trips out on the sloop as a kid.
“Children need to know that people like the Chard family of oystermen – who built this boat by hand – were able to because they were skilled in the art of boat-building,” King said.
The Seaport Association donated The Hope to the Maritime Aquarium after its opening in 1988. Since then the vessel has mostly been a historical artifact outside the aquarium. The Norwalk Seaport Association once again took ownership of the boat in anticipation of King’s restoration.
“We know that The Hope is in truly good hands and look forward to seeing her sailing for years to come out on the Sound,” said Jennifer Herring, president of The Maritime Aquarium.
King, along with King Industries Inc., the Norm Bloom & Son Oyster Co. and shipwright Joshua Herman of Long Island, will overhaul the boat over the next year, restoring its decking and mast. King hopes to have the boat back in the water next summer and to display it periodically for the public.
“Restoring Hope is, in a sense, restoring the knowledge in today’s children that people must be skilled and work hard to provide for their family and community,” King says. “For me, it’s really a mission of education and respect of a time past.”