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Home at last, Margaret freed

Captain David “Bucko” Edwards has good reason to smile after his 108-year-old Herreshoff sailboat returned to the water May 8. The boat had been stranded on Plum Point in Bath since Hurricane Irene hit Aug. 27. (Submitted Photo)

It may have taken the better part of a year, but after facing down countless challenges from logistics, funding and even nature itself, on May 8, captain David “Bucko” Edwards finally rescued his beloved ship, the Margaret, from captivity on Plum Point.

During hurricane Irene, the 108-year-old Herreshoff sailboat broke its anchor chain in Bath Harbor and drifted over Plum Point. When the waters receded, it was left high and dry, about 40 feet away from the shore.

The struggle to get the Margaret off the point was complicated by the positioning of the ship, the depth of its keel, the shallowness of the water outside the channel and the hardness of the river’s bottom. On top of all this, there were funding obstacles to overcome and debates over how best to get the ship back in the water.

Edwards, 71, struggled to scrape together the money necessary to free the ship that has been his home, transportation and greatest passion for more than 40 years, but with lots of help, he was finally able to do it. He said that donations from friends, strangers and well-wishers of all sorts enabled him to finance the huge undertaking of rolling the 66-foot-long cutter-rigged sloop upright and dragging it more than 100 yards to deep-enough water.

Edwards said he is touched by the outpouring of love and support for him and his wife, as well as the Margaret.

“It’s had an affect on the way I think about the world. I’ve never been a person who was very optimistic about human nature,” Edwards said with tears in his eyes. “But having so much help from so many people I didn’t know — it had a big effect on me. …This is an altruistic place. There are a lot of good people here.”

Although Edwards said there are too many people who were instrumental in helping restore the ship to its rightful place in the water to thank, Toby Tetterton is the man who finally got it off and floating again. He said the aid of Paul Minor, the owner of the Bath Harbor Marina, was invaluable because he allowed the marina to serve as the base for all operations to rescue the ship. Clay Johnson set up the fundraising website, the Bath Historic Foundation helped make the donations tax-deductible and the Beaufort County Traditional Music Association held a benefit concert to raise money for the effort.

Edward said that Washington, Bath and people from all over Beaufort County joined together to help in too many ways to count.

Unfortunately, the Margaret did not escape its ordeal unscathed. While it was beached, it fell victim to vandals who stole her stanchions, turnbuckles, cleats and other brass parts to sell as scrap metal. These parts were the original 108-year-old pieces that had been on the ship since its construction by Nat Herreshoff in 1904. Vandals sawed off the steering wheel and tried to take the propeller.

“Those things were irreplaceable. It makes me sick to even think about it,” Edwards said.

On top of that, the ship spent about a month on its side in the shallows off Plum Point because of complications, which resulted in swelling and cracking of some parts of the ship that would normally be above the waterline. There are a host of cosmetic repairs to be made, and the stolen parts to be replaced. Also, the water that was inside the ship for that month ruined the engine, which will have to be replaced — an expensive ordeal.

“I pulled several fish out of her,” Edwards joked.

Although he tries to keep a light heart about the situation, Edwards knows that getting the Margaret in ship-shape again will be no laughing matter. Once again, he and his wife Sharon face enormous obstacles, both in terms of the mountain of work to be done and the heavy cost of the necessary repairs and restoration.

The good news is that they are no strangers to this kind of work. The Edwardses fully restored the ship to its original blueprints from 1985 to 1992, so they are certainly up to the task. Edwards said he expects the cost of the repairs to be “extensive” but won’t know the full extent for a while.

With the proper funds, hard work and a lot of luck, Edwards hopes to have the Margaret sailing around Bath and Washington again by the end of the summer. He said he owes that much to the community that has done so much to get her back in the water.

“I want to have her sailing here in not too long,” Edwards said with a smile, “so they can see what they helped me with and the noble thing they did.”

Parties interested in making a tax-deductible donation to help get the historic boat restored may donate by credit card at www.savethemargaret.com or mail a check to the Historic Bath Foundation, P.O. Box 238, Bath, NC 27808. Indicate that the donation is for the “Margaret” on the memo line.