‘Explorer’ makes successful maiden voyage

Strother Scott on Thursday October 5, 2006 06:05PM

By Larry Chowning "Copyright Southside Sentinel, used with permission." September 28, 2006

The Deltaville Maritime Museum kicked off its own 2007 Jamestown celebration Saturday with the christening and launching of a replica of John Smith’s Explorer at Deltaville Marina on Jackson Creek.

The launching is part of the 400-year celebration of the founding of Jamestown to be held in 2007.

In 1608 Captain Smith began exploring the Chesapeake Bay region in a vessel similar to Explorer. One of John Smith’s layover points was on “Stingray Isle,” which later became Stingray Point and part of Middlesex County.

From the writings of a doctor who went along on the expedition, the story of a stingray nearly killing Smith on “Stingray Isle” was saved to history. Last Saturday’s launching in Deltaville took place just a short distance from where Smith got stabbed by the stingray’s tail.

Jinks Holton, wife of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton, christened Explorer with a smash of a champagne bottle to the stem post of the bow of the vessel, as a crowd of over 200 people looked on.

Maritime Museum president Raynell Smith gave the history of Explorer in a welcoming speech.

“This is a very exciting day for the Deltaville Maritime Museum,” she said. “Last November we had little more than a dream and today, 10 months later, we have a beautiful boat.”

Smith explained that no one really knows what Captain Smith’s vessel looked like, but from study of similar boats of the times, boat designer Jim Thimsen and builder Stefan Auer brought to life what museum officials feel is a fairly representative example of what the Explorer might have looked like.

“There were no plans or pictures of John Smith’s barge, just a small thumbnail sketch,” said Smith. “In John Smith’s writings there were very few details about the boat.”

From his writings, the museum was able to determine the vessel was about two tons and approximately 30 feet in length. There is mention in the writings of a foremast from which museum officials concluded there were two masts and sails on the vessel. These are going to be added to the museum’s replica later.

“The Jamestown Settlement has set the mark for maritime reproductions with their three ships,” she said. “We hope our Explorer will further illuminate the small boat experiences of the first colonists.”

Smith thanked the community for the financial support given towards the project. She noted that Tim Blackwood and the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors donated $10,000 each. She also thanked Ken and Carolyn Schmalenberger of Norton Yacht Sales and EVB for their corporate sponsorships, and the Holtons for their donation of proceeds from the sale of the motor yacht Windsong.

Smith also thanked an anonymous donor for the contribution of $5,000 in honor of Norton Hurd and the late Captain Willis Wilson. She also thanked others who gave private donations.

Near the end of the festivities many visitors grabbed an oar and took a ride in Explorer.

Fishing Bay Yacht Club
Office Mail: Fishing Bay Yacht Club, 2711 Buford Road #309, Bon Air, 23235,
Clubhouse Address: 1525 Fishing Bay Road, Deltaville, VA 23043 (no mail delivery)

Phone Numbers: Club House 804-776-9636

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