Letters to the Editor

On the May 2017 Cover

John B. Bute, October 2017

To the editor:

I am charmed by the May 2017 cover photo, not least for its large content of historical information—truly a picture worth a thousand words.

I grew up racing sailboats on Galveston Bay in a youth sailing milieu that produced several Olympians and many national and international champions. I like old sailboats and know a little about them.

The photo is of a working vessel, middling tonnage, gaff-rigged schooner motor-sailing with the aid of its yawl boat. The vessel seems to have no auxiliary engine; it hoists aboard a yawl boat with a powerful engine on the very heavy duty davits that can be seen on the stern.

Yawl boats are also the ship’s lighter, used to ferry cargo and ship’s stores from shore while at anchor.

A US Ensign flies properly and classically from the leech of the main sail at the peak, just below the main gaff.

The vessel is a National Historic Landmark, the schooner Mercantile hailing out of Camden, Maine. It is operated in the tourist industry in waters near where its construction was completed in 1916. I believe it is unique in being the only US working vessel under sail in continuous commercial use since launched, first in the coasting cargo trade and then as one of the first tourist sailing vessels.

John B. Bute
Austin, Texas


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