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Local boatyard doing international work

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The 114-foot sailing yacht “Ring Andersen” is having major repair work done to her hull at Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville.

by Larry S. Chowning

“Ring Andersen” is one of the great wooden tall ships left in the Chesapeake Bay region. She was built in 1948 at Ring Andersen Boatyard in Denmark as a Baltic sailing trader. She was used from 1948 to 1962 to transport wheat, sugar, flour and fish. Today, she is an upscale yacht.

The vessel is undergoing major refurbishing work at Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville. The 114-by-21-foot, two-masted sailing vessel is so heavy that she cracked several huge white oak railway beams at the railway. However, she is now resting easy on the rails and work started on her several months ago. 

Philippe Besnard of France owns the boat and is having the vessel refurbished for sailing. “She’s a great boat for ocean sailing,” said Besnard, a 54-year old retired engineer who lives in France. “I come over every two or three weeks from home to work on the interior of the boat.”

Besnard said he has worked all his life without taking many vacations. He now wants an extended vacation and sees Ring Andersen as a good project and a lot of fun in his retirement years.

Besnard has been a sailor most of his life.  He has four children and they also enjoy sailing. “We have something now on which everyone can be comfortable,” he said.

Construction on the vessel started in 1938, but it was not completed until after World War II. During the war, the unfinished hull was sunk in the harbor so the Germans would not get their hands on it. At that time, the vessel was being built for the owner of Ring Andersen Boatyard, but he died before it was completed.

The boat was converted to a yacht in 1962 and she had a $5 million refurbishing job in the 1980s. She was used in the charter cruising business in the Caribbean until 2001, and then she came to the Chesapeake Bay.

Ring Andersen was then donated to the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation in Norfolk. The non-profit group sold her to an individual and Besnard has been the third owner since the Heritage Foundation owned her.

Chesapeake Marine is currently installing white oak bottom planking and some frames on the port side of the vessel. The yard has crafted a new wooden rudder for the vessel. The yard crew is caulking seams and expects to use 200 pounds of oakum and a resin concoction to make her fit. 

Franklin and Charles Brooks of Mathews County are doing most of the woodwork.

The interior cabins are plush with rosewood paneling, and the forward mast is made of pine wood and weighs about 8 tons.

She has an impressive fantail stern.

Once refurbishing work is completed, Besnard plans to take Ring Andersen home to France.

Ring Andersen is a good example of the ability of Chesapeake Marine Railway to work in wood and carry on the longtime Deltaville boatbuilding tradition.

The current railway is where Price’s Railway was situated until 1935 when Price’s became Deagle and Son Marine Railway.  Ring Andersen is just one of many wooden sailing vessels that have been on the rails at that site.

posted 06.24.2009

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