Charlotte stands ready to begin her journey.
Nat Benjamin of the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard specializes in the design of beautiful wooden boats. Up until last fall all his designs were for someone else.
Charlotte, at 50 feet, is an imposing vessel.
That changed with the launching of the fifty-foot schooner Charlotte on Sept. 15, 2007. Under construction for 3 1/2 years and under his hat as a beautiful vision for more than 10, Benjamin's dream boat was launched on a chilly September afternoon before 300+ friends, neighbors and supporters who brought food, drink and applause to celebrate the event.
The launching was more that just a short ride down a railroad track into the Vineyard Haven Harbor waters. It was a communal festival in which everyone who attended realized they were witnessing, and a part of, something special.
The island's historian tells of the Vineyard's long maritime traditions.
Island resident Kate Taylor sang songs, the island's poet laureate recited verses written just for the ocassion, a historian put the launch in perspective with the island's maritime history, flowers and water were tossed at the bow and Nat's family happily climbed aboard for the ride down the track and into the harbor.
Nat places the flag.
The launch begins with TV crews recording.
Into the water!
Charlotte joined Benjamin's other masterpiece, Juno, which floated nearby.
At the conclusion of the day, Benjamin wondered aloud, "Yes, she's beautiful, but is she fast?" That was answered the following July when Charlotte, piloted by Benjamin and friends, won the 2008 Vineyard Cup.