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Plan to build dredge replica back on course

Andrew Nencheck of Maine carries a completed frame

Andrew Nencheck of Maine carries a completed frame toward the front of the ship with fellow worker Levi Johnston of Chicago during work on the building of a replica of a 1925 Oyster Bay oyster dredge. (Dec. 19, 2011) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

A project to build a replica of a historic Oyster Bay dredge, which ran aground more than a year ago when its money was exhausted, is afloat again.

Work on a reproduction of the 1925 Oyster Bay shellfish dredge Ida May is resuming now that the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation has raised $150,000, said its president, former town harbormaster Clint Smith.

The money will be used to pay shipwright, or marine carpenter, Josh Herman and for materials. Smith, of Massapequa, said the group signed a contract this week with Herman, who will work one day a week for three years to direct a corps of volunteers who should be able to bring the vessel close to completion in that time.

Construction began in a shed on the southwestern shore of Oyster Bay two years ago with an initial $125,000 donation from singer-songwriter Billy Joel, who worked on an oyster dredge as a teenager.

The original Ida May was built by Frank M. Flower & Sons. The dredge, one of the first with an engine, was retired in 2003 to await restoration as a museum vessel but deteriorated so badly that it was broken up two years ago.

The group that a dozen years ago restored the Christeen, a sail-powered Oyster Bay shellfish dredging craft, decided to build an Ida May replica. The original was 45 feet long and 15 1/2 feet wide. The replica will be a foot wider to meet standards for carrying passengers.

Additional funds must still be raised to complete and outfit the boat, Smith said. But he added that "we're going to build that boat come hell or high water."

When the replica is completed, the organization plans to turn it over to the WaterFront Center for environmental education and fishing trips.

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