The Brig Pilgrim

The Old and the New

It isn’t every day that two gentlemen walk into my office to order a replica of the hide brig Pilgrim, the ship in Richard Henry Dana’s classic book,

Two Years Before the Mast. But that’s what happened when, in June of 1972, Marion Barich and Paul Johnson of Salinas, California, appeared at my door.

They had heard of my experience in converting Danish Baltic schooners into yachts, museum ships and/ or waterfront village icons such as the Prince Louis (ex-Lilliabaelt), the Perseus, the Lene Marie and others.

As reputable designers and architects for the theme park and entertainment industry while also enjoying the “stigma” of being ship experts, my small firm in San Pedro,

 California, was, and is, fairly well known throughout the historic maritime community.

My dear and marine-literate wife Barbara and I took off for Denmark with a sea bag full of twenty-dollar bills to purchase a Baltic schooner of similar design to the original brig Pilgrim.

We went directly to the ex-schooner- then motor-sailer-Joa/ at Hadsund, Denmark.

A sturdy vessel of oak planks on oak frames, she would indeed be adaptable for the planned conversion.

The foal was a double-ender, bur with another three feet oflength, the repositioning of her stern post, and new cant frames aft, she would accommodate a transom or stern gallery.

Since Dana had not described the Pilgrim in any informative detail, neither I nor any historians ever knew if her stern gallery was penetrated with windows.

Knowing I was going to be the new Pilgrim’s captain on her eventual transAtlantic crossing and would be occupying the master’s cabin aft,

I took a designer’s prerogative and specified openable bur sea-tight muntined windows.

After thejoalwas finally purchased from her delightful owner, Captain Villadsen, I went to the American embassy in Copen hagen and acquired a certificate of American ownership,

thus allowing the US ensign to be flown from her stern.

Awaiting the results of my purchasi ng mission was a young protege sailor, artist and draftsman by the name of Steve Johnson whom I sent to Denmark with his companion,

Susan Morris, and the young son of a client and friend, Scott Morris.

The three were to make up a skeleton crew to live aboard and maintain the foal until I found a shipyard capable of doing the precise and meticulous conversion from my plans.

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