On Saturday afternoon a crowd gathered at the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway. They had come to witness the launching of a 28-foot replica whaleboat which had been built at the shipyard as part of the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, the only remaining wooden whaling ship in the U.S. The crowd was not filled with mere bystanders, though. Muscle was needed.

“It takes a village to put one of these together,” said Nat Benjamin, one of the shipyard’s founders. “It looks like it’s going to take a whole city to launch it.”

At the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven, shipwrights have stepped back in regional maritime history. They are building a new 28-foot 19th-century whaleboat. The boat is one of nine being built across the country for the last remaining whale ship, the Charles W. Morgan, now undergoing restoration at Mystic Seaport. The work began a month ago. Nat Benjamin, the owner of Gannon and Benjamin boatyard, calls it a great honor to be a participant. The Charles W.


May 5, 1961 Vineyard Gazette headline

Anyone now living who can remember the great whaleboat races that were held off Oak Bluffs and at New Bedford during the eighteen seventies must have been a small child and must be an elderly person today. The participants have gone; the whaleboats have disappeared from these waters and, except for modern reproductions which are not exactly true to the old models, from all the waters of the earth; and the eyewitnesses of the races are a dwindling few.


The whaleboat in which Vineyarders out-pulled all others who met them here and elsewhere, has been presented to the Dukes County Historical Society by Captain Isaac Norton of Vineyard Haven, commander of the craft, George Smith of Oak Bluffs, the only surviving member of the crew, and Captain Norton’s nephews, Benjamin, Frank, Orrin and James Norton. The historic craft has been stored in the barn of Cyrus Norton, brother of Captain Isaac, for more than thirty years. It was last used in an historical pageant at Lake Tashmoo.


At various times in recent years the name of Captain Isaac C. Norton has figured in print. The captain is one of those remarkable characters who seldom do anything that is not worthy of passing mention.

Having arrived at the age of eighty-two-years, of which thirty or more are never guessed at, his trim six-foot figure with military shoulders and snow-white vandyke beard is a familiar sight in Vineyard Haven and causes no little comment whenever he is seen, even by those who have known him for a lifetime.


The annual Cottage City whaleboat race announced for Friday, but which was postponed on account of the high wind and the non-arrival of the New Bedford competitors, came off Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock. Four boats were entered, viz.: The Oak Bluffs, The Edgartown, and the Sixth Ward and Sixth Ward, Jr., of New Bedford. The course was three miles, the boats starting from the judges; boat off the south end of the plank walk and pulling alongshore passing the Oak Bluffs and Highland wharves, thence around the buoy off East Chop and return. In drawing for positions, Edgartown was No.