Sea and Ships
Zepherine McLaren and ‘Mermaid’.
It seems appropriate that I should be writing this now as I just heard the other day that Zepherine McLaren passed away on Dec 29th 2009. This was incredibly sad news for all who knew him. He takes with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise about vernacular boat building techniques used in Carriacou. His vessels still sail the Caribbean and he has left many wonderful memories for those who knew him. He will be sadly missed.
The photos I have put up show the stages of construction in Zeph’s most famous sloop, ‘The Mermaid of Carriacou’. I reckon most people know the story of Linton Rigg’s inspired idea to build a sloop and set out a bet of $500EC to any locally built boat that could beat her. His intention was to revive the flagging boat building industry of Carriacou and that’s exactly what happened.
Zeph constructed a ‘sloop’ of stylish proportions and sleek lines. It took a number of years before anyone managed to build a boat to beat ‘Mermaid’ in the ‘large working boat’ class and by that time the industry had revived and Carriacou regatta had become a regular annual event.
Mermaid was purchased and restored by Capt John Smith in the 1970’s. She is still his permanent floating home and he and ‘Winger’(his dog) continue to brave wind and tide in the southern Caribbean. John is currently holed up in Punta de Toro in Panama. His latest expedition without engine or mechanical aids took him 22 days. During the voyage ‘Winger’ fell overboard and John had to launch the skiff to rescue him.
‘Mermaid’ is a testament to Zeph’s boat building skills and John’s determination to keep on sailing and keep ‘Mermaid’ afloat.
The following text appears on a plaque above the hatch on Mermaid:
‘God does not deduct from our allotted life-span, the time spent sailing.’