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Date of Issue: October 13, 2005

Cortez boats triumphant 'up north'

Cortez volunteers built their boats by hand from the keel up, took them north and whipped the competition at "the most prestigious event of its kind on the Atlantic Coast."

They represented - and very well, at that - the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum of Cortez and its traditional boat-building program. Some 20 volunteers from the program went to the big Chesapeake Bay event.

At least 250 traditionally hand-built wooden boats were in the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, said Roger Allen, director of the Cortez program and "skipper" of the delegation, if a group of such independent souls can accept a skipper.

The brand new Sallie Adams, christened and launched the day before the group left Cortez, won what Allen described as "the people's choice award" - best of show. And she also was judged third best in the traditional boat-building competition. The boat is a 21-foot spritsail-rigged Cortez skipjack. 

First place in traditional boat-building went to another of the Cortez entries, the Fair Hope wooden sloop built by Turner Matthews of Bradenton, who has been active in the Cortez museum's program since it began.

Bob Pitt, the museum's head boat-builder, and his Babe won the best restoration prize, which he shared with the many volunteers who worked with him restoring the Bahamas sloop. It is the kind used in the long-ago Spanish fishery on the West Coast of Florida.

In the traditional boat regatta associated with the small craft festival of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at St. Michaels, Md., the local delegation placed third with the 17-foot ketch Junie Jump Up, also built by Matthews and Pitt. 

On the way home from St. Michaels, Cortezians paused at Beaufort, N.C., for the United Sprits'l Skiff race off the south end of the Outer Banks. The Carolina contingent was able to enter only three skiffs, for the area had been ravaged by Hurricane Ophelia only a week before.

Cortez put two boats in the water, the Sallie Adams and the Skipjack, built by Jim Alderman of Snead Island Boat Works in Palmetto. Sallie's crew consisted of Allen Garner, president of the Cortez organization Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, along with volunteer Paul Thomas and Roger Allen.

They didn't feel too badly about not crossing the finish line first, for the winner was the sister skiff Skipjack, whose crew was builder Jim Alderman, his son Gary, and the museum's Bob Pitt.