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Date of Issue: September 22, 2005

Sallie Adams christening in Cortez

Sallie Adams is coming home to Cortez, where she spent her whole life, returning as a graceful boat, which surely would please her.

Sallie was the "first sweetheart of the first pioneer from Carteret County," the North Carolina home territory of so many of the founders of Cortez. They left a legacy of commercial fishing which has carried the historic fishing village to today.

Her husband was "Cap'n Billy," William Thomas Fulford, and she shared with him the ancestry of a whole crowd of Fulfords and other Cortezians.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, many of them will be around to honor her with the christening of the boat named for her and launching of the new boat built just like the ones Cap'n Billy and his confreres brought with them from North Carolina.

Sallie is described by one literary descendant, Doris Green in her "Fog's Comin' In," as a quiet, patient lady with long red hair who wore ankle-length dresses and was "Grandma" to hordes of village children.

Her namesake boat has just been finished, a "Cortez skipjack" built along the lines of those in the late 19th century in Carteret County. The building was a labor of love by handcrafting volunteers at the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum developed in Cortez.

It is a wooden craft 21 feet long, sprit-rigged, centerboarded, a vessel of grace and utility, points out Roger Allen, who developed the traditional boat-building program. Only the raw lumber that became the boat was handled by modern means. The rest is all handwork, with hand tools just like those of 1888 when Sallie Adams married Cap'n Billy.

Allen explained that the Cortez skipjack spritsail skiff is very different from the much larger Chesapeake Bay skipjack, adapted to needs of North Carolina and Gulf waters. A sprit sail, he noted, is "a specific shape of sail that is spread before the wind with the help of a sprit, a long stout pole that lifts the uppermost corner of the sail up and out."

A builder's launching Saturday did what such shakedown events are supposed to do - exposed a flaw that is being corrected right now: The mast was recycled, said Allen, donated from another boat. But while it looked fine and seemed sound, "it had a bad heart" and cracked.

Thursday, the day after the christening and launching, the Sallie Adams will be trailered to St. Michaels, Md., and compete with other boats built by hand with traditional methods. That's the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, where she will be judged.

Last year the museum's Bob Pitt took his restored Bahamas sloop, the Mighty Sparrow, to St. Michaels and was judged "best restoration." Allen, Pitt and other Cortez stalwarts will take the Sallie Adams and four other boats they have built and compete with other traditionally built craft.

After that, the Sallie will go to Beaufort, N.C., in Carteret County, and race against other spritsail skiffs - assuming the hurricane season permits it.