Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 19, 2018
Sonny III takes to the water
by Tevlin Schuetz
A long, sleek and pristine sailing vessel took its first swim in Center Harbor on April 17, and the day’s chilly, gray countenance did nothing to dampen the spirits of a crowd of around 60 people gathered to see her off.
Brooklin Boat Yard President Steve White praised the hard work and determination of the builders of the 91-foot craft, Sonny III, the largest vessel constructed at the yard.
Out of concern for the craft, White defied tradition, however. “I’m not going to break a bottle of champagne on this boat, but I will pour some on it,” he announced, before christening the sloop to the cheers of onlookers.
The maiden voyage was a great moment for Brooklin Boat Yard. The design and construction teams made their April launch date, completing the ship in 18 months. To keep to schedule amid a busy workload including other projects, the boatyard partnered with Rockport Marine, which built the bare hull and ballast keel.
Sonny III is the third in a line of large racing sail ships built by Brooklin Boat Yard for Bert Phelps, White said.
Now 95, Phelps ordered the first Sonny in 2000 but donated it to Maine Maritime Academy when he turned 86 eight years later, believing he was retiring from big yacht sailing. It took six months for him to realize his mistake and put in the order for Sonny II to Brooklin Boat Yard.
Ten years on, White is happy to have worked with Phelps again. “We are very pleased to be building a third boat for this customer. He’s a very experienced yachtsman who is a pleasure to collaborate with,” he said.
White piloted the vessel—with boat yard technicians and designers as well as guests—out of the harbor for a spin on Eggemoggin Reach. It was an exciting ride for the impromptu crew. The boat steamed on at 10 knots much of the way, and White executed sharp turns to test her maneuverability. Those wind-chilled among the crew could shelter in the stunning and spacious quarters below deck, as long as they kicked off their shoes beforehand.
Sonny III’s sails were not unfurled, however; that will happen in May, when rigging and sailing hardware will be fine-tuned. Not long after, the vessel will travel to Newport, Rhode Island, her new home.
Brooklin Boat Yard’s website lists the boat’s specifications as including an overall length of 91 feet 4 inches, a waterline length of 74 feet 5 inches, a maximum beam of 19 feet, a draft of 10 feet, a 122,500 pound displacement, a 42,770 pound ballast and a 3,500 square foot sail area. The under-deck propulsion is supplied by a Cummins 6.7-liter Diesel 301 horsepower engine.