The Chesapeake Bay sailing log canoe Flying Cloud was re-christened and re-launched on Sat., Oct. 17 after two years of planning and restoration completed at Campbell’s Boatyards in Oxford, Md. The nonprofit Flying Cloud Log Canoe Preservation Trust, Ltd. hosted the reception and led the fundraising efforts needed for the critical work required to return the historic log canoe to competitive sailing form.
Trust members Ned Hennighausen, Langley Shook, Capt. Kenneth Reightler, Jr., and the Hon. John C. North II addressed Cloud’s supporters at an outdoor reception at Campbell Boatyard’s Bachelors Point before a toast was raised, and Joanne Prager ceremoniously smashed a champagne bottle across Flying Cloud’s bowsprit.
Trust members Allan Noble and Alexa Seip joined nearly 70 socially distanced and masked guests as the seven-log hulled canoe was then lifted and carried back to the Chesapeake Bay’s waters and the Tred Avon River.
Flying Cloud is the second largest sailing log canoe still under sail, and was built on Tilghman Island, Md. in 1932 by the legendary John B. Harrison. Harrison also built Flying Cloud’s sister ship, Jay Dee a year earlier—the largest log canoe still in the fleet.
“Flying Cloud was designed to beat the best log canoes of the day,” said Flying Cloud Log Canoe Preservation Trust President Ned Hennighausen. “Her elegant lines, Honduran mahogany decks, and crew outfitted in white uniforms surely created a striking image on the water. Now, we can’t wait to see her out on the water and under sail again for next year’s sailing season. ”
Flying Cloud is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and races under the No. 22, requiring as many as 18 crew to campaign her.
Cloud will receive restored rigging and new sails over the winter months, with a shake-down cruise led by Reightler, who was named Flying Cloud’s skipper in Oct. 2019. Capt. Reightler also has an important family connection with Cloud—John B. Harrison is his great-grandfather.
Reightler is also a retired astronaut and the U.S. Naval Academy’s Distinguished Chair in Space Science. He serves as a volunteer coach for the U.S. Naval Academy’s Varsity Offshore Sailing Team and is an instructor-skipper and Officer in Tactical Command for the Offshore Sail Training Squadron. Reightler’s log canoe experience started at an early age, serving as “bail boy” and progressing through boardsman, trimmer, tactician, and helmsman. For the past fifteen seasons, he has been a regular crewman on the log canoe Island Bird.
The Paul B. Prager family of St. Michaels, Md. provided a $75,000 challenge match towards Flying Cloud’s renovation in Oct. 2019. Paul Prager is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, CEO and Chairman of Beowulf Energy, and principal of Bluepoint Hospitality Group in Easton, Md.
The Trust announced late last year that a new Prager Family Trophy is to be awarded at the end of each sailing season to the log canoe winning the most sanctioned races on the Miles River. The Prager Family Trophy includes a metal sculpture of Flying Cloud by John C. North, II, with the annual winners receiving a keeper trophy to commemorate their victories.
During all races, Hennighausen says Cloud will fly a distinctive pennant of Navy blue and gold with a “Blue Peter” inset in honor of Paul Prager, a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. The pennant is based on an original design by Chesapeake and log canoe artist Marc Castelli.
“Significant work was needed on her center log,” said former Flying Cloud owner Allan Noble. “This work was essential in saving her, and we’re grateful for each supporter who helped make this re-launch possible.”
In 2014, Noble donated Flying Cloud to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. Due to the museum’s heavy shipyard schedule, the log canoe was deaccessioned from CBMM’s collection. Noble says the Trust raised more than $150k to fully fund the restoration. Of significant help was a $20,000 donation from an anonymous donor, and 25 donated, limited edition prints of Cloud from artist Marc Castelli.
The last time Flying Cloud raced was in 2016. During that racing season, she experienced multiple failures of key components. Additionally—and as with all log canoes—time and the stresses of competition have deteriorated the logs of the hull, despite ongoing maintenance.
“Flying Cloud is an exceptional artifact of this sailing tradition unique to the Eastern Shore. Her careful restoration and return to the racing circuit are imperative if we are to preserve this piece of our maritime heritage,” said Hennighausen.
The Trust is continuing to seek donors, former crew members, and other interested parties to help campaign Flying Cloud for next year’s log canoe races. To make a donation or to volunteer to join her new crew, please contact Ned Hennighausen at [email protected]. The Flying Cloud Log Canoe Preservation Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with charitable donations tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
All photos courtesy of Flying Cloud Log Canoe Preservation Trust