A Nova Scotia schooner in Galveston Bay
Seen across the water in Galveston Bay, the 52-foot schooner Marigo presents an unusual sight. First of all, she’s a schooner — a two-mast, gaff-headed schooner, to be exact. With its four-cornered fore and main sails and two triangular headsails, it’s a rig once common in Galveston, but one not often seen today in these waters.
What’s a schooner doing in Galveston today?
“I love schooners,” said Leroy Naschke, who bought her last year and had her trucked down from Nova Scotia.
Marigo is not as old as her traditional rigging would suggest. She was built in 1994, but to a 1926 design at the Stevens Boatyard near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She is built of wood, with white oak frames, pine planking and teak decks. Wooden boats are as rare as schooners here in this unforgiving climate, but Naschke reports no problems.
“She hasn’t leaked a drop since we sailed her down from Clear Lake,” he said.
The Stevens Boatyard has been producing influential fishing schooners and small boats through four generations, since the turn of the 20th century, building on a tradition centuries older.
It’s a tradition born of the cod and herring fisheries in the North Atlantic, where early settlers in New England and the Canadian Maritimes began to develop boats to suit it.
By the early 1900s, these boats had evolved into the large schooners that would take fishermen out to the Grand Banks, set them out in the small dories nested on deck to load them to capacity with fish caught with hand lines. When a profitable cargo was stowed aboard the schooner, it returned home. Speed was then at a premium so that the catch would be fresh when landed.
The apex of this development was the famous Bluenose, 160 feet overall, launched at Lunenburg in 1921. She was fast, and divided her time between hard work on the fishing grounds and high-stakes racing against similar boats built in Maine and Massachusetts. Bluenose usually won, and became a proud Canadian national icon. She is still depicted on the Canadian dime.
As motorized boats gradually took over on the fisheries, the yards at Lunenburg focused more and more on racing and pleasure craft, but incorporated the designs developed over the years into their new construction.
Marigo carries this heritage in her schooner rig and in her lines. Like Bluenose, she has the distinctive “spoon bow,” her stem describing a simple arc below her bowsprit, sweeping back below the waterline to join the keel well aft of the foremast. The keel then slopes aft to its greatest depth, where it meets the sternpost angling sharply up to a small, oval transom above the waterline.
Naschke has deep roots in Galveston, and in boats. After he graduated from Ball High in 1963, he went to college for a while on a football scholarship, but then he went to sea.
“I thought I would always be a sailor,” Naschke said of his return to Galveston after two years as a deckhand on a large schooner chartering in the West Indies, when he got a job on a motor yacht based at the Galveston Yacht Basin.
But then he saw Mary Jo Santire walking along the pier at the yacht harbor with a girlfriend, and he decided to find work that would keep him closer to home.
Mary Jo is a second-generation Greek American; “Marigo” is the Greek version of her name. She and Naschke were married in 1967.
Naschke established a machine shop serving the industrial complex at La Porte — Bayport Machine. The business thrived, and Naschke was able to return to his love of sailing, this time as an owner of several sailboats in turn.
Last year, a friend tipped him off to a schooner for sale in Nova Scotia. Naschke bought her, renamed her Marigo after his wife, and sails her today. She is a welcome transplant from another shore and another age.