This summer is the perfect opportunity to travel aboard the National Historic Landmark Ship Christeen. Built in 1883, the 60-foot boat is the oldest surviving ship of its kind in America, and after its preservation and restoration, the WaterFront Center at Oyster Bay offers harbor tours and cruises on the historic boat. The ship was originally designed to serve as an oyster dredge for William W. Smith to harvest in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor, but it has also served as a cargo carrier in the tristate area.
After surviving 16 major hurricanes, numerous nor’easters, two sinkings and years of neglect, the boat returned to Oyster Bay in 1992. The 138-year-old ship was restored in 1999 and is now used as a floating classroom for the WaterFront Center.
Programs offered on the ship include sunset cruises, harbor tours and marine ecology classes. During daytime harbor tours and golden-hour sunset cruises, passengers aboard Christeen set out on a two-hour boat ride that allows them to experience Oyster Bay and the Long Island Sound from a new perspective.
While on board, crewmates will offer visitors information about the surrounding towns, waters, houses and boats. Not only are passengers encouraged to ask questions, but they are also given the opportunity to take part in the sailing experience and help the crew raise the sails before setting off on their journey.
The Christeen is available to be reserved for private charters that offer a unique and intimate experience.
Christeen sets sail from WFC Mooring field, where the Jakobson shipyard was based for part of the 20th century. The shipyard was involved in the manufacture of tugs, yachts, fireboats and numerous other ships. These products were used in the area, as well as cities as far as Baltimore.
Across from Christeen’s mooring is yet another manufacturer. This Centre Island mansion was used in the 1680s as a factory; the Smith Brothers Steam Workshop made bricks and other supplies that were sent to shipyards and warehouses in the area.
These two manufacturers show that from the moment passengers enter the WaterFront Center, they are surrounded by rich history. When the Dutch originally landed, they believed that Oyster Bay was an ideal harbor, not only because it’s protected by Centre Island and Bayville, but also because they had good fortune with their freshly harvested oysters. As passengers sail through Christeen’s route, this vibrant history comes to life.
Along Christeen’s path, crew members share the bay’s history. Sailing on its path, one of the first landmarks is the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club. The club was founded in 1871, making it one of the oldest yacht clubs in the country.
As the ship continues on its course, passengers will sail by a small fort-type structure that was built during the Spanish-American War. As tensions during the war rose, there was fear among many waterfront towns that they were in danger of attacks from Spanish ships. To combat this fear, locals built a small brick tower and laid a tree trunk through it. All together, the structure was supposed to appear to be a cannon, warding off any ships from coming into Oyster Bay Harbor.
Just as Christeen leaves Oyster Bay Harbor, the ship touches the Long Island Sound and a view of Connecticut comes into view. A mere seven miles away, the skyline presents itself on the horizon. From here, the ship goes a bit farther before turning around to bring its passengers back to the WaterFront Center.
As Christeen sets sail, crew members point out a number of houses along its path. These include Billy Joel’s house, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s old house and the Roosevelts’ house, among others.
However, these tours are not the only programs offered aboard the Christeen. Marine ecology courses are also available for those who wish to learn more about Long Island’s native marine life. The class is led by the WaterFront Center’s naturalists and provides passengers with hands-on experience in the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to these programs aboard the Christeen, the WaterFront Center has watersport programs and rentals for patrons interested.
Visit www.thewaterfrontcenter.org for more details and reservations.
Written by Hannah Devlin