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MiscellanyWay Back Machine

Launch Days in Bethel

By November 20, 2022One Comment

This is a free excerpt from my book, Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva. In a trip focused on visiting the Southern Delaware towns of Laurel and Bethel I write a bit about how Bethel was a famous shipbuilding center focused on building the gargantuan ships known as “Rams.” This fun little anecdote appears as an afternote at the end of the chapter.  More info about this and my other books exploring the history, travel, and culture on the Eastern Shore and in Delaware here.

Way Back Machine: Launch Days in Bethel

Whenever a newly built Bethel Ram sailing ship was ready for launching in Broad Creek, the occasion was a public holiday. The whole town would turn out and line the shores of the creek. Some of the people would climb aboard and crowd onto the deck of the new ram.

That boat would be sitting up on greased skids, perched so as to slide right into the creek when set free from the various lines and blocks holding it in place. Every once in a while, however, a freed boat stayed stuck up on the skids, refusing to budge. In those cases, the hundred-plus passengers would be herded back to the bow and ordered to sprint up to the stern in unison and stop dead in their tracks. Invariably, the boat would then rock forward and flop into the creek.

At one launching in 1896, a woman named Amelia Gordy fell overboard. No worries: She happened to be wearing several layers of then-fashionable petticoats under her dress, and when she landed feet first, those petticoats gave her enough buoyancy to stay afloat. She landed like a duck, her torso never dipping below the waterline.

I included a photo of a sailing Ram below. That is the Albert S. Paul, which was actually built in Milford, Del.

Excerpt from Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva posted by Claudia Colaprete and Jim Duffy on Nov. 20, 2022 for Whimbrel Creations LLC/Secrets of the Eastern Shore. All rights reserved. Thank you so much for spending a little time with this story and on this site!

Ram Albert S Paul

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