After 75+ years of service, a McIntosh native is returning to Darien. Kit Jones is a local…in the truest sense of the word, as even the wood that was hewn to form her hull was harvested from Sapelo Island.
The 60-foot wood-hull vessel was commissioned by R.J. Reynolds, and designed by renowned yacht designers, Sparkman & Stephens of New York. She was built in 1939 on Sapelo Island by its skilled African-American boat builders assisting Axel Holger Sparre; utilizing heart pine timber for the hull planking, and live oak for the ribs. A number of Sapelo Island residents also served as masters and mates on the vessel following its launching. Decades later, other McIntosh residents spent time on her as well.
Kit Jones was named for Katharine Talbott Jones, the matriarch of the Jones family of the renowned Cloister Hotel on Sea Island. Over the course of her life, the Kit has had many roles. She first served as a freight hauler and a workboat for Reynolds on Sapelo; served in World War II; shuttled students to the mainland for school, and as a research vessel with the University of Georgia Marine Institute, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and finally, the University of Mississippi. In 2013, the University retired her, placed her in dry dock, and recently put her up for bid because there was no budget for operation or maintenance. Local McIntosh resident & historian Aimee Gaddis was extremely concerned for Kit’s fate and brought her plight to Darien.
Now, thanks to the efforts of some dedicated Kit Jones fans, and the McIntosh Rod & Gun Club, she will soon be navigating back to the Georgia Coast. Davis Poole, president of the McIntosh Rod & Gun Club, explained that the club is a ‘not-for-profit’ organization and is uniquely qualified to act on the opportunity. “She was born in our waters, served us well and long, and deserves to rest back in her home county as a historical landmark and education site for all to enjoy and learn,” Poole said.
Acquisition costs have been covered and the boatyard fees were brought current, Poole explained. “We are seeking funding to help bring her home, restore her, and settle her on dry land. She is still in a sufficiently good state to allow full restoration, but her condition degrades with each passing month. The immediate goal is to stabilize the Kit Jones to stop her further degradation, and bring her home to McIntosh County, where we will begin preservation, restoration, and locating a site for her to rest as a prominent historic ‘citizen’ of Darien.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to fund those goals: https://www.gofundme.com/research-vessel-kitjones The goal set in the GoFundMe account is $50,000. Poole said, “The team is gathering initial quotes for a full restoration and we know that it will be well over the $50,000 that have been provided for this account, but we need to begin somewhere.
A “Friends of Kit Jones” steering committee is being established to help with these efforts. “We will be working closely with McIntosh County, the Darien Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority, the Darien-McIntosh Chamber of Commerce and the State of Georgia to determine what role the Kit Jones will play in historic McIntosh County. There is much to be done, and ideas are welcome!” Follow her adventures here: https://www.facebook.com/RVKitJones/