She won’t have the familiar look she’s had for the last several decades. There will be no steel outriggers, railings or anchor, no pilothouse or helm that guided her way through southern waters for 75 years. Her mantle is chipped and worn and rust stains stream down her hull. But her unmistakable lines will make her recognizable to those who know her. And in honor of her 80th birthday, the historic vessel Kit Jones is finally coming home.
Intensive preparations have been made over the past several months to get her ready for the 544-mile overland trip home. Through coordinated efforts on two different coasts, June 27th-28th, she will return to McIntosh.
Kit Jones Steering Committee member, Maxine Woolsey, has been overseeing the details of the Kit’s de-construction in Biloxi, MS in order to be ready for the trip. Maxine’s late husband (and former Captain of the Kit), Bob Woolsey, was the last person to pilot her from Georgia to Biloxi, Mississippi. As fate would have it, Maxine will be escorting Kit back home to Georgia.
Paul Bodin of Bay Marine in Biloxi has tended the maintenance of the Kit Jones for the past several decades and was also hired to manage her disassembly and prep work.
The pilothouse and handrails had to be carefully removed to meet the height requirements for transportation; also taking into consideration the attachment of a new cabin and pilothouse in the future. Keeping the integrity of the hull and stabilizing it were of the upmost importance. Prior to removing the pilothouse, Bodin and his crew removed the interior panel lights, electrical boxes and electronics. Ms. Woolsey packed these in watertight boxes for transport. Winches and hydraulic cylinders were removed from the aft deck.
Once the pilothouse was lifted, the engine and generators were removed; which, due to their decrepit condition, can only be scrapped. All of the carefully detailed work is focused on the goal of safely transporting the vessel intact. She will be moved by a travel lift with four straps and placed on a marine transport trailer.
“It requires major coordination to lift all straps and both ends of the boat at the same time to prevent splitting the hull”, said Ms. Woolsey. Mr. Bodin will mark the hull exterior so that all lifting straps are placed on the ‘ribs’ of the hull - which are the strongest supporting points.
Two escorted tractor-trailers will be used to bring the Kit, her pilothouse, and additional parts back to Darien. Her cross-country trek will temporarily end in the Tidewaters Industrial Park off Commissioners Way. A site has been prepared to accommodate the 60-foot long vessel, the tractor-trailers bringing her, and the crane that will unload her. Once there, she will be placed on keel boards and supported by stands for restoration work.
Following a ‘face-lift’ and transformation back to her original design, the Kit will be relocated to the grounds beside the Old Jail Art Center at 404 North Way in historic Darien. She will be displayed as a landmark attraction to highlight the working waterfront of McIntosh County.
While the group, ‘Friends of Kit Jones’ has raised enough money solely through private donations and grants to bring her home; their next phase of fundraising for the restoration is just beginning. Tax deductible contributions may be made at www.savethekitjones.com, mailed to Friends of the Kit Jones at P.O. Box 1968 Darien, GA 31305, or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kit Jones Steering Committee is actively seeking a project manager for the upcoming restoration phase. Qualified individuals should contact them at above addresses.