Last weekend, we sailed by living history in Oyster Bay. As we were heading toward the gas dock, a beautiful gaff rigged sloop sailed by. It was Christeen, the oldest oyster sloop in the United States. Built in 1883 in Glenwood Landing, New York, she returned to the hamlet of Oyster Bay, New York in 1992. Over the next seven years the WaterFront Center helped raise funds to restore and relaunch the old sloop. She currently serves as a working museum ship, offering educational tours of Oyster Bay and Cold Spring harbor. Christeen was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
Christeen was built in 1883 for Captain William Smith to harvest oysters in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor. The sloop was named after Captain Smiths 13-year-old wife. The sloop is 38.4′ between perpendiculars and 45′ long overall. A centerboarder, Christeen has a 15′ beam and draws only 3′.
Over the years, Christeen worked in the waters of Greenport, Southhold, Connecticut, and New Jersey pulling oyster dredges or serving as a platform for tonging. She was also used for fishing, clamming and scalloping.
In 1914, an engine was installed and she was used as a cargo vessel transporting potatoes between Long Island and New London, and furniture and other goods between New York City and the eastern end of Long Island. From 1958 to 1976 she was a pleasure yacht and finally in 1989 was abandoned and nearly sunk in New London, Connecticut.
After having survived 16 major hurricanes, countless nor’easters, hard work and her share of neglect, Christeen is back working in Oyster Bay, helping to educate students of all ages about classic sail and the importance of preserving the environment.