Schooner launch requires complex choreography

May/June 2007

The 140-foot wooden schooner Spirit of South Carolina was launched into Charleston Harbor in early March, beginning what locals hope is the first step in bringing sail training to the state’s youth. Spirit was launched at the Charleston Maritime Center on Sunday, March 5, the result of a $4 million fundraising effort by Around Alone veteran Brad Van Liew (he competed twice and won Class II in 2003) and his wife Meaghan, directors of the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation (SCMHF).

The vessel was actually constructed in a field about half a mile from the launch site, which required that the SCMHF employ a moving company to construct a complex transport system for the overland transit. The vessel was ultimately lifted in a sling and placed into the water by a crane.

Spirit of South Carolina, which displaces some 150 tons, was transferred from its construction area in Ansonborough Field in downtown Charleston to a rolling cradle that was built of 80 rubber tires, 20 axles, two 84-foot steel I-beams and two trailer loads of stacked steel plates. The moving company J.E. Oswalt and Sons of Batesburg, S.C., has moved numerous large vessels, houses and even commercial buildings. A recent project involved moving a 7,500-square-foot mansion up the Intracoastal Waterway from St. Simons, Ga., to Hilton Head, S.C., a distance of 100 miles.

The moving cradle was constructed beneath the schooner, the two I-beams running parallel to and on either side of the keel. Four smaller beams ran athwartships, and the axles and tires slipped in underneath. The steel plates were laid out across the field to keep the vessel from being bogged down in the mud. It took almost two full workdays to move the vessel 800 meters.

Spirit of South Carolina will have its rig and sails installed over the next two months and will begin its programs serving the youth of South Carolina and acting as a floating ambassador for the state this summer. For more information see  

By Ocean Navigator