By Alex Petroski
Boating enthusiasts in Port Jefferson were treated to a piece of history May 22.
Brilliant, an 85-year-old, 61-foot schooner docked in Port Jefferson Harbor Monday afternoon, just weeks after the anniversary of its launch in 1932.
“It is known as one of the finest and best-maintained wooden vessels in America,” John Lane, former commodore of the Port Jefferson Yacht Club and a 47-year resident of Poquott said in a phone interview. He added that the vessel is “spotless,” and lauded its ahead-of-its time design.
For 65 years, the ship has sailed under the flag of the Mystic Seaport, a Connecticut-based boating museum, and has been used as a training vessel for children and adults interested in honing sailing skills and experiencing full immersion into ship board life.
“After a busy spring and a lot of work by a vast army of crew, volunteers, painters, yard workers, specialists and vendors Brilliant is in top shape,” Brilliant’s Captain Nicholas Alley said in a message posted on the museum’s website ahead of the 2017 boating season. He has been at the helm of the ship for six years. “Now we get to enjoy that labor and take this floating jewelry box out sailing.”
Brilliant was initially built for businessman Walter Barnum, who used it as a racing boat in the 1930s. During World War II, it was used as a patrol vessel for the United States Coast Guard. In 1953 it was donated to the Mystic Seaport. The ship sailed to Oyster Bay last week for three weekends of racing against other classic yachts, and it made a stop in Port Jefferson along the way.
The ship is considered one of the 100 most beautiful classic boats in America by WoodenBoat Magazine. It is estimated to have transported more than 10,000 people in its history.