Mississippi marine museum set to open this summer

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A new Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum scheduled to open this summer will give visitors a look at the lost local art of building schooners and the exhibits that will fill its halls will bring back to life the days when Biloxi, Miss., was thought of as the seafood capital of the world.

Schooners, catboats and working skiffs were the workhorses of the industry and thousands were built and launched in Biloxi, local historian Edmond Boudreaux told the (Mississippi) Sun Herald. Those days are long gone.

In the 1930s, Front Beach and Back Bay were lined with sailmakers, boatwrights, carpenters, ice plants and shipyards. Today few of those businesses remain.

One of the exhibits is a cross-section of an old Biloxi schooner, which is being painstakingly constructed by master boatbuilder Bill Holland. “Building a boat is not house carpentry. Nothing is square and it requires very different skills,” Holland told the paper.

Buddy Jumonville is also involved in this project. He comes from a long line of master boatbuilders, and he described some of the important points the cross-section would highlight.

“See how elegant the lines are?” he said. “If the lines of a boat are not carefully attended to, she will not be graceful and will not cut effortlessly through the water. If her pine keel and cypress frames are not stoutly built and properly placed, she will not have the strength to carry a heavy load and will not take heavy seas. See how precisely these frames are fitted? This work requires a master of the trade.”

Jumonville is an expert in the types of wood used in boatbuilding and enjoys pointing out the tightly packed grain of 100-year-old cypress used in critical parts of a wooden boat.

When the cross-section is placed into the new museum, every part will be labeled by Val Husley, former curator at the museum. Parts of the boat that many wouldn’t be familiar with — the centerboard case and bilge stringers, for example — will be plainly marked so that even a novice will have a good idea of the complexity of a wooden boat’s construction.

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