NEWPORT, R.I. —The appeal of a vintage wooden boat inspired Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport engineer and Navy diver Christian Schumacher to plan a 500-mile, four-day adventure on the ocean, where he often finds work/life balance.
Hoping to become a first-time boat owner, Schumacher, who works in Division Newport’s Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department, began searching for a lobster boat to purchase. When he couldn’t find what he was looking for in New England, he expanded his search to the Chesapeake Bay area in Virginia where he came across a boat for sale — a Deltaville Deadrise, a workboat traditionally used for oystering or crabbing because it handles well in shallow, choppy water. It is the official boat of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Deltaville is the name of a coastal Virginia town and the term “deadrise” refers to the angle of the bow in the water. This classic design is uncommon in New England; it typically features a small cabin in the front of the boat and a large open work area in the back.
An online search led Schumacher to Gypsy, a 38-foot former police boat. After a trip to Deltaville to see the boat, Schumacher was sold. A challenge soon presented itself — getting the boat from southern Virginia to Newport, Rhode Island, where Schumacher resides.
Soon a solution was found as part of Schumacher’s work as the integration lead for the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX). Prior to an ANTX meeting one day, he mentioned the boat he bought to co-worker Ryan Beatley, who serves as the ANTX range operations manager. A native of Virginia, Beatley knew the type of boat well and after some discussion, Schumacher and Beatley were ready for an adventure. Their plan was to bring Gypsy to Newport around the eastern shore of the Chesapeake and along the coastline with stops at Ocean City, Maryland; Manasquan, New Jersey; and Port Jefferson, New York.
“Everyone was telling us to put the boat on a flatbed and have it delivered. The guys at the waterfront [the Narragansett Bay Test Facility] thought we were crazy,” Schumacher said. “I couldn’t let go of the idea of bringing it up myself, the romance of it. And Ryan was crazy enough to go along with it.”
As Beatley recalled, “When he mentioned where he got the boat, it’s an hour from my parents so I talked him out of spending the money to flatbed it up here so we could make the trip. The best kind of boat is a friend’s boat.”
They picked up another crewmember while in Virginia, Schumacher’s high school pal Drew Whalen and on June 16, the trio left Hayes, Virginia, to begin their four-day journey to Newport.
Gypsy has an extended cabin with berthing, a head and a kitchen for overnight travel — comfortable enough for the three-member crew. During the first three-hour test ride, the crew discovered what needed to be repaired on the boat.
“There was no toilet, no fresh water, no lights, no windshield wipers,” Beatley said. “We spent a day purchasing parts and refurbishing systems.”
The first day on the water was the most difficult stretch of the journey — heading south across the Chesapeake Bay against the wind and the waves.
“Once we made that turn, because it was summertime, we had the south wind pushing us north and it was smooth motoring from there,” Beatley said.
“I had never driven a boat that big,” Schumacher said. “With a boat like that, there were so many things I didn’t know. We had to work as a team and figure things out as we went. The trip required a lot of old school engineering and trouble shooting. The lows were all the idiosyncrasies of the boat — the leaks, the wipers, understanding the instruments and switches, the fuel issues.”
For Schumacher, there were more highs than lows.
“Being off shore and the routine of it, flat out cruising along where the only concerns were our next waypoint and what’s for lunch. You’re alert and present in every moment,” Schumacher said. “After Day One, that first night in Ocean City, we were back on land with a shower and a hot meal and there was this huge feeling of accomplishment.”
“Motoring into New York Harbor was incredible. As soon as we hit New York, we were this dinky boat alongside those huge ferries and barges,” Schumacher said. “Getting up the East River against the current was a challenge. We went past the Statue of Liberty and under the Brooklyn Bridge then we got to Long Island Sound, which is so protected. It was so flat and calm and no one was out there so we were just going for it and made up some time. When we got to Rhode Island, it was so foggy that we could only use instrumentation to get us to Newport.”
Upon arrival in Newport, Schumacher got a mooring ball at Coaster’s Harbor Marina. He has since designed and installed a solar panel system to keep batteries topped off so the bilge is always running. He also made repairs to the generator, added some seagull deterrents, and employed his skills as a diver to make temporary external repairs.
According to Schumacher, the 500-mile trip north was a true shakedown for Gypsy. This winter, he will continue his restoration efforts with Gypsy in dry dock at a local boatyard. The hull requires some rehabilitation down to the bare wood for recaulking and painting. Schumacher will let the wooden boat experts take care of that while he takes on the plumbing, electrical, instrumentation and interior cosmetic updates.
“This could be my forever boat,” Schumacher said. “I want to have it safe and sound for more adventures and I want to enjoy the process of refurbishing Gypsy. Living in Newport with access to all this coastline that I really want to explore, this boat gives me a great sense of freedom. Gypsy complements a lot of what I love about my job – being in, on, and around the ocean.”
NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare
Source: By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Nov. 20, 2019