Archaeology & Research/ Marie J. Thompson
The Marie J. Thompson, a 1920s Schooner
The 697-ton, four-masted schooner Marie J. Thompson was the largest ship ever built in The Bahamas. The vessel was built at Harbour Island by Bahamian boat-builder William E. Roberts for Key West businessman Norberg Thompson. Thompson needed the Marie J. Thompson to carry wood to supply his growing cigar box manufacturing business in Key West, Florida. Planning for the schooner started in October of 1917; Roberts suggested a three-masted design on a keel of 145 feet, but Thompson wanted it bigger and asked that keel be extended fifteen feet and a fourth mast added. After many months of planning and gathering materials, construction of the Marie J. Thompson commenced in August of 1918.
After three years of stop-and-start construction plagued by difficulties in getting materials to remote Harbour Island, the schooner was launched on August 18, 1921. Maud Cordeaux, wife of Bahamas Governor Harry Cordeaux, christened the schooner Marie J. Thompson (the name of Norberg Thompson’s young daughter) by breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow. But all did not go as planned: The Marie J. Thompson made it only half-way down, when it became stuck and was left only partly in the water. After three days of much heaving, pulling, and greasing the skids with aloe leaves, the schooner finally was launched and ready to sail.
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