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The Oyster Sloop Priscilla

Launched April 7, 1888

Priscilla - A Brief History

On Saturday, April 7, 1888, Elisha Saxton launched his brand new working sloop Priscilla into the Patchogue River. Saxton had built Priscilla for George Rhinehart of Lawrence, New York, who named the boat after his wife Priscilla. From 1888 to 1963, Priscilla was owned and operated by several oystermen from Connecticut and New York. During these many years, she experienced many changes. The oystermen spoke of "Pris" as a fast, able, "smart" boat and a "money maker" because, unlike other boats, she could dredge as well in light and heavy winds.

By 1963, the oyster beds were completely exhausted or covered with silt from storms and hurricanes of the previous decades. Priscilla was one of the last working sailboats to dredge the oyster beds north of the Chesapeake Bay. 


From 1963 to 1976, Priscilla became a cruising sailboat, after much hull and interior restoration. Her owner John Woodside sailed Priscilla several times to the Bahamas and to Maine. In the early 1970's, he schooner rigged her, copying the sail plan of the famous schooner America. 


In 1976, John Woodside donated her to the Suffolk Marine Museum, which is known today as The Long Island Maritime Museum. As the largest vessel in our small craft collection, Priscilla has served as an effective goodwill ambassador. Since coming to the museum Priscilla has traveled the Great South Bay visiting various ports of call, and has participated in special regattas held for classic vessels. In 1986, she participated in the Parade of Tall Ships at the Salute to the Statute of Liberty Fourth of July Celebration in New York Harbor receiving featured television coverage by WABC-TV. 


The restoration of the sixty-foot, 1888 oyster dredge Priscilla began in 2002 and was the largest restoration project to date at the Long Island Maritime Museum. Priscilla has been returned to her original design, a gaff-rig sloop. This vessel is the oldest and only sailing workboat to survive from the Great South Bay oyster fleet. Her hull is traditionally built in wood, which had been fiberglassed over during a restoration in the late 1960s when she also was given a schooner rig.


Her dimensions are 60 feet in length overall, 40 feet on deck, with a 14 foot beam, and 4 foot 3 inch draft. In 2006 Priscilla was designated as a National Historic Landmark.


Newsday article about the Oyster Sloop Priscilla

the SayvillePatch Article