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Vorpahl Vessel Is on View at Farm Museum

Thu, 04/27/2023 - 12:46
The late Stuart Vorpahl’s boat, which he built, now resides at the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum.
Durell Godfrey

The East Hampton Historical Farm Museum, at the corner of North Main Street and Cedar Street in East Hampton, is home to a vessel once used to harvest the sea’s bounty.

The steel boat built by the late Stuart Vorpahl, a fisherman, historian, town trustee, secretary of the East Hampton Baymen’s Association, and descendant of one of East Hampton’s oldest families, landed at the museum site late last year.

Some years before his death in 2016, Mr. Vorpahl had stored the boat behind Norma Mae Edwards’s barn in Springs, said Prudence Carabine, chairwoman of the Farm Museum’s board. Sue Ellen O’Connor, Ms. Edwards’s daughter, told museum officials that her mother had offered it to the museum. “We said sure, that would be great,” Ms. Carabine said last week.

In the fall, Ms. O’Connor called to say that her brother, Charlie Marder, and his son Mica were towing the boat to the museum grounds. “They got it settled where we wanted it,” Ms. Carabine said. Ms. Edwards died soon after, at the age of 98.

Mr. Vorpahl was a certified welder and built several boats, but his passion was fishing. In addition to his tenure as a town trustee and membership in the Baymen’s Association, he was also a member of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, the East Hampton Town Dory Rescue Squad, and its conservation advisory council.

He built the boat in the 1960s or early 1970s, his wife, Mary Vorpahl, said this week, and later enlarged it. “He used it for trap fishing. He built all his trap stakes. That’s what he had it for.” He did not name the boat, she said.

In archival content on the Montauk Library’s website, Rick Whalen, a local attorney, recalled working for Mr. Vorpahl in the early 1980s. He said that Mr. Vorpahl’s “ ‘pride and glory’ was a trap whose steel stakes allowed him to fish in water too deep for the traditional ones made of wood.”

“They lifted the traps from Stuart’s steel boat, which he’d built himself and at certain times would row instead of using the engine,” according to the website, which notes that a photograph of him doing just that appears in the late Peter Matthiessen’s book “Men’s Lives.”

“The farmers and fishermen made this town happen for 350 years,” Ms. Carabine said. “We are delighted to have Stuart’s boat. People recognize it off the bat.”

In another development at the Farm Museum, the town board voted last Thursday to approve the construction of a storage barn of up to 600 square feet and the issuance of a building permit to that end. The structure will be used to store farm equipment.

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