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Boat capturing area residents enthusiams
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Travels with the Courier: Jay and Desiree Johnson were loading up the car to visit family for Thanksgiving, when he noticed the annual countywide edition of the Coastal Courier in the driveway. Anticipating our long drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I tossed it in the car, thinking the Sound off would provide some comic relief during the trip. Somewhere east of Jacksonville, I came across the article, Vessel with area history on Places in Peril list. Realizing the Kit Jones was just minutes from where they would be, they decided to have their picture taken with it. A little photo sleuthing and Google Earth led them to the vessel. - photo by Photo provided.

A ship built on Sapelo Island in 1939 that plied the waters off Coastal Georgia for years, is on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2018 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.

The Kit Jones, a 60-foot wood-hull boat built by then island owner and tobacco company heir R.J. Reynolds Jr., was named for Katharine Talbott Jones, the wife of Alfred W. Jones, friends of Reynolds.

After being decommissioned as a U.S. Coast Guard fireboat during World War II, the Kit Jones returned to Reynolds and Sapelo Island, continuing her service as a freight hauler and passenger vessel. Later the Kit Jones supported a variety of marine research projects for the University of Georgia Marine Institute and University of Mississippi.

In 2013 the Kit Jones was put into drydock in Biloxi, MS, and for a number of years, faced an uncertain future.

The McIntosh Rod and Gun Club acquired title to the vessel in 2017 with the intention of returning it to Georgia. Laurie Poole, club secretary and promotions person, said they’ve formed Friends of Kit Jones to get the ship home.

"We were compelled to become involved when we learned of the impending demise of the Kit," Poole said. "As a quasi-governmental organization, MRGC was uniquely qualified to make the purchase from the University of Mississippi when they offered her up for sale. My husband and I have volunteered with the club for over 10 years, while still living in North Georgia."

Poole said the Friends of the Kit Jones Steering Committee is made up of passionate individuals, some who are former boat captains and crew members, who want to see history preserved.

Poole calls the Kit Jones a treasure worth saving.

"Our goal, upon restoration, is to establish her as a historical/educational destination for hands-on learning," Poole said. "Additionally, we hope to create a maritime museum, with the Kit as the founding vessel."

However, the vessel will need substantial work before it can be moved. Poole said they are working on getting the funds needed for the needed repairs.

"Our fundraising efforts have indeed begun," she said noting they’ve opened a Go Fund Me account.

"We also applied for, and were recently awarded, a Georgia Tourism Grant for the amount of $10,000 which will begin the process of stabilizing her for the trip back to Georgia," Poole said. "And we are applying for additional grants now that the Kit is a designated ‘Place in Peril’, or as we like to say, a VIP (Vessel In Peril). Also, to help fund her trip back to McIntosh, which will cost close to $50,000, we are offering sponsorships for each leg of her 543 mile journey home."

Poole said in accordance to the grant’s guidelines, "The scope of work must be completed within one year," she said. "That being said, we want to do it within the next six months. It is an enormous undertaking to stabilize and transport a vessel of her size! Unfortunately, her hull structure cannot be made seaworthy, so we must bring her over-the-road, on oversized equipment, with police escorts through each state. This will be quite a sight to behold as she is 60 feet long, and will require an additional flatbed truck to take her rigging back to Darien."

Poole said once back in Darien, they plan to house her near the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department and an industrial park near I-95 in Darien.

"Her restoration work will begin there while a final resting place is determined," Poole said. "We are currently working with the Darien DDA and chamber of commerce to work out the details. While we would love to see her situated back near the historic Darien waterfront, the scheduled bridge reconstruction may limit this opportunity."

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