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June 26, 2007

A Piece of History: Volunteers restoring sister of Hemingway's fishing craft

T o steal a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novella, “The Old Man and the Sea,” “A man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

The same might be said for a classic boat. The Valhalla, a classic wooden 1934 Playmate Series motor yacht that sank like a stone last year, is being restored by a crew of volunteers at Rose Marina off Rogers Street. The Valhalla is a sister ship of the Pilar, Ernest

Hemingway’s fishing boat, which Hemingway was aboard when he was inspired to write “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Jake Hammond and Jennifer Pette of Gloucester are the co-owners of Valhalla, whose name means “the gateway to Viking heaven,” or “the valley of gods,” Pette said.

The 34-foot antique craft sank last August, when it became wrapped up in a mooring line in Danvers. It went down in a minute and a half.

The Valhalla was sold by Wheeler Yachts in 1934 for $9,000 in Brooklyn, N.Y. It originally sat in New York Harbor, until it changed owners, and was used for seasonal travel to Florida. Then a gentleman from Danvers bought the boat and began showing it off at antique boat shows. It was the flagship in an antique boat show in 2005.

After sinking, it was pulled out of the water and put up for auction, but no one bid on it.

Then, in late September last year, Hammond and Pette bought the vessel.

“I bought it because I wouldn’t want to see a beautiful wooden boat like this destroyed,” said Pette, a Brooklyn native. “I feel honored.”

Even though it sank, the boat has all its original 1934 fixtures, including the boat hook and swim ladder.

“It’s quite a boat in history and heritage,” said James “J.B.” Meyer, Valhalla’s renovation manager. “It’s a piece of history.”

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