After a 440-mile journey that began in upstate New York in July, an old wooden boat named Majic has found a new home on the Vineyard. The fully restored 1957 Richardson sedan cruiser came to port at Menemsha Harbor on August 6.

“We went through 25 locks in four days and it was amazing,” said Robin Smith, who along with her husband, Hollis, skippered the boat from Cayuga Lake down the Erie Canal and the Hudson River and through Long Island Sound to the Vineyard.

Robin Smith skippered the boat along with her husband, Hollis Smith. — Maria Thibodeau

Last week the boat floated calmly on the West Dock in Menemsha, its natural wood transom, deck and cabin distinguishing it from the many newer boats on the harbor.

Owner John Ketcham and his wife Eleanor Helm-Ketcham, who live in North Carolina and summer on the Vineyard, joined the Smiths for the weeklong voyage, taking in the sights of one of the country’s oldest and most influential waterways.

“It’s the waterways that opened up the midwest, not the railroads,” Mr. Ketcham said last week as ropes and rigging clanged against the boats in Menemsha.

Mr. Ketcham purchased the boat in 2010 after seeing an advertisement in Wooden Boat Magazine. The old boat stayed in the care of Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in New York, which chipped away at the restoration for five years. Minor repairs continued even after the voyage was underway.

“I was worried about everything holding up,” Mr. Ketcham said, leaning against a wooden barrier on the West Dock. “But it was an incredibly smooth voyage.”

The renovations included a new bifold entrance to the cabin, some new ribbing and planks, new electronics, and a new name — a combination of letters from the names of Mr. Ketcham’s children; James, Cliff and Mary.

In a past life, the boat did some extensive cruising, including a trip to Key West. Cayuga Wooden Boatworks had completed an earlier restoration of the boat — then called Sandbar III — in the 1990s. The voyage this summer was its first in years.

Owner John Ketcham said the trip aboard Majic was "an incredibly smooth voyage." — Maria Thibodeau

The journey was also a first for the four crew members, none of whom had travelled the New York State Canal System. Mr. Ketcham was especially intrigued by the route, since his grandfather had been a laborer on the Erie Canal.

“I sat in the back of that boat and I watched the world go by, and it was wonderful,” he said. But it was not without its minor hazards, most of which involved careless boaters and staying centered in the locks. The biggest drop was 44 feet at Little Falls, which required some skill to keep the boat from being sucked to the sides of the lock.

The boat drew some admiration along the way. People often wonder if it’s a replica, Mrs. Smith said. “Even on the docks here in Menemsha people are always asking.”

Onboard, the wood-lined interior, original wooden helm and metal controls transport one to another era of boat making. In the 1960s, fiberglass boats largely replaced wooden boats.

The voyage itself was a step back in time. The 363-mile Erie Canal had helped open up the midwest to trade and settlement before the railroad. “It was a very expensive and a very gutsy move,” Mr. Ketcham said of the project. “But it did the job.”

After passing the final lock in Troy, known as the Federal Lock, Majic spent just over a day on the Hudson River, approaching Long Island Sound.

“As we approached New York we could see the George Washington Bridge and then you’d look past it to the skyscrapers of Manhattan,” Mr. Ketcham said. Before reaching the city, they turned down the Harlem River, which separates Manhattan from the Bronx.

Later, while heading east through Long Island Sound, Mr. Ketcham looked back at the city in a late-morning haze. “There it is, like a picture,” he said. “It really impressed me.”

He called it the trip of a lifetime, but doesn’t think he will do it again. Instead, he plans to hand off management of the boat to Mrs. Smith, who runs Searobin Charters out of Menemsha. He hoped to set up a separate company for Mrs. Smith to run charters to the Elizabeth Islands and elsewhere in the region.

“I get terrific satisfaction out of taking an older boat and being associated with bringing it back,” Mr. Ketcham said. “And I’m really pleased with the guys at Cayuga Wooden Boatworks and the job they did.”

On a recent weekend, Mrs. Smith took the Ketchams’ granddaughter Katy Ketcham and her friends out for their first spin on the boat, to see the Gay Head Cliffs and the old brickyard in Chilmark.

“They are still somewhat deliriously happy about that ride,” Mr. Ketcham said with a chuckle. He looked forward to sharing the experience with his son Cliff.

For photos from Majic’s voyage, visit