Century old ship will anchor new seafood industry exhibit

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - People who knew Baldwin Wood said he had one great love, his 30 foot vessel called the Nydia (pronounced nih-de-yuh).  Wood and his boat spent much of the first half of the 20th century sailing around Biloxi.  On Thursday, Wood family heirs returned the Nydia to south Mississippi.  And in the process, they charted a new course for the 111 year old vessel.

Ralph Pringle watched from a deck at the Dock restaurant as a flatbed truck returned the Nydia to the coast.  "Boy oh boy.  Isn't that something," the Wood family heir said.

Pringle got assistance from a group called "Friends of the Nydia" to steer the century old vessel back to where it  belonged.  Friends of the Nydia is headed up by Peter Beer, a United States District Court Judge in New Orleans.  "I think it's a great day for everybody," Judge Beer said.

Camera snapped shots of the vessel's return.  "She looks pretty good doesn't she for a 111 year old broad," thought Pringle.

He was just 16 years old the last time he saw the wooden vessel in Mississippi.  That was the day his Uncle Baldwin Wood suffered a heart attack and died while sailing across Biloxi.  "That was a long time ago, 61 years," Pringle noted.

The Nydia was built at a shipyard on Biloxi's back bay around 1898.  Wood bought it in 1904, and raced it in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.  "What a great old boat she was, and still is," said Judge Beer.

As the boat was being loaded onto the truck for its trip from Louisiana to Mississippi, heirs found a 1942 document in a compartment on board the Nydia.  That aging piece of paper allowed Wood to take his boat on pleasure trips during World Ward II.

Pringle considers the document and the vessel very important parts of Biloxi's history.  "Biloxi was basically a fishing village at one time, and had wonderful craftsmanship.  And this is a good example of the way boats were built in the old days," he said.

For awhile, the Nydia was on display at Tulane University in New Orleans.  But Wood family heirs realized south Mississippi would provide a more appropriate home.  So, with the help of Friends of the Nydia, they went to court and got permission to transport the boat back to south Mississippi.

"It just belongs in Biloxi," said Pringle.

It will be stored at the Seaway Marine Center in Gulfport.  Inside that facility, a crew will rehab the wooden boat.  The finished product will ultimately be donated it to the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi.  Robin Krohn David is the museum's director.  "When it comes back to our museum in two years, it will be beautiful," she said.

Pringle is anxiously awaiting that day, because he wants people to see and appreciate what Uncle Baldwin Wood sailed around Biloxi.  "You won't find anything like this anymore.  They just don't build them like this," said Pringle.

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