ROCKLAND — Rockland’s South End waterfront went back in time Saturday for the launching of a completely restored Friendship sloop built in 1900.

Hundreds of people turned out for the launching of the 33-foot-long Blackjack at Snow Marine Park. The event capped a three-year restoration of one of the vessels referred to as the “pickup truck” of maritime transportation for the 19th and early 20th century.

The Blackjack was towed several hundred yards – by a team of oxen – from the Sail, Power & Steam Museum adjacent to Snow Marine Park to the water.

The museum’s founder, Capt. Jim Sharp, said he wanted the launching to be done as it would have been when the Blackjack was originally built in Friendship by Wilbur Morse.

He said Morse was the Henry Ford of sloop production, building one every two weeks at the peak of his work. Morse built more than 500 of the Friendship sloops from 1890 to 1910.

The Blackjack’s restoration was a labor of love for a few master builders and many volunteers during the past three years, Sharp said. The boat was rebuilt from the keel up, using only the tools available to Morse and his crews in 1900, he said.

The Blackjack was saved when its former owners, Kelly and Diane Magee of Bristol, Rhode Island, determined that restoring the sloop was beyond their resources and expertise. The boat had not been in the water since 2006.

The couple put out a call to members of the Friendship Sloop Society.

In 2014, then Friendship Sloop Society Commodore Noel March, the former U.S. marshal for Maine, met with Sharp. They moved quickly and the Magees ended up donating the vessel to the museum in Rockland.

The Blackjack is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest, existing Friendship sloop.

Friendship sloops were meant to be extremely seaworthy because they were often used by island residents for lobstering, catching cod, visiting families on other islands, or to transport cows. March said back in 2014 that they also were designed to be handled by one person. They were the primary boats used for lobstering until boats were equipped with engines, a practice that became widespread after 1910.

Sharp said the Blackjack will be used by the museum to take passengers out in Rockland Harbor to lobster with old wooden traps.

The Blackjack has sails and no engine.

The museum was opened 10 years ago by Sharp and his wife, Meg Sharp.

She christened the Blackjack just before the sloop entered the water.

Four oxen from Cox Kennel and Farm in Woodstock did the heavily pulling, taking about 90 minutes to move the several hundred feet to the water. Paul Cox Jr. said this was the first time their oxen were used to tow a sloop.

Eight fiddlers and a banjo player from Belfast Bay Fiddlers performed, as did a bagpipe player, for the festivities.

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