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‘Pirates’ rally to save 1916 sailboat in O.C. man’s backyard

March 26, 2012 |  8:47 am

Save the Shawnee
Supporters dressed as pirates rallied this weekend in solidarity with a Newport Beach shipwright who has been battling the city over a boat restoration project in his backyard.

Dennis Holland has been restoring the 1916, 72-foot Shawnee at his West Bay home since 2006. But neighbors have complained about the towering boat in the residential area and the city has ordered him to move the boat off his property by April 30.

On Saturday afternoon, the festive protesters gathered below the Ferris wheel at Balboa Fun Zone and chanted "Save the Shawnee." Some supporters came from hundreds of miles away to wave signs stating, "Don't let mediocre minds destroy a great ship." The group cited the Shawnee's historical significance as their reason for gathering.

"It's good to see such support," Holland told the Daily Pilot. "It gives me energy to keep fighting. It's loaded my musket up."

Holland, who is in remission from prostate cancer and sees the ship restoration as a form of therapy, said he doesn't know what will happen after April 30. Orange County Superior Judge Gregory Munoz issued a preliminary injunction ordering that the ship be removed from the Holiday Road home by that date. After it, Holland could incur fines of as much as $1,000 a day or possible jail time.

"I'm going to let the city figure that out," Holland said. "The thing is, she really can't be moved. I hope they reconsider all this because I'm going to go down fighting. It's my responsibility to save that boat and take care of it. I've been involved with her since 1953. I've been in love with her since then. That's a pretty long-time romance. I can't just see her get destroyed."

Since 2006, Holland has been restoring the ketch. He estimates that he'll need at least another three years to complete the project. Prior to that, he spent 12 years building from scratch the Pilgrim, a 118-foot, 1770 schooner replica that now sails as the Star of Dana Point, though he resided in Costa Mesa at the time.

City officials said that since 2009 Holland has been in violation of a city ordinance requiring him to obtain a permit and give a completion date for the project.

Christine Lampe, known in the pirate world as Jamaica Rose, was the gathering's organizer. She is editor of No Quarter Given, a magazine and clearinghouse for tall ships, pirates and nautical history.

Lampe gave a historical list of the Shawnee's accomplishments, noting that it was one of the first vessels through the Panama Canal on its way to California; it took third place in the first TransPac race to Tahiti in 1924; it patrolled the coastline in World War II, protecting the nation from enemy invaders, among other things.

Candace Propst, an anthropologist from Mission Viejo, came sans pirate attire to support the historical significance of the ship.

"I love history," Propst said. "I can't stand seeing history being destroyed. We have destroyed so much of it already. Seeing another piece of our past being destroyed just because it is annoying a neighbor drives me crazy."

Newport Beach City Council members held firm that, though they don't doubt the ship's historical value, they have given ample time for Holland to adhere to their ordinance and insist that Holland move the boat to a suitable location.

Supporters are planning a second appearance outside the Tuesday Newport City Council meeting at 7 p.m., according to their Facebook Event Page "Save the Shawnee."


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-- Jenny Stockdale, Times Community News

Photo: Dennis Holland supporters protest by the Balboa Island Ferry on Saturday. Credit: Kevin Chang / Times Community News