© Ida May Project 2019
The IDA MAY Project
 After surviving its last ice-encrusted winter on Oyster Bay Harbor and then a summer waiting for attention, the IDA MAY, Frank M. Flower and Sons’ "Queen of the Fleet," was hauled to safety in 2003 by the WaterFront Center. Getting her ashore near the Western Waterfront bulkhead by Beekman Beach was a significant milestone in the long process to preserve this important piece of Oyster Bay's history.  At the time, the plan was to restore her as a land exhibit. After more than 75 years of harvesting oysters for the Frank M. Flower and Sons company, co-owners Dwight Relyea, Joe Zahtila and David Relyea decided it was time for her to retire. Dwight Relyea commented, "Frank M. Flower and Sons decided to donate the IDA MAY to the WaterFront Center because she is more than just a reliable work boat – she is an important symbol in our community.” In fact, during the 1970s and 1980s, Butler Flower and one of the physics/earth science teachers at Oyster Bay High School took scores of students out for lab work on the water. In the 1990s, IDA MAY was a regular at the annual Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club outing at the Couderts’ in Cove Neck and at the Town of Oyster Bay's Marine Education Day." Fritz Coudert, president of the WaterFront Center at the time said, "We are so very grateful to the oyster company for donating the IDA MAY to us. She has a special place in my heart for her many rides around the harbor given to the children of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club during my annual outings. Preserving the IDA MAY at the WaterFront Center provides a wonderful opportunity to share this piece of history with the community." "We are thankful that the WaterFront Center will be able to preserve and utilize this significant piece of the local oystering industry," said Tom Kuehhas, executive director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society. Construction of the IDA MAY was begun in 1925 by Frank M. Flower, son of the founder of the 116-year-old oyster company. He had thought he lost his three sons (Allen, Butler and Roswell Flower) on a small oyster boat on a routine two-day winter trip to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. According to an excerpt from “Cooking with Oysters and Other Shellfish” (1985, by George and Marianne Preston), Butler Flower described the adventure as follows: "At about that time a cloud of fog started to cover us while my father was on the beach watching. He never did see us after that. The water was so rough. We had bricks in the bilge, and the bricks were sliding around and knocked the plug out. The water came in almost to the top of the boat. I found out where the water was coming in, and I stuck my finger into the hole like the boy in the dike. Rossie found another plug and put it in there." When they arrived in New York it took them three days to start the ice-encrusted motor. Three days - during which Frank M. Flower thought that he had seen the last of his boys! With the motor running and the weather clearing they headed back for Bayville. Their arrival into port was greeted with great joy. Said the late Butler Flower, "When my father found out that we were safe he went into the woods and cut down a big oak tree. He started to build a new oyster boat. That was the IDA MAY. He named it after my mother." The IDA MAY was built near the site of the current shellfish hatchery in Bayville. She is the only existing oyster boat that was built here, worked her whole life here, still exists here and has been continuously in service with only a single owner. IDA MAY is 45 feet long and 15 feet wide. She draws 4.3 feet and weighs 16 tons. New York State Senator Marcellino who led the transformation of the Western Waterfront said, "The IDA MAY will be an integral part of the public's waterfront park. Whereas the oyster sloop CHRISTEEN tells the story of sail powered dredges of 120-years ago, IDA MAY will be a hands-on, landside exhibit for children and adults to learn how 'modern' machine powered dredges harvest shellfish today." A few years after the IDA MAY was brought ashore, the vision for her future was radically revised. Due to the revitalization and reconstruction of the Western Waterfront, she was moved two more times.  Each move accelerated her decline, and pervasive rot rendered her too far gone to become either a land exhibit or a floating one.  Her lines were taken for historical reference, and the idea of building a replica took hold. Many of the volunteers who restored the CHRISTEEN were still around, crewing on the oyster sloop and helping with her maintenance at the WaterFront Center.  They were ready for a new project, and they had a history of success.  Moreover, the mission of the WaterFront Center, providing public access to the Bay through an array of educational and fun programs, would be extended with the extra capacity the IDA MAY could provide once she was completed. The new “Building J,” that replaced an old Jacobson Shipyard shed provided a place for the construction project.  All of these elements - people, purpose and place - came together to launch the beginning of a new IDA MAY, true to history and ready for the future. Greg Druhak and Jamie Deming
Preserving Oyster Bay's Maritime History
Frank M Flower & The Waterfront Center work together to preserve the Ida May
The 1925 IDA MAY Oyster Dredge in Oyster Bay NY Harbor  by William Jonas
The Ida May Under Construction - November 2016