story & photos
by Maren Schober
I am standing on the top floor of the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London where Bill LaRoue, head docent at the museum, is just finishing his talk about the role New London played in the well-known Amistad adventure.
“Before you leave New London,” Bill tells me pointing out the window, “you really should tour the tall ship “Peacemaker.”
There she sits tied up to the Custom House Pier with brightly colored flags blowing in the breeze. She looks so inviting.
Two days later, I am there eager to board her and look around.
“Welcome Aboard the Tall Ship ‘Peacemaker’” reads the sign. “Flagship of the Twelve Tribes. 150’ length overall. Beam 33’. Draft 14’. Mast Height 126’ above waterline. Sail 10,000 square feet.”
I walk up the gangplank and enter through the open door. Soft music is being piped throughout the ship and peace enfolds me immediately.
I enter the large galley room where the Captain’s wife, Chris Philips, greets me. “Feel free to walk around and tour the rooms,” she urges. “In the main room you can listen to a slide show about the history of this ship.”
Chris stands behind a long curving counter on top of which is spread an array of blue and white pottery. “ I make this pottery myself on the boat and sell pieces to help with finances,” she explains. “In port, I sit outside on the deck with my potters wheel. This is how I get to meet the people in port.”
Who are these people? Where do they come from? Where are they going? What is their purpose? What are the Twelve Tribes?
Chris introduces me to her husband Captain Lee Philips. “We are a religious community called the Twelve Tribes,” Lee states. “There are several thousands of us around the world living in small housing communities. We try to live in a style that is described in the Book of Acts in the Bible. We own nothing. We share everything. No one is poor among us. We strive to worship God and live in peace and unity.”
“In addition, our purpose is to provide training opportunities for our youth in rigging, sail making, sailing, navigation, marine mechanics and carpentry. We learn to live and work together in harmony. It is my greatest joy to teach our young crew skills they need and to see them light up with pleasure as they apply what they learn.”
Out of their five children, Netuyah, 11, and Meyashenet, 13, are with them now. It takes about twelve crew members to work the ship.
The “Peacemaker” was built in Brazil 1989. Lee worked about nine years restoring the boat before he set sail with his family and crew two years ago.
“We sail up and down the eastern coast,” said Lee. “From here we head towards Boston.”
Check out the website: www.peacemakermarine.com to find out more about this beautiful ship and the vision and hope it carries.