Nydia Finds Safe Haven

March 12, 2004

Arthur Nead
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Quietly resting at the back of Pocket Park in a glassed-in enclosure, the wooden sloop Nydia has dreamed of wind and waves for almost 43 years.

nydiaNow, this rare and historic treasure entrusted to Tulane is being relocated to make way for the renovation and enlargement of the University Center.

Nydia was the pride and joy of one of Tulane School of Engineering's most famous alumnus, Albert Baldwin Wood, inventor of the Wood Screw Pump. Wood, a great supporter of Tulane, left a bequest to the university with a stipulation that his boat, the Nydia, and its spars be preserved by the university under a shed on university property for at least 99 years.

In accordance with Wood's wishes, the university in 1961 built a brick and glass structure adjacent to the University Center.

The boat was carefully installed there in a custom-built cradle of welded steel, and it remained there until now. The boat has attracted the interest of several historical organizations, including the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville, La., a museum dedicated to local nautical history with a special interest in wooden boats.

According to Biloxi, Miss., historian Russell Barnes, the Nydia is of particular historical interest in that it is the only surviving example of the work of the late 19th-century Biloxi shipbuilder, William Johnson. When the Nydia was examined recently in anticipation of its relocation, inspectors determined that some restoration work would be needed to keep it shipshape.

So the boat's first port of call after being lifted by a crane from its long-time location in Pocket Park was to be Mayer Yachting Services on the lakefront, where it will be attended to by the boatyard's specialist on wooden and historical craft. The fact that there is a lakefront, or indeed, as much dry expanse as exists in the metropolitan area is a credit to Wood, who in 1913, as a young engineer with the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, introduced plans for a powerful pump capable of draining the city of flood waters.

Until Wood's pumps came along, the city had been plagued with flooding after rainstorms. Installed at pumping stations located at strategic points throughout the city, Wood's pumps solved the city's chronic flooding problems, effectively bringing the city into the 20th century. They were so well designed and built that some of the original pumps are still in use in New Orleans.

Wood Screw Pumps have been employed around the world, as well. The Dutch used the pumps during their major land reclamation projects on the Zuyder Zee, and they have been used in Egypt, China and India, as well as in the sewerage systems of other cities in the United States and Canada. Wood, whose work at the Sewerage and Water Board was dedicated to getting rid of water, seems to have been at his happiest while he was sailing on it in his 30-foot sloop, Nydia.

Wood bought his boat in 1903, and sailed it single-handedly for solitary pleasure and in regattas on the Gulf Coast and in Lake Pontchartrain as often as he could. When he wasn't sailing, he stored the boat out of the water in Biloxi in a shed on a wagon-wheeled trailer. Wood's sailing days ended on May 10, 1956.

That day, while setting a course from Biloxi to Horn Island, Wood, 77, alone at the tiller of his boat, died of a heart attack. Following the completion of the boat's restoration, Tulane is planning to install the Nydia in a new enclosure on campus, appropriately located in the engineering school complex between the Lindy Boggs Center and the mechanical engineering laboratory building.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000