“A mountain boy from Mars Hill, NC (born June 18, 1932), Briggs worked at a hosiery mill in Durham before a side trip took him to Carolina Beach at the age of 15. ‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ he said to himself upon seeing the ocean for the first time. ‘Wonder what’s out there!’ He joined the U.S. Coast Guard to find out.” –Chesapeake Bay Magazine, May 1998
Harbor Flyer, the first commercial hydrofoil on the James River, made its initial run from Richmond to Hampden Roads on March 13th, Lane Briggs was captain. The 22-passenger hydrofoil cruised at 30 kph. The run was discontinued later in 1965 due to lack of riders, though Lane continued to believe in the technology.
Lane leased a marina in Willoughby Bay, Norfolk VA and made it home base for Rebel Marine Service, his construction and salvage company and for his 1960s-era tugboat, Steel Rebel. He later purchased the land, rented slips to private vessels and started Rebel Marina.
The first Rebel Marina Crab Regatta gave birth to the first Tugantine: “Briggs decided to throw a dockside crabs-and-beer blast, featuring a pre-party sailboat race. ‘I wanted all the people around the dock to join in,’ Briggs says, ‘so I made a rule—if you want the crabs and beer, you have to race a sailboat.’ That sounded fair enough until someone pointed out that Captain Lane Briggs did not own a sailboat.” | Download pd
Lane was a founding member of the service-oriented Towne Point Yacht Club… no neckties allowed and no boat required.
Lane was on the board of Nautical Adventures, the development group that presented the first Norfolk Harborfest in June, 1976. The success of Harborfest gave rise to a number of organizations dedicated to promoting events along Norfolk’s waterfront.
December 23: Rebel Marine Service pulled the wreckage of a Skyline commuter plane out of the Chesapeake Bay in choppy seas and 10-15 mph winds, the salvage job went off without a hitch. The plane had gone down on its approach to Patrick Henry Airport October 20, killing four.
Lane decided to build a new tug. Naval Architect Merritt Walter was enlisted to draw up the plans per Lane’s specifications and Howdy Bailey signed on as master builder. The boat’s keel was laid on April Fools Day, 1978. Lane received a $72,000 grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service to rig the tug with sail. | Download pdf
Steve sailed to Key West with Schooner Young America.
Jesse Briggs presented a paper on sail-assisted commercial vessels at the sixth bi-annual tug convention in Hamburg, Germany.
Lane launched his new Tugantine, Norfolk Rebel, on National Maritime Day, May 22, 1980. According to the Washington Post, at the tug’s christening—attended by about 600 people—Norfolk Mayor Vincent Thomas called Rebel, “the greatest thing that’s happened to Norfolk since the end of the last yellow fever epidemic.” | Link to the Washington Post
December 25: Norfolk Rebel, with musicians and carolers aboard, led a small fleet out to serenade the crews of 180 cargo ships idled in Hampton Roads by the coal strike. The tradition continued for the next 10 years until anchoring in the area was banned. | Download pdf
May 28: Lane sets sail on an 8,000-mile voyage to “circumnavigate Virginia”. Aboard were son Steve and Lucia Woodlan. The route took Norfolk Rebel north to Nova Scotia, through the St. Laurence River and into the Great Lakes, participating in Toronto’s tall ship event. Lane took the rig down in Chicago, went through to St. Louis and down the Mississippi to New Orleans in time to catch the end of the World’s Fair. At that point, the rig went back in and they sailed across the Gulf of Mexico, around the tip of Florida and up the East coast.
Norfolk Rebel tended the three-masted schooner, Victory Chimes.
Two years after his challenge to Pride, Lane rounded up seven schooner friends and staged the first annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The race has be run ever since, raising funds for maritime education and environmental organizations with a focus on the Chesapeake Bay. | Download more about the race.
Lane’s son David took over running Rebel Marina so Lane could spent the winter “goofing off” in Florida. He sometimes bid on jobs, but mostly spent his time cruising to maritime festivals and providing a gentle “tug” when needed by the tall ships.
Norfolk Rebel was in Key West Bight, site of the Schooner Western Union and the Schooner Wharf bar. While there, she sailed in the Wreckers Cup race from Key West Harbor to Sand Key.
Lane received a lifetime achievement award from the American Sail Training Association and Norfolk Rebel participated in the Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge.
Lane left Norfolk Rebel to his sons Jesse and Steve while David continued to run Rebel Marina and Terry continued to drive tugboats. Steve moved back to Norfolk from Hawaii where he’d lived and worked for ten years as a tug captain and he settled aboard Norfolk Rebel. Jesse and his wife Meghan Wren were committed to the Bayshore Discovery Project Meghan founded, the Schooner A. J. Meerwald, and their young son Delbay. Jesse sold his share of Norfolk Rebel to Steve.
Captain Steve Briggs is a natural fit for the Tugantine. Steve spent years aboard Norfolk Rebel working as mate for his father and captained the sail training vessels Harvey Gamage, Ernestina, and Tole More. Steve continues to be a strong advocate for maritime education and the Chesapeake through his leadership with the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
Steve began to address Norfolk Rebel’s many deferred maintenance projects. He took the rig down and enlisted the help of the boat’s original master builder, Howdy Baily, who inspected the mast steps, spars and rig. The standing rigging and gaff jaws were replaced and the spars repainted. Thanks to the generous donations by “Friends of Norfolk Rebel”, the boat received a new suit of tanbark sails.
In order to address a compromised bridge deck, Howdy Bailey suggested the use of a doubler plate. He also fabricated a new aluminum pilothouse and installed it on April 25, 2008. The pilothouse featured handrails all around, much to the delight of the crew who fondly refer to the boat as, “the Norfolk Roller”.
Norfolk Rebel was hauled at Cobbs Marina to address serious bottom issues. Her hull was sandblasted, steel thickness checked with ultrasound and quite a bit of bad steel replaced by Howdy Bailey. All the thru hulls were replaced, the rudder and shaft pulled and the steering repaired. To defray costs, “Friends of the Norfolk Rebel” held a fund raiser on Valentine’s Day in support of the “Rustoration”.
On June 5, 2009, Norfolk Rebel was relaunched and rechristened with a bottle of Ron Virgin Rum, Lane’s favorite!
Norfolk Rebel’s interior had been stripped out before the bottom project which gave Steve the opportunity to reconfigure the living quarters. Dale Stiles was the obvious choice for the job, with his deep ties to the Briggs family and Norfolk Rebel, he is an excellent builder and expert carpenter. A companionway was cut through the bulkheads so crew could pass from the foc’sle to the galley without going on deck and the fish hold converted to comfortable living quarters. | Video tour