Historic tugboat returns to McIntosh County, but restoration is just beginning

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Kit Jones back at home in McIntosh County (courtesy of Friends of Kit Jones)

DARIEN Ga. (WSAV) – An 80-year-old tugboat that sunk during Hurricane Katrina has made its way back to the Coastal Empire.

But now, a local non-profit needs help to fund efforts to fully restore it.

The Kit Jones is a 60-foot wood-hull tugboat that was built on Sapelo Island in the 1930s under R.J. Reynolds, Jr., tobacco company heir and island owner.

It’s said the tugboat served a number of roles: a school bus taking students to and from the Meridian Dock and a fireboat for the US Coast Guard in Savannah during World War II.

Notably, Kit Jones long served as a research vessel for what is now known as the University of Georgia Marine Institute and later the University of Mississippi.

Loading up the Kit Jones (courtesy of Friends of Kit Jones)

But the boat faced another battle in Biloxi, Mississippi.

In 2005, Kit Jones capsized and nearly sunk during Hurricane Katrina. In the following years, the University of Mississippi couldn’t maintain the vessel and she was pulled from the water.

The non-profit group Friends of the Kit Jones says it’s a miracle the boat survived all these years. But recent grants and donations helped bring Kit Jones from Biloxi to Darien to begin her restoration process.

On Thursday, Friends of the Kit Jones wrapped up a more than 500-mile trip with the tugboat in tow. As the group posted on their Facebook page, she “rests tonight back under McIntosh stars.”

Still, Kit Jones has more waves to travel. The non-profit is asking for donations to the restoration project — the total cost of which has not been finalized.

Tax-deductible contributions can be online at savethekitjones.com, mailed to Friends of the Kit Jones at P.O. Box 1968 Darien, GA 31305, or via Laurie Poole at savethekitjones@gmail.com.

Tugboat on the road to McIntosh County (courtesy of Friends of Kit Jones)

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