Downes F. Curtis, 85, renowned sailmakerDownes F....


Downes F. Curtis, 85, renowned sailmaker

Downes F. Curtis, a renowned Eastern Shore sailmaker, died Saturday of natural causes. He was 85.

Mr. Curtis started making sails as a boy for Dave Pritchett, an English sailmaker who had come to Oxford.

When Mr. Pritchett died in 1936, Mr. Curtis continued to operate the business with his brother, Albert, who died last summer.

Mr. Curtis originally made commercial sails for small vessels and oyster dredges. But later he made racing sails.

He worked until his death, using much of Mr. Pritchett's equipment, although methods and materials had changed.

"He was certainly a premier sailmaker on the Eastern Shore, I guess one of the few black sailmakers," said Douglas Hanks Jr., a board member of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, where Mr. Curtis' work will be on display.

"He was a very, very talented sailmaker," Mr. Hanks said. "He was very well respected in the town and very well respected in the sailing world."

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Pub Date: 12/30/96

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