:The Virginian-Pilot;:Sep 20, 2005;:Hampton Roads;:15

Waterman who built sailing tug, helped start Harborfest, dies at 73

BY MATTHEW ROY THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT • Reach Matthew Roy at (757) 446-2540 or matthew.roy@pilotonline. com.

NORFOLK — Lane Briggs, a sailor whose infectious love for the water helped spark Harborfest, spawned the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and led him to build the world’s first sailing tugboat – a curiosity spotted up and down the Eastern Seaboard – died Monday morning.

    Briggs, who was 73, had been stricken with lung cancer last year. He passed away with his family at his side, said Al Roper, a retired doctor and longtime friend.

    Briggs was born on a farm in North Carolina, The Virginian-Pilot reported in a profile last year. He told reporter Paul Clancy that he “looked a mule in the butt ’til I was 15 years old.” Then he headed for the coast and signed on as a deckhand on a fishing vessel.

    He soon joined the Coast Guard, serving as relief captain on yachts in the Great Lakes.

    Later, in Norfolk, Briggs started a salvage and hauling company with his first tugboat. In 1975, he took over a condemned marina in Willoughby Bay, rebuilding it into Rebel Marina.

    He became interested in outfitting tugboats with sails and built the Norfolk Rebel, a 59-foot “tugantine.” He used the unusual craft for hauling and salvage jobs all along the East Coast.

    “There wasn’t a thing on the water in 40 years he wasn’t involved in,” said Dale Stiles, the dock master at Rebel Marina.

    The look of his odd boat “will always get me a cup of coffee,” Briggs told the newspaper last year.

    His four sons all followed him to the sea.

    Briggs became one of the best known sailors on the East Coast, Roper said.

    “If you weren’t his friend,” he said, “it was because you hadn’t met him yet.”

MARTIN SMITH-RODDEN/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT FILE PHOTO Lane Briggs pilots the Norfolk Rebel, a 59-foot tugboat he outfitted with sails, out of his marina along Willoughby Bay. He used the unusual boat, which he called a “tugantine,” for hauling and salvage jobs.