It was a reunion that featured spattering champagne, splashing Delaware River water - and generations of unrelated families linked by a great one gone to rest.

The great one is a 1924 catboat called the Silent Maid, the pride of Barnegat Bay sailing.

The Silent Maid, proud but limping, was nowhere to be seen, stored for now in a warehouse.

The fuss yesterday afternoon at the pier beside the Independence Seaport Museum was all about its gleaming, new sequel.

The new Silent Maid - all 33 feet and made of mahogany, white oak, and Spanish cedar - was christened with the smash of a bottle of champagne and then set down into the water with a crane after four years of construction by hand at the museum's boat-building workshop.

Whether talking about old or new, the legacy of the Silent Maid is as much about childhood lives and adult loves, about wind and water and passion for both, as it is about wood and hardware and painstaking work.

Construction of the replica was commissioned by former Wall Street trader Peter Kellogg of Short Hills, N.J., who is a zealot about preserving historic Barnegat Bay vessels and a museum supporter.

"My dad was one of the [original boat's] owners, so I always had an interest in her," Kellogg said in between greeting friends and well-wishers.

The original was designed by famed boat designer Francis Sweisguth in 1924 for Edwin Schoettle, who owned a Philadelphia box factory.

"My mother's the only daughter of Edwin," said Suzy Davis, of Radnor, Edwin Schoettle's granddaughter. "There were pictures of it [the Silent Maid] all over the house."

All of the past owners and their descendants of the original Silent Maid had intimate - in some cases, very intimate - memories about the sleek, B-class catboat champion on the Barnegat Bay of 1925.

William B. Chandlee Jr.'s family owned the original from 1948 to 1952.

"That was my babysitter," said Chandlee, of Bryn Mawr. "I was given a fishing rod and a box of minnows and told to go down below to sleep when I got tired. It allowed my parents to go out."

Cliff Hogan lives in Florida but spends his summers in New Jersey. He had his wild times on the boat - which eventually will be displayed at the museum - when he owned it from about 1964 to 1967.

"My son was conceived in the boat," he said.

Which bunk? he was asked. All of them, he answered without smiling.

He remembers sailing the Silent Maid in the Bay Head Yacht Club's race on the North Jersey shore one year. Before the race, he recalled, a competitor had said, " 'I wouldn't take the boat out in a swimming pool on a warm day.' "

The competitor was ahead after the first leg of the race. But Hogan and the Silent Maid got their revenge - they won by about three miles, Hogan said.

The catboat is thought to have come from a Dutch design. It has a single mast for the sail that is located toward the vessel's front. Catboats are wide compared to their length and well-suited for shallow water.

The American catboat dates back, possibly, as long ago as the colonial era. At different periods, it was used for fishing, tourism, pleasure sailing, and racing.

No one knows for sure why they are called catboats.

"The best theory I've heard is that [cat] is similar to the Dutch word for yacht," said John Brady, the master boat builder and manager of the museum's Workshop on the Water, who oversaw the new Silent Maid's construction.

That process began in 2004 with Brady, of Wyndmoor, and his crew doing a full-scale drawing based on the original Silent Maid's plan, with a few adjustments to make the keel, the boat's spine, stronger and stiffer.

Molds were made from pine and fir, cheap woods that aren't part of the finished product. The boat's body, or hull, was built upside-down with oak that was steamed to soften it so the ribs could be wrapped around the mold. Workers attached the "outside skin," as Brady describes it, before painting, caulking, and smoothing the hull.

After the 5,000-pound hull was carefully turned right-side up with cranes, the construction crew of volunteers and professional boat builders made the cabin, mast, and other poles used to hold and manipulate the sails, and put in the fuel and other systems.

There was no official announcement of the cost of building the boat. Brady doesn't keep the books, but he guessed the price tag was at least $500,000; some partygoers estimated $1 million. Hogan recalled paying $3,000 for the original in 1964.

Yesterday, before the party, the crew attached the mast after it was wheeled outside. When it's completed in coming weeks, the cabin will have four bunks, a galley with a stove and sink, and a bathroom.

Kellogg said he first would make a tour of wooden boat shows to display the new Silent Maid.

Then, he said, "we'll be sailing off Barnegat Bay."

Contact staff writer Carolyn Davis at 854-4214 or cdavis@phillynews.com.