Discover the Sail, Power and Steam Museum in Rockland

Posted June 26, 2011, at 10:03 p.m.

Where can you find a working lime kiln, shipbuilding exhibits, nautical tools, a navigation room, shipwreck photographs, a knot exhibit, architectural half models, steam engines, antique machinery and more? On the grounds of the legendary old Snow Shipyard in the Sail, Power and Steam Museum, where visitors can delve into the history of the working, sailing schooners of the 19th century built at the old shipyard. Visitors to the museum also can learn about power and steam driven vessels.

The lime industry was a key aspect of Rockland’s history and tens of thousands of sailing vessels were here every year as part of the region’s early development. The Snow Shipyard built more vessels than any other yard in Maine or in New England from 1862 until 1937, with hundreds of artisans crafting some of the finest vessels to sail the seas. The museum has on display the shipbuilder’s tools of his trade with an extensive display of hand tools of the 19th century.

You can be a rigger at the museum’s hands-on knot board and rope-working station. Learn the history behind the Matthew Walker knot, as he was the only man to have a knot named after him.

One exciting addition to the museum is the completion of the first working lime kiln since 1890, which burns limestone and is fashioned like kilns of the late 19th century, complete with two fire boxes and a draw pit to extract the cooked stone. Learn about Rockland’s history as “Lime City,” when more than 100 of these structures burned day and night.

The museum also has embarked on building Engine House 1, a 16-by-22-foot post and beam structure that was built by volunteers.  Once completed, it will house a collection of about 10 steam engines and “make ‘n break” gas machinery, so visitors can hear the engines’ unusual cacophony of rhythms all under one roof. Don’t know what a “make ‘n break” engine is? Find out by stopping by to talk to Capt. Jim Sharp.

The museum has an extensive research library, as well as seafaring educational and music programming throughout the year. Every Sunday from 2-4 p.m., there are music jams, ranging from all acoustic songs to singing “some real pickin’ unes” as Jim and Meg Sharp will tell you.

Financial donations, grant writing assistance, members and volunteers, including folks who like to tinker with machinery, are needed. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday or by appointment. For more information, call 701-7627 or visit http://www.sailpowerandsteammuseum.org/.

Shari Closter is the interim executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call 596-0376, email shari@therealmaine.com or visit http://www.TheRealMaine.com.

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