VIDEO

Historic midcoast schooners get overhaul

Posted April 12, 2015, at 11:13 a.m.
Last modified April 12, 2015, at 5:44 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The schooners Nathaniel Bowditch and Timberwind are well on their way to being back in the midcoast fleet.

A massive restoration of the Nathaniel Bowditch continues on the grounds of Lyman Morse Boatbuilders yard in Thomaston. The Timberwind has been docked in Rockland for the past year but was scheduled on Sunday to make a quick voyage up Penobscot Bay to Belfast where it will begin offering day sails this summer.

Capt. Lance Meadows is chartering the 96-foot Timberwind from Capts. John Finger and Anne Mahle. His goal, however, it to buy the vessel from the the couple. He said Finger has been his mentor since he joined the crew of Finger’s schooner J&E Riggin in 1991.

Meadows said he has been attracted to the Timberwind for some time.

“She’s a true beauty. She’s always been my favorite. It’s something about her classic lines, they’re so unique,” Meadows said.

The Timberwind was built in 1931 by Victor Cole at the Union Wharf in Portland. The vessel served as a pilot boat based out of Portland until 1969. A new owner then retrofitted it and moved it to Rockport in 1970, when it began operating as a passenger vessel. The Timberwind offered tours out of Rockport for decades until it was taken from its owners through a bank foreclosure last year. Finger and Mahle purchased it last year.

Meadows said he is excited to be able to breathe new life into the Timberwind. Starting June 21, he will be offering day sails from Thompson’s Wharf in Belfast.

He said he is taking a traditional boat and adding a modern way to operate it. He will offer online ticketing for passengers and set up cameras so that the adventures on board can be put on YouTube for guests to share with their families and friends.

The vessel’s capacity had been 25 passengers but he is expecting to get the Coast Guard’s certification to increase that to 49 for the day trips.

A Des Moines, Iowa, native, Meadows went to school to study tourism but did not like the corporate world. He later attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and eventually landed in Maine where he met with up Capts. Finger and Mahle.

He said Belfast has been very welcoming to him and he is excited about starting the business there. The company he formed is called Maine Day Sail.

Over in Thomaston, the restoration of the Nathaniel Bowditch continues.

Veteran Capt. Noah Barnes said his original plan to have the schooner back in operation for this summer was quickly abandoned when the restoration work began in October. The new timetable is for the schooner to be working again in 2016.

The 82-foot Nathaniel Bowditch was foreclosed on in early 2014. Barnes then purchased it from mortgage holder Thomas Federle.

The vessel was built as a racing yacht in 1922 and formerly named Ladona. For the past 30 years, other than last year, the Bowditch has been part of the windjammer fleet in the midcoast.

Barnes said the restoration project has been much more extensive than he had planned but that he decided he had to do right by the vessel.

“That’s the joy and terror of buying a boat,” he said. “This is an arduous and exacting craft. There is nothing light, nothing easy. There are no straight lines and everything has to fit perfectly.”

At the peak, 16 people were working on the restoration. That is now down to 10.

He has replaced the galley, the entire deck structure, redesigned the interior cabin layout, replaced the bulk of the planking, the transom, the stem, the electronics and plumbing.

When it sets sail again, the two-masted schooner will carry 16 passengers.

The Bowditch has a rich history, according to Barnes. Built in East Boothbay as a racing yacht, the then-Ladona won the Bermuda Cup in 1933, patrolled New York City Harbor for submarines during World War II after being commissioned by the Coast Guard in 1942, then later served as a fishing vessel off the New England coast. In 1971, she was rebuilt to be a commercial schooner and renamed the Nathaniel Bowditch.

Barnes’ parents Ken and Ellen Barnes, were captains of the windjammer fleet for many years. Noah Barnes was 6 years old when his parents purchased schooner Stephen Taber, which he bought from them 12 years ago.

The Bowditch will berth at the Windjammer Wharf in Lermond’s Cove in Rockland. It will be next to the Stephen Taber and the J&E Riggin.

Barnes thanked Lyman-Morse for leasing him space in its boatyard to rebuild the vessel with his hand-picked crew. He also praised his crew members for their skill.

 

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