ROCKLAND — One of the only remaining Hai (pronounced “high”) or Camden Finnboats on the Maine coast was relaunched June 18 after a nearly a yearlong restoration process at Rockland’s school for traditional boatbuilding and seamanship, The Apprenticeshop. The Firefly, originally named Gone Away, is boat number 17 of a 30-some-odd fleet that was shipped from Turku, Finland to Camden in the early 1930s.
That boat and the whole class of Finnboats will be the topic of a round-table discussion for The Apprenticeshop’s monthly program series, second Thursdays at The Apprenticeshop.
The Hai, the Finnish word for shark, was designed and built in Finland in 1930. At that time in Northern Europe, sailing was a sport of the very wealthy — individual yachts were commissioned and custom designed for clients. As the local and neighboring economies crumbled around them, a group of Finnish boat designers became concerned that their industry would dissolve. They set about exploring a way to create a “middle” class of sailing boats, “boy boats” that would be attractive to young sailors and keep interest in the sport alive.
Yacht designer Gunnar Stenback decided to create a class of yachts using the principals of Henry Ford: simply put, mass production in one design keeps the value high and the costs low. It was the beginning of one design in the yachting world and the Hai was one of the first of its kind.
Concurrently, in Camden, Thomas J. Watson Sr., president of IBM, was a member of the Camden Yacht Club. With an interest in creating a racing class for the club, Watson funded a scout to travel to Europe to identify one design class of boats that could be brought to Camden harbor. By encouraging local buyers and fronting all the costs of initial purchase and shipping, Watson oversaw the arrival of 12 Hai boats into Portland harbor in the spring of 1933. As local interest and buyers swelled, further shipments arrived.
In 2007, boat number 17 was donated to The Apprenticeshop in Rockland. It was stored in the yard until 2009 when it moved into the shop to become an educational restoration project for the school and subsequently to be sold. Instructor Kevin Carney led the project and over the course of 11 months oversaw its transformation. In the process, boatbuilding apprentices Jim Valentine, Vanya Davidov, Martin Ryan, Tyler Zogby, Justin McAnaney and Adam Yanchunis honed their craft in restoring the yacht to its original design and beauty.
“She was in pretty rough shape when she was donated to us,” said Carney. “We were able to maintain about 30 percent of her original materials, a lot had to be replaced. The Hai was an excellent educational tool for us. We were able to see, firsthand, which materials and building techniques stand the test of time, and which do not. We all learned a tremendous amount on this project.”
Carney will be joined at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 8, at the Apprenticeshop by Hai owners and enthusiasts along with several of the apprentices who worked on the restoration to discuss all aspects of the design and history of the boat. The Firefly and Fancy, two examples of the original Camden fleet, will be on hand for viewing.
“These boats were built to be fast, but not built to last. A lot of the boats from the Camden group have simply disintegrated into the landscape. Those half dozen or so that are still around and in good shape are due to the diligent maintenance of their owners,” Carney said.
For information, visit www.apprenticeshop.org or call 594-1800.