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Maine Coastal News FREE LAURA B. Gets Relaunched from Northend Shipyard

LAURA B. being launched from Northend Shipyard in Rockland on 23 March following a winter on the railway to make repairs to her hull.

ROCKLAND – Maintaining an old wooden boat can be a challenge. The easiest way to stay ahead is by dealing with the problems when they first become evident. For commercial vessels this is even more important and inspections are done periodically by the Coast Guard. So when the LAURA B. was ready for an inspection, Andrew Barstow of the Monhegan Boat Line of Port Clyde decided to make sure she had all the work done properly. He made the decision to haul her out on Northend Shipyard’s railway and do everything that needed to be done. After nearly five months on the railway LAURA B. was relaunched and is just as good as new.

Andrew explained, “We took the boat to Northend Shipyard and our basic reason was we had a frame and fastening inspection to do. She really hadn’t been opened up since 1997, so we decided to really open her. We got her up, put a building over her and then we removed all the ice sheathing and some planks off all way around the boat. We sounded the vessel and inspected all the frames. The Coast Guard inspectors checked her off and said that she was good. At that point it was decided that since we had all the paint off of her why not refasten her. We did pull a lot of fastenings and I would say maybe 10 percent were showing signs of wear. So we decided to refasten the boat. As we got refastening we would come across one spot in a plank, so we would pull that planks and

then you would see a little bit of framework to do and we would repair that. By the end of the job I would say we did about 36 plank and the boat is totally re-fastened.

“We like to stay ahead of the game, instead of behind the game,” said Andrew. “If you are going to take all that time and energy to set up you should just do it. In talking to the Coast Guard I tried to explain to them that this cost us a lot of money and we have grounding blocks here at our dock and that is a better way for us to do the inspection. So if we are going to do it let’s open it and check it off so that you feel comfortable with the boat.”

Jim Barstow, Andrew’s father, added, “The fasteners that we did in ‘82 are just as good as the day they went in.”

Andrew said, “There were a couple of areas of the boat that had already been refastened. The very stern and the very bow and the starboard side under the engine. Back in 1997 LAURA B. was hauled out at Billing’s Diesel & Marine in Stonington. Andrew added, “Giffy Full did a survey on her. There were a couple of frames that were questionable in the bow that were replaced. There was some planking done, I would say a dozen at the most. A lot of it up forward and like one under the keel pipe. Then she was refastened forward in the bow and the stern.” The work that was done in 1982 was performed at Washburn & Doughty in East

Boothbay. At that time she was recaulked and they put the after cabin on. They initial plan was that this was going to be a two year project. “We were going to go back there, but I think it is going to be better for the vessel to actually to do it in the water,” said Andrew. “It is going to be more accommodating for us. It is hard to run the business from Rockland. So I think what we have decided to do is do it right in the water here at the dock.

“We were going to try to do it all in one year and then when we saw we couldn’t get out of the water until late November, we decided we’d better break this into a two- year project,” added Andrew. “Next year we want to take the wheel house off and there is a lower cabin, amidship cabin we call it, where the deck is lower than the main deck. We want to take off the amidship cabin, take off the wheel house, and bring that lower deck to the main deck level. Replace all the deck beams, tie the decking in a little better where he did the work in ’82. Redo a couple of bulkheads to make them stiffer, especially where the mast steps. Then carry the aft cabin forward, which will give us more seating undercover.”

LAURA B., launched as T-57 for the U. S. Army, was built in Solomon, Maryland in 1943 and served in the Second World War. Jim explained, “She did what she was designed to do. She unloaded vessels and brought it ashore. A lot of people don’t

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realize, that during the war, even in Portland, all those islands had huge gun emplacements with thousands of men on them and they needed vessels to supply them.”

After the war she was sold to a fellow from Vinalhaven who used her as a lobster smack. It was he who named the boat after his wife, Laura B. It was not long after that she was sold to Captain Earl Field and placed on the Monhegan run from Port Clyde in the early 1950s and has been on the run ever since.

Jim grew up on Manhattan. He added, “My father was one of the editors of a New York newspaper. We had a family home on Monhegan, which had been in the family for more than 100 years. But my father is originally from Gardiner. During the summers I worked on this boat when I was nine or ten years old. I had a hard time in school. My father being a newspaper man, spoke seven languages, every night we would sit down with either Latin or Greek and I was very intimidated. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, my mother wanted me to be a scientist and go to Brooklyn Tech, and my father wanted me to go to Yale like he did. That wasn’t going to work. My guidance counselor said, ‘You go to Maine all the time and you’re always talking about boats, do

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