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Maine Coastal News FREE Rebuilding the Schooner NATHANIELBOWDITCH

Captain Noah Barnes has purchased the schooner NATHANIEL BOWDITCH and is now completely rebuilding her for this coming season.

THOMASTON – Last spring the wind- jammer fl eet made the headlines when two schooners, NATHANIEL BOWDITCH and TIMBERWIND were taken over by their respective banks. It was also no secret that others were for sale for various reasons. Questions were raised as to the future of the seized schooners, but more importantly the future of the windjammers. The summer passed and during that time several rumours were circulating that may be one or both schooners would shortly have new owners. As fall arrived one of the schooners,

NATHANIEL BOWDITCH, was hauled out at Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston and a temporary shed built over her. She now had a new owner, Capt. Noah Barnes and he had a new vision for this historic vessel and that meant completely restoring her. Capt. Barnes said, “I have known this boat since I was seven and I have always ad- mired her. In fact my sister was a mess cook on her when she was a teenager. When she got seized, she sat at our dock and sat at our dock and we watched her. One thing about these traditional vessels is operating them is far better for them. She sat at our dock for a whole winter and a whole summer and it was just heartbreaking. When the price dropped enough, it really started us to thinking about whether or not she was realistic because we had a good idea of what the boat needed and it wasn’t a lick and a promise. We knew she needed a serious amount of work and that

only somebody who was really serious and willing to go the distance was going to be able to do right by the vessel. The more we thought about it the more it seemed like we were those people. We put in not a terribly serious offer, or not an offer we thought that would be taken seriously, and here we are. We have gone a little deeper than we orig- inally thought was going to be necessary, which of course is the way of it. “Before we even put in a bid,” said Capt. Barnes, “we made a couple of phone calls and one of the phone calls was to our builder here Mike Rogers. I said, ‘Mike, hy- pothetically, we’ve bought a schooner, will you work on this project?’ and he said yes. That was a crucial piece. I have worked with Mike on a couple of other smaller projects and he is good.”

This is an impressive project and the crew put together needed the talent to do it right and they are. Presently there are sixteen people working on the BOWDITCH. Capt. Barnes added, “These guys are all freelance shipwrights. Some of these guys are here because they need to eat this winter, but most of these guys are here because they really want to be involved with a project that only comes along once in a while. This will be the schooner rebuild of the next couple of years until they really get going on the ERNESTINA. This is an important boat and we are doing a very thorough rebuild.” Once the temporary building was up

A view down inside the BOWDITCH showing many new frames in place.

in early October, “then we just started in ripping and tearing,” said Capt. Barnes. We took the interior out and then we decided that the forward collision bulkhead had to come out so we could get behind it. Then we got to the galley, either we are going to go in behind the cabinetry and ice boxes and have to reframe the boat from the outside, which means taking all the planking off, and then we’re going to live with a galley layout that is not exactly what we want and a cabin top we don’t exactly want. We were going to

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waste half of our time working around stuff, cobbling stuff together for a result that in two years is going to come out anyways or we could just do it. We decided to empty the boat and see what we had and at the end of the day even the frames that looked good, when you hit them with a mallet, half of it came off. So even where things looked the best it really wasn’t good enough to keep. The framing is about 60 percent done and in two weeks we

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