Monday, January 30, 2017

A Little Maine Maritime History Reading

"The Big Schooner" 
The town of Waldoboro produced more than 600 wooden sailing ships. Of that total, the vast majority were TWO and THREE MASTED schooners — the pickup trucks of their day. These vessels were typically from 120 to 150 feet long, 20 to 30 feet wide, and 12 to 14 feet in depth and were capable of carrying 400 to 700 tons of cargo. They were usually coastal travelers bearing anything that would pay — ice, wood and coal being most common. 
Waldoboro's shipbuilding story, however, has always been highlighted by accounts of her BIG vessels, the FIVE MASTED schooners. There were 7 of these: Levitt Storer's Gov. Ames, and the 6 William Palmer vessels built by George L. Welt. When we say BIG, we now think in terms of 230 — 300 feet long, 40 - 50 feet wide, 22 - 27 feet deep, and with cargo carrying capacities of 1700 — 2800 tons. They were, in fact, by far the largest ships ever to be launched into the waters of the Medomak River. 
It was early in 1888 that Levitt Storer and a crew of 150 began work on the first five masted schooner ever built in the United States. (Two other five masters had been constructed — one on the West Coast and the other in the Great Lakes, but neither was technically a schooner.) This vessel was named for Oliver Ames, governor of Massachusetts 1886—1888;" 
- Mark W. Biscoe, Merchant of the Medomak: Stories from Waldoboro Maine's Golden Years 1860-1910

Sometimes vessels were hired for most unusual cargo. Such was the case of the bark Jonathan Chase, named for a businessman (born on another Day ship, Onward) of the area. Captain Edgar Chase took his bride along with him for a honeymoon voyage to Peru in 1868. The ship was to deliver a locomotive to the country - the first to be seen there. The machine was lashed to the deck and caused a great deal of rolling in the high seas as they rounded Cape Horn. After reaching their destination, Captain Chase was prevented from unloading the locomotive by natives who were suspicious of the "black devil." Finally after forty days, he managed to transact his business and get his young wife, who had contracted yellow fever while on board ship, to safety. (Story from records of Mr. Herbert Chase, Bristol Road, Damariscotta, Maine, from interview with Mr. Harold Castner.)
- Mark W. Biscoe, No Pluckier Set of Men Anywhere


  1. It is sobering to realize that over the centuries, most wooden ships have sunk.

  2. The Hesper and the Luther Little in Wiscasset were a wonderful, if ominous, reminder of the areas shipping past.... two great big schooners decaying for decades on the waterfront. The first trip of each summer we would round the bend and head down the hill wondering how much more rot had taken hold. Now the attraction is Red's Eats on the other side of the road.