Matt Monroe says his boat Hallelujah is often recognized. “One of the more interesting questions we had,” says Monroe, “was the day we were on a mooring at the Goslings, a popular spot for day cruisers. A couple on a boat idled up and asked if the boat was ‘the’ Hallelujah, the one that was once a service boat in Casco Bay. When we said ‘yes,’ they smiled and said, ‘The guys who ran that boat saved our bacon one stormy day!’”
Hallelujah, a 36-foot Jarvis Newman hull, was built in 1977 and powered by a 210-hp Caterpillar 3208. Like most of Jarvis Newman’s hulls, Hallelujah was finished by another custom builder—in this case by Lee Wilbur of Wilbur Yachts—for a customer who was an executive at Central Maine Power. Eventually, the boat became a part of the energy company’s service department, a reliable response craft berthed in Portland to serve customers on five or six year-round inhabited islands in Casco Bay. Oftentimes, it would go out in the worst weather to restore power knocked out by coast-lashing winter Nor’easters.
“My wife Nancy and I, having previously owned a Pearson Ensign sailboat and then a Mako 22 center console, started looking for a Downeast hull in 2009, something around 32 feet initially,” Monroe recalls. “Among the builders we visited was Farrin’s Boat Shop in Walpole, Maine, to ask about commissioning a new 32-footer. Bruce Farrin Sr., who hates to see a good boat go to waste, steered us toward this well-used 36-footer on stands in his yard. Farrin had won the contract on a new vessel for Central Maine Power and took the old workhorse Hallelujah in trade. The hull and drivetrain were in good shape, but the traditional pilothouse, the washboards, and much of the cockpit was kind of a mess.”
Farrin explained that his shop craftsmen could rehabilitate Hallelujah to a yacht-like condition, one that satisfied the Monroe’s specific needs, and could do it for far less than a new boat would cost. “We liked the idea of saving a classic Downeaster, and agreed to do that with him,” Monroe says, “but we wanted a different look than the cube-like pilothouse that was original, and asked for a striped bass style windshield, with a canvas top and drop curtains aft.”
Farrin’s craftsmen replaced everything from the main cabin bulkhead back to the stern—new wash rails, new plumbing and steering, a new electrical system and all-new electronics. They saved all the original bronze hardware, polished it to like-new condition, and reinstalled it, along with some new pieces like the engine room vents and deckhouse portlights. Even the original bronze and wood-handled steering wheel was restored to its former glory.
“In the building process, Bruce brought us down and measured my wife’s reach, and then placed the handholds so that she could reach them comfortably and safely when moving around on side decks and foredeck,” Monroe says. “They also adjusted the bench seats to suit us, as well as the windshield height, so that we could both look safely forward with no obstruction.”
Matt and Nancy Monroe started the rebuild in September 2011, and they relaunched Hallelujah in May 2014. It was promptly included in a Boats of the Year edition of a well-known Maine magazine. “Bruce had multiple projects on his plate, but we were happy to work at his pace,” Monroe says. “We continue to count on their expertise. Farrin stores the boat for us every year, winterizes it in the fall and recommissions it in the spring, and stands ready to make new modifications we want or need, like a new electronic ignition panel or the bracket for our dinghy outboard. They do our brightwork touchup, bottom paint and boot stripe every year.”
Farrin’s well-regarded shop is a few miles from the South Bristol, Maine waterfront, and is operated by Bruce Sr., who started working on boats when he was 16. He relies on his sons Bruce Jr. and Brian, and a talented craftsman named Eric Runyan who’s been with them forever. “They only do powerboats, mostly Downeast designs,” Monroe says, “and they’ve been building a 46-footer and commercial lobster boats recently. They’re phenomenal people, real craftsmen, and we prize the relationship.”
When Hallelujah was first launched, the Monroes worked full time and lived in southern New Hampshire along the coast. “But I grew up on Casco Bay, and it’s a destination-rich environment for exploring, maybe 300 islands,” says Monroe. “We kept Hallelujah on a mooring in Falmouth at Handy Boat in those days, an easy drive from our New Hampshire home, and would spend Friday and Saturday nights aboard, on the hook, somewhere on the bay. Now that we’re retired and living in New Harbor, Maine, and the boat is moored close by in the Pemaquid River, we probably spend 50 to 60 hours a season just pleasure cruising with friends and family.”
Monroe says that Hallelujah is not fast, but is incredibly stable and seaworthy. He likes to cruise between 10 and 13 knots at about a 55 to 75 percent engine load, and he thinks they can manage 15 knots at wide-open throttle if needed. They keep a North Atlantic RIB on stern davits for exploring shallower waters. “In the past, we’ve cruised Casco Bay and Muscongus Bay, explored places like Port Clyde and Boothbay, and have traveled up the Kennebec to Bath Iron Works,” Monroe says. “If we get a string of good weather days this fall, we’ll likely cruise up to Penobscot Bay.”
A modest, graceful sheer connects the spoon-shaped, lightly flared bow to a tumblehome at the transom. Below the waterline, there is a traditional full-length keel that protects the prop and rudder in case of grounding.
Hallelujah’s original interior layout was preserved and finished out in Herreshoff style, with lots of gleaming white surfaces and natural teak details. In the bow, which is lined on both sides with teak strips, there’s a V-berth with a filler, with twin facing bench seats in front of large, open hanging lockers behind partial bulkheads to either side.
Aft to port is the galley, with a 2-burner alcohol stove, a sink, and a huge top-loading icebox with an internal shelf and enough insulation to keep block ice usable for five days. Opposite there’s a small bench seat with space beneath for a dog bed. The enclosed head starboard aft completes the cabin layout.
Aft in the cockpit there is a full-width bench seat, served by a cleverly stored folding table for meals. There is no protruding engine box, due in part to the raised bridgedeck under the canvas top. Behind the windshield, two large forward-facing helm seats hinge downward from the sides, custom built for one adult and a small child each.
Weight: 17,000 lbs.
Power: (1) 200-hp John Deere diesel
Fuel: 130 gals.
Water: 35 gals.
This article was originally published in the November 2021 issue.