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Destination – Brooklin, Maine

It’s all about wooden boats in this coastal village on Eggemoggin Reach

It’s all about wooden boats in this coastal village on Eggemoggin Reach

Read the other story in this package: The heart of the wooden boat movement

Delightful” is a word that describes sailing on Maine’s Eggemoggin Reach. In the prevailing summer southwesterlies you can sail on a reach in either direction through the wide, island-dotted passage between PenobscotBay and BlueHillBay.


Granite-rimmed, spruce-covered islets and a sprinkling of small villages and summer estates provide peaceful vistas. A multitude of coves promise quiet anchorages. And one of New England’s largest concentrations of classic wooden yachts provides a visual feast of vessels under sail.

This wooden boat Mecca encompasses Brooklin, a village of 800 on the mainland near the Reach’s eastern end. The main attractions: Brooklin Boatyard on CenterHarbor — specializing in the design, construction, repair and maintenance of wooden boats — and WoodenBoat Publications — publisher of WoodenBoat magazine, among other related ventures — some two miles east on Naskeag Point. Both firms foster and inspire the wooden boat industry and have for more than 30 years.

Up to 200 classic yachts moor in CenterHarbor, from pulling boats and wooden Beetle Cats to impeccably maintained vintage vessels and the late Joel White’s traditional designs. Many of the craft were restored or built by Brooklin Boatyard, now operated by Joel’s son, Steve, who is 51. From 1960 until he died in 1997, Joel White designed boats — from sweet-lined Nutshell prams to the spectacular W-76 Class sloops — with the same discerning, artistic eye that his father, author and The New Yorker essayist E.B. White, applied to his prose.

Joel White’s W-76s and later the W-46 Class sloops designed in-house by Robert Stephens (all built in collaboration with Rockport Marine) put Brooklin Boatyard at the forefront of state-of-the-art wood-epoxy yacht construction. When Soundings visited four sailing yachts — three larger than 55 feet and a 90-footer — were under construction in the shingled sheds that dominate the harbor.

You could get lucky and obtain a mooring in CenterHarbor but most visitors anchor beyond the mooring field, protected by ChattoIsland. A quiet tour around the harbor is well worth the time. You’ll notice few inflatable dinghies, for most locals row traditional small craft that complement their classic yachts.

You can dinghy to the Center Harbor Yacht Club dock or, if on a mooring, to Brooklin Boatyard. It’s a little more than a half-mile to the village center and small-town Americana at its best. Brooklin General Store’s bulletin board advertises lectures, school events and other local goings-on. The store’s stock ranges from an ATM and The New York Times to groceries, fresh meats, fine wines, rain gear, propane and gasoline. The public library (with book swap and Wi-Fi), Morning Moon Café (breakfast, lunch, take-out and ice cream), and a handful of unique art, craft and antique galleries cluster around the store.

Within a block are the post office, Dragonflye Inn (bed and breakfast) and The Brooklin Inn, a bed and breakfast, gourmet restaurant (dinner only) and lively Irish pub run by sailor and former tugboat captain Chip Angell and his wife, Gail. Nightly in the pub Angell matches sea stories with yarns spun by patrons. Nearby are the town green (site of a pottery co-op and July Fourth celebrations) and the school, which hosts movies, art shows and community events.

You also can anchor off WoodenBoat headquarters and walk into the village along the pleasant 1.6-mile winding country road. But first, explore the WoodenBoat campus, nautical library and WoodenBoat Store.

You’ll need a bicycle or vehicle to visit most of the 11-plus local boatbuilding firms in town, from one-man shops to Brooklin Boatyard and Atlantic Boat Co., each of which employ more than 45 people. “In Brooklin you either work at the General Store or build boats,” says Brion Rieff, a former fisherman who has built boats for 40 years. Among his recent launches was a cold-molded 50-foot John Alden schooner. “People associate Brooklin with quality. The concentration [of boatbuilders] is good for all of us. We inspire each other.”

In this close-knit community all know each other, and each shop has its own niche. “When any of us get requests [outside our specialties], we pass them on to another builder,” says Eric Dow, who builds wooden Haven 12.5s, fiberglass peapods — and has no sign on the street. “My customers all find me.”

Up Route 175, Forrest and Wade Dow build Bridges Point 24 sloops in fiberglass and operate a do-it-yourself yard for local fishermen. “We build two or three boats each winter,” says Forrest. “But in summer I can’t stay ashore. In winter it’s better to be inside.”

Atlantic Boat Co., on Flye Point Road, builds 40 to 50 fiberglass Down East-style hulls a year, more than any other lobster-boat builder, says Nate Hopkins, company president and co-owner. The 21- to 56-footers are sold in various kit forms or custom-finished as workboats, sportfishermen or cruisers. The Spencer Lincoln-designed Duffy and BHM hulls are prized by commercial and recreational users alike.

Benjamin River Marine, which builds a boat or two a year, D.H. Hylan Associates and Jim Brooks are located in West Brooklin. Doug Hylan specializes in restorations and plank-on-frame construction, with old-style detailing of his own traditional designs. His eight-man crew was building a 26-foot sloop and restoring a 1940s Knarr sloop. Brooks designs and builds glued lapstrake traditionally inspired small craft. North of the village, Eric Jacobssen also builds lapstrake dinghies.

Perhaps the most spectacular time to visit Brooklin is the first weekend in August, when more than 100 classic, vintage and “Spirit of Tradition” yachts converge for the annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. Spinnakers, gollywobblers and fishermen staysails spread skyward as yachts compete. More sedate but equally impressive is the annual WoodenBoat Sail-in, when the Maine windjammer fleet anchors behind BabsonIsland in celebration of these traditional vessels. The morning sight of all those gaffers sailing out warms the heart. Under sail yourself, whether heading east or west through Eggemoggin Reach, the prevailing breeze will propel you through this delightful area.