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Owners of Maine icon seek special buyer

Owners of Maine icon seek special buyer

The three-masted schooner Victory Chimes — the boat depicted on the back of Maine’s commemorative quarter — is up for sale and her owners are being selective about who they will sell to.

“Victory Chimes is an important piece of American tradition and we feel strongly that she should remain in this country,” says co-captain/co-owner Paul DeGaeta. “We stepped up 15 years ago to make sure she stayed in America and we’re proud of what we did with her. Now, we hope someone else steps up and does the same thing.”

With a price tag of $1.5 million, the 105-year-old Victory Chimes, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997, has initially only generated interest from foreign buyers. “All the interest has come from companies in places like the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and the Greek Isles,” says the listing broker, Gerry Hull of Fraser Yachts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “But this boat has become a symbol. Her owners have done a lot of work in keeping this boat in America and we’d all like to see it stay here, ideally in Maine.”

DeGaeta, who is 57, and fellow co-captain/co-owner Kip Files, 55, purchased Victory Chimes in 1990 from Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza. At the time, the only other party interested in purchasing the 172-foot wooden schooner wanted to transport the boat to Japan and convert it into a restaurant. DeGaeta and Files, who worked in Domino’s marine division, say they didn’t want to see the historic vessel go overseas.

“When we heard about the Japanese buyers we thought, ‘Oh my God, we can’t let this happen,’” DeGaeta explains. We figured we’d buy the boat ourselves, essentially buying some time to find the right buyer. We didn’t think we’d own her for very long.”

After purchasing Victory Chimes, the first thing DeGaeta and Files did was join Maine’s Windjammer fleet in Rockland. Since then they’ve made the boat available for private charters for events like family reunions, weddings and sail-training courses.

The men have also done a significant amount of work to the boat over the years. “I’d say that 70 percent of the boat is new since 1998,” Files says. “From two feet below the waterline up she has all new planks and frames. She also has a new bow, stern, new masts, sails and a new deck. We’ve updated the electronics and some of the below-deck comforts.

“She still has some of her original features, though,” Files adds. “She still has her original windlass, the original bilge pumps, and some of her original hardware. This stuff is all 100 years old. It’s cool stuff.”

Victory Chimes, originally called Edwin and Maude, was built at the Phillips & Moore Shipyard in Delaware in 1900. For a number of years the boat carried fertilizer, lumber, grain and other merchandise in the Chesapeake Bay area and along the East Coast. In 1954, a Maine syndicate purchased the boat, renamed it Victory Chimes, and brought it to PenobscotBay. A member of the syndicate, Frederick Guild, purchased the boat outright in 1959 and later sold her to a Minnesota banker who sailed her on the Great Lakes. Monaghan purchased Victory Chimes, had her refitted, renamed her Domino Effect and returned her to Maine in 1989. DeGaeta and Files purchased the boat the following year.

“But that was 15 years ago,” says DeGaeta. “We’re her caretakers, not her owners. Deciding to sell her was tough for the both of us but it’s time for us to move on.”

Because Victory Chimes holds a special place in the hearts of DeGaeta and Files, they say they’ll be patient in finding a proper owner. “It may take five, 10 years to find the right buyer, and that’s OK with us,” Files says. Hull hopes to put together a group of six or more “civic-minded” Maine businessmen to pitch in and share the cost of the boat.

“She’s as pure a working vessel as you’re going to find in this country and she’s worth saving,” Files says. “Paul and I aren’t rich and we’ve done it. Hopefully someone will come along with as much passion for saving this piece of American marine history as we have.”

www.victorychimes.com;

www.fraseryachts.com