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Inside the making of today’s Roseway

Despite her decrepit condition at a dock in Rockland, Maine, we knew Roseway was the perfect boat for the World Ocean School.

Roseway was in ruin before the restoration. She needed everything from the waterline up replaced as well as her midship down to the keel.

She had a special history, she was a solid and seaworthy boat, and she was the right size for an educational program.

After 84 years of service, she is one of only six original Essex-built Grand Banks schooners, and the only schooner specifically designed to beat the Nova Scotians in the international fishing vessel races of the 1920s and 1930s. She is a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark operating in Boston and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Roseway is 137 feet in sparred length and was built in 1925 by John James in his family’s shipyard in Essex, Mass. She was built and maintained to an exceedingly high standard, using a special stand of white oak. She had varnished rails and stanchions and had a house built for her every winter. She was so well-maintained that the coal for the stove was washed before being stored in the bunker.

On Dec. 7, 1941, just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Boston Globe reported the purchase of Roseway by the Boston Harbor Pilots Association. In spring 1942, Roseway was fitted with a .50-caliber machine gun and assigned to the First Naval District (New England). She served the pilots well for 32 years and was the last pilot schooner in the United States when she was retired in 1973.

It was then that Roseway began her transformation to a Windjammer when she was bought by a group of Boston businessmen who rebuilt her below-decks to meet Coast Guard passenger-carrying requirements. She continued in the tourist industry in Camden until she was repossessed by the First National Bank of Damariscotta.

Abby Kidder and Dwight Deckelmann quit their jobs to devote their time to restoring Roseway.

In September 2002 World Ocean School acquired Roseway. The first step was to find a yard in which she could be hauled, but her 260 tons and 12.5-foot draft made finding a location difficult. We settled on Samples Shipyard (now Boothbay Harbor Shipyard) in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 21, with a crew of two on board, she was harnessed to a tugboat in Rockland harbor and towed to Boothbay Harbor. The following day at the first high tide, she was hauled out of the water on the railway at Sample’s Shipyard.

The task ahead was daunting. She needed everything from the waterline up replaced as well as her midship down to the keel. She needed a new engine, a new foremast, new sails, new deck, and a complete renovation and redesign of her below-decks.

Boothbay Harbor Shipyard was home to the schooner during her restoration.

We gutted the interior, removing 40 tons of iron ballast just so we could get an accurate idea of the condition of the hull and to determine how badly she was making water and where. To our surprise, even in her poor condition, we only had to pump her out about once a week.

Once her interior structure was exposed, we called in Atlantic Shipbuilding and Repair and started digging into frames and the back sides of planks. After a week or so of digging and measuring, an estimate was made and the search for a place to work began.

The yard hired a majority of the subs, but we were allowed to run a parallel crew, which worked side-by-side with the yard crew. We averaged 10 men working on the boat for 40 hours a week and a smaller crew working the weekends. The work went on seven days a week through rain, sleet and snow as well as summer heat.

The Roseway’s restoration required tons of lumber: white oak, a few white and yellow pine trees and a Douglas fir for the foremast. The wood came from all over the East Coast — many mills were contacted for high-quality large white oak.

The difficulty was the size; all these pieces were extremely heavy and hard to manage. A typical frame section or futtock was an 8-by-8-by-6-foot curved piece that weighs a couple hundred pounds. The planks were 3 inches thick, 8 or so inches wide and up to 30 feet long, which had to be steamed and put on the boat hot. The ceiling consisted of 4-by-12-by-20-inch pieces of yellow pine, essentially a structural beam for a building; all were steamed and bent to the shape of the hull.

I will never forget her maiden voyage sailing from the yard to Rockport, Maine. We had organized a fund-raising event for World Ocean School — the first big event for us — and Roseway was supposed to sail to the dock at the start of the event. It was right after she’d been launched. Her sails were full and she was breaking through the waves. My heart just leaped and I almost cried. It was a very special moment.

St. Croix has now become the new winter home port for Roseway. She still summers in the Northeast, primarily in Boston, providing education programs and day sails for the public.


LOA: 137 feet

LOD: 112 feet

BEAM: 25 feet

DRAFT: 12.5 feet

SAIL AREA: 5,600 square feet

POWER: 400 hp diesel engine

Radar, GPS, VHF, cellular phone, two gensets

See related story:

- Refit give new life to classic Maine schooner

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the August 2009 issue.