Sunday, August 30, 2015

Maine: Bath and Boothbay tug boat building

     Welcome back to Bath, Maine.   Before we finish up here, I want to acknowledge a great photographer who spends much time shooting this part of the country - Fred LeBlanc.  
(Above is one of his shots.)

     Fred was instrumental in getting us out on the Heritage a few weeks back.  As you can see he is also a master of the finish editing of photos.  He sells prints and teaches workshops - you can connect with Fred by Clicking Here.

     We wrap up in Bath back at the Maine Maritime Museum.

.     Today we meet senior curator, Nathan Lipfert.

     Nathan's parents took him to numerous museums as a child, and he dreamed of "running away to the sea."  In the late 1960's he did some volunteer work here. 

     In 1970 he got sweet on a girl, but one of her requirements was that he get a job.  The museum was hiring, so he took a job and as of 45 years later, he hasn't left.  That was about the time the museum was acquiring this current location, and as we saw in the Article on Ship Building they have accomplished a lot.

     Nathan plans to retire next year, and intends to write several books on ship building and the tools that have been used to build ships.  He says that there is a new energy that comes when we make a change, and he thinks the new energy represented by the younger folks that are coming into their own in the organization will be good for it.

     It is really a remarkable place Nathan and all these other folks have built.  Experts from many fields of marine study are eager to come here to speak, and inside the conference center they give lectures to standing-room only crowds.

     To touch on just a couple of the displays I thought were interesting - here is a hand built model of what this shipyard looked like back in the day.  Notice that included in the model are several buildings we toured the other day.

     This area exported a lot of ice to southern climates.  It was packed in sawdust - a commodity that was readily available here.  Special ponds were formed to "farm" the ice, which was cut into manageable sized blocks for shipping.  Here is an "ice cutter" used to carve the pieces out of the ponds.

     There is also a large section that touches on the boat building techniques of more recent generations.  

     During WW II it was mostly women building these ships, as those of you familiar with the "Rosie the Riveter" campaign will recall.  There is a large display of items that were shipped here from around the world, scrimshaw and ivory carvings as well as many scale models of boats from the 1600's up to present.  Another interesting item was a "cotton packer."

     Cotton is a light product and it was in the merchant's interest to pack as much into the ship as possible.  There are accounts of them packing cotton bales so tightly that the pressure popped the deck planking loose.  

     Nathan gave us a referral to a local company in nearby Boothbay that builds modern boats.

     Boothbay is a quiet town on sheltered waters that started as a fishing camp back in the 1620's.

      Here we find the tugboat manufacturing firm of Washburn and Doughty.

         This firm was founded by Bruce Washburn and Bruce Doughty, two Bath Iron Works employees who struck out on their own in 1994.  They built a large fishing vessel on the side while still employed at the iron works and used the money from that contract to launch out on their own.

     As is usual in Maine, the property still has the old shipyard owner's house on the hill overlooking the yard.  Here it is used as the company's offices.

     Katie Maddox, daughter of Bruce Doughty showed us around the facility.  

  Here we are speaking with structural supervisor Ken Doak who is explaining how we get from big sheet of metal to a reliable work boat that can be trusted to guide the big freighters into port. 

     In one area large sheets of metal are worked into forms and the hull takes shape one piece at a time. 

     The large yellow contraptions are electromagnets on a frame that allows hoists to move the sheets around the shop.

     This is about making the sheets of metal conform to the plans - lots of heating, shaping and welding.

     Separately the interior rooms and the pilot house are formed.  Then these are brought together and the exterior of the boat takes shape.

     Right now they are filling orders for several 100 foot tugs - boats that are a lot more massive than they appear when they are working alongside the cargo ships.  Here the client's name is formed out of raised metal letters.

     Another time consuming phase is grinding the welds smooth.  

     The boats are launched before the interiors are outfitted - but they have to be painted first.  When a boat is ready to paint the crews work over a weekend to keep dust and debris at a minimum.

     Two EMD 12 cylinder 3,000 horsepower engines are installed.  EMD was originally a division of General Motors, but now stands on its own as Electro-Motive Diesel Company.  

     These motors were designed for locomotives, and there are 16 cylinder and 20 cylinder models even larger than this.  

     The firm builds these vessels from keel to radar antenna.  Here is the pilot-house of one that is nearly ready for delivery to the client.

     Most of these 100 footers are set up to sleep six or seven people, with many conveniences such as a modern galley, dining area and laundry appliances.  So there is lots of wiring, plumbing, cabinets and finish carpentry.

     The dense rubber bumpers are added to minimize damage when pushing and you have a completed boat.  The company is currently manufacturing about four of these a year.

     Right next to Washburn & Doughty is Hodgdon Yachts.

     The folks at Hodgdon Yachts were friendly, but said they have a confidentiality agreement with their current client so they couldn't show us around.  

      Its a shame too - this is the oldest family of boat builders in the United States.  They have been launching boats from this location since 1816 - 200 years of adaptability and resilience.  In the 1970's Timothy Hodgdon, representing the fifth generation, took over the business and embraced the new carbon-fibre construction.  On their website are numerous pictures and more details.  Although I don't know anything about what they are building at the moment, it's big enough that it looks like the building is giving birth to it.

     We meet Jim Leckey at the marina.

     Jim spends his summers on the Aeolus, pictured below.

     Aeolus was the Greek god of the winds.  Jim has been sailing for decades.  45 years ago Jim was heading to Alaska, but decided to stop in this area for a weekend to visit a college friend.  The friend threw a party for him, and at the party he met a girl . .   and here he is.  He studied architecture and has dabbled in many things since.  He and his wife have been together long enough that they both enjoy the summer break they take from each other.

     If you are from Charleston SC you are probably acquainted with Zan Smith's Sculptures.  Here is a piece in Boothbay reminiscent of his work.

     And just up the street is a  . . . 

     Soccer Lobster? 

    Back at the Maine Maritime Museum we meet Katie Meyers.

     Katie was an English major who spent ten years as an editor for a media company before coming here.  She handles marketing and communications for the museum, and today she has a special treat for visitors to the museum.

     This is the Maine Responder, a 208 foot vessel that specializes in cleaning up large oil spills.  Tomorrow we will take a look at the boat and visit their facilities in nearby Portland Maine.

     Speaking of Portland, it will be our last major stop in Maine.  I am told if you spend more than 90 days in Maine you become a "Mainiac."  


     We are pushing that deadline hard - we arrived here the first of June.  That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd" - a lady and her son who were on the museum's Lighthouse Lover's Boat Tour.

     And today's parting shot, spotted at a t-shirt shop in Bath:

Click Here if you can contribute to this effort, and you can email me at

Make it a great day !!

No comments:

Post a Comment