Second launching for Shenandoah
Capt. Robert S. Douglas's 43-year-old Vineyard Haven-based topsail schooner Shenandoah slipped easily into Boothbay Harbor Saturday morning, following an extensive reconstruction, called a "re-topping," over the past six months at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard. Charlene Douglas, the captain's wife, christened the family's marine centerpiece, and the Scottish bagpipe band that had piped her into the water when she was launched at South Bristol, Maine, in 1964 piped her down the Boothbay railway, in front of a large crowd of family, friends, former passengers, and current and former crew.
The Boothbay shipyard's carpenters replaced planks, frames, from three strakes below the waterline to the deck, then replaced the waist planking and stanchions to the rail. Their work included the replacement of the round, overhanging stern, a challenging bit of work, both in design and execution, for the best craftsmen.
Captain Douglas, who conceived, designed, and oversaw the construction of his schooner at the Harvey Gamage Shipyard in South Bristol, told his guests Saturday that his rebuilt schooner is stronger than she originally was. He praised the work of the shipyard craftsmen, who include two familiar Vineyard faces: David Stimson, a boatbuilder, is general manager of the Boothbay yard, and David Thompson, a yacht captain and former captain of ferries for his family's Cape and Islands Express Lines. Captain Douglas, now in his seventies, also told the crowd that although his schooner has never in 43 years gone sailing without him, her new lease on life may mean that one day, not soon, someone else may be in command when Shenandoah slips her Vineyard Haven mooring.
Shenandoah will remain in Boothbay for a week or so while the finishing touches are completed, before being towed to the Vineyard to begin her 44th season.
Apart from regular annual maintenance, generally undertaken at D.N. Kelley Shipyard in Fairhaven, Shenandoah has not undergone extensive repair since her launching. Captain Douglas told the crowd Saturday that the two fishing vessels constructed alongside Shenandoah in Gamage's yard are now gone. Shenandoah's endurance, and now her new lease on life are remarkable, he said.
She has operated every year since her launching, carrying as many as 31 passengers on weeklong cruises in Southeastern New England waters. She also cruised in Maine during the 1970s. Recently, her passengers have been mostly groups of young people. Since the mid-1990s, fifth-grade students from Vineyard elementary schools have been among the student sailors, making the week-long cruises at rates 50 percent off the standard fare. Shenandoah's mid-life refreshment has been made possible by the creation of the Shenandoah Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable foundation.
Shenandoah, called an extreme clipper schooner, with square sails on her foremast, and Alabama, a slightly smaller fore and aft rigged schooner, are both operated out of Vineyard Haven by Coastwise Packet Company. Captain Douglas and his family own Coastwise Packet and Black Dog Tavern enterprises.
Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, formerly Sample's Shipyard, was founded more than 135 years ago, according to its website. Continuing a long shipbuilding tradition, the yard specializes in the maritime skills and trades that made New England famous. Its 700-ton marine railway has held tall ships, tugboats, fishing trawlers, Coast Guard vessels and other service craft such as passenger boats and ferries. The 150-ton railway has accommodated sailing yachts, workboats, schooners, and motor vessels.
The Shenandoah Foundation website is shenandoahfoundation.org. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profitable corporation.