Young men work on old boat

Posted:  Sunday, April 22, 2018 - 8:30am
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Boothbay Harbor Shipyard has hired three sturdy young men to help in the five-year, $6.5 million restoration of the schooner Ernestina-Morrissey. Two have deep roots in the Boothbay area.

David Thorpe of South Bristol grew up in Newcastle and attended Great Salt Bay School. He is a 2006 graduate of Lincoln Academy.

“I wanted to go to school for engineering,” he said.

Thorpe enrolled in Grove City College in Pennsylvania and after graduation took a job at an engineering firm in Washington, D.C.  “I was slowly losing interest,” said Thorpe of his desk job. “I didn't get my hands into doing things. I missed Maine.”

He decided to take a boatbuilding course at Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Bristol which led to his current work at the shipyard.

Willy Leathers has family on Southport and an attachment to boats and the Boothbay area.  “I have spent a lot of time in the Harbor,” said Leathers.

He attended Maine Maritime Academy and spent time working on tugboats in Alaska. For two years, he served as a crew member and first mate on the schooner Harvey Gamage. Last summer,  he was captain of the schooner Adventure. When the schooner went in for repairs in Gloucester, Massachusetts last fall, he decided to return to Maine to work on the Ernestina-Morrissey.

“It is cool to come back to Boothbay,” said Leathers.

Dana Cuthbertson is from North Carolina.

“I would rather do this than go to school,” he said. His only problem has been finding a place to stay in the area.

“Schooners are the coolest things on earth,” he added.

The schooner Effie M. Morrissey was launched in 1894 in Essex, Massachusetts and served as a fishing vessel off the Grand Banks, according to a flyer put out by the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1926, the boat was bought by Capt. Robert Bartlett who made 20 voyages to the Arctic including the farthest northern expedition of a sailing vessel in 1940.

In 1946, the boat caught fire and sank but was resurrected in 1948 and renamed the Ernestina Morrissey. It transported immigrants coming to New Bedford from Cape Verde. In 1982, it was given to the United States and designated a National Historic Landmark.

The complete restoration undertaken by Boothbay Harbor Shipyard is funded by state and private donations. The work, begun in 2015, is expected to be completed next year, according to shipyard managers.