A schooner specially designed for Arctic exploration has returned to the Boothbay region once again. In 1921, the Bowdoin was built by Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard and later made 29 trips to the Arctic circle. The schooner has returned home and is being repaired by Bristol Marine in Boothbay Harbor.
The local shipyard won a state bid to refurbish the schooner’s bottom planking. The Bowdoin arrived in Boothbay Harbor Nov. 24. The schooner is owned by Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. The academy uses the vessel for cadet sailing training. Bristol Marine expects to complete the work by May. Maine Maritime Academy has marked 18 planks for replacement, and more extensive work may be necessary. Once the planks are removed, shipyard workers will fully examine the schooner’s condition.
“The big challenge is the unknown,” said Project Manager Ross Branch. “We’re removing the 18 planks, but you don’t know what we’ll find until they come off.”
The schooner first crossed the Arctic Circle on Aug. 23, 1921. She is the only American schooner built specifically for Arctic exploration and designed under the direction of Donald P. MacMillan who sailed the ship 24 times carrying scientists, adventurers and students to the Arctic Circle.
The historic schooner’s return home has piqued local residents’ interest. Windjammers Days co-chairman Mark Gimbel visited the ship last week. He is hoping to secure a return trip by the Bowdoin to Boothbay Harbor this summer. “We’re always interested in schooners built in the Boothbay region and I’m hoping to convince Maine Maritime to send it back for Windjammers,” Gimbel said.
In reviewing the schooner’s condition, Branch marveled at the workmanship in building a ship nearly a century ago. “You look at the work and it’s top notch. It shows the work done at Hodgdon is as good then, as it is now,” he said.
The schooner was named in honor of Bowdoin College in Brunswick. In 1986, the Bowdoin was named the official vessel of the state of Maine. In 1989, it was designated a national historic landmark in recognition of her significant role in Arctic exploration.