State ferry, Capt. Richard G. Spear, launched at W & D Shipyard

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 2:45pm

    The Maine State Ferry Service's newest vessel, Capt. Richard G. Spear, slid down the ways at Washburn & Doughty Shipyard in East Boothbay and into the Damariscotta River Friday morning, April 9 following a ceremony which included Gov. Janet T. Mills.

    The 154 feet long, 38 feet wide ferry was named after the Ferry Service's first employee, Richard G. Spear of Rockland, who died at 96 in May 2018. Soon after going to work for the Ferry Service, Spear was named manager. He held that title for 30 years before he retired in 1989.

    Capt. Richard G. Spear will provide service to Vinalhaven island from the ferry terminal in Rockland following several months of sea trials.

    "Maine ferries – along with fishing vessels, container ships and other boats that make daily trips among our shores to feed our state, bring our goods to market, and transport residents and visitors alike – are an important part of our economy and an irreplaceable part of our history," said Gov. Mills during the pre-launch ceremony. "I am honored to help christen another Maine-made ferry ... named for a man with lifelong contributions to the Maine State Ferry Service and the City of Rockland. I wish the Capt. Richard G. Spear fair winds and following seas for many years to come." The governor also praised Washburn & Doughty for working through the "internal and external challenges" of building the vessel during the pandemic.

    Also speaking at the ceremony were Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note, Washburn & Doughty Associates, Inc. President Katie Doughty Maddox, Maine Maritime Academy President Dr. William J. Brennan, and Linda Spear, Capt. Spear's daughter. Unable to be present but sending congratulatory letters included with the event's program were Sen. Susan M. Collins, Sen. Angus S. King Jr. and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

    "Washburn & Doughty employs a team of 90 craftsmen who take enormous pride in their respective trades and have created a national reputation for first-class steel vessels," said Maddox. "The fact that the state need look no further than East Boothbay for new vessel construction is a boon to the state and to the livelihood of many Maine families. We are proud to build a first-class product for the state and look forward to the possibility of additional vessels in the future."

    Maddox said the two years it took to build the ferry were challenging due to the pandemic and that she is proud that the Washburn & Doughty crew was able to complete the work.

    Van Note, who grew up in Bath near Bath Iron Works, said he knows the "real work that goes on in building ships. Teams of carpenters, designers, electricians engineers, mechanics, painters, pipefitters and welders have logged thousands of hours to make this vessel seaworthy. We thank them for their dedication and hard work."

    Brennan and Linda Spear spoke about Richard G. Spear.

    "My father was a true gentleman," said Spear. "He had a dry sense of humor and made friends easily as he traveled the world. He loved his family and the sea. We are proud to see his name on this ferry." Spear said her father was always busy and had a passion for everything he did. Spear, a Maine native, traveled the world with her father, worked as a registered nurse and was a professor of nursing. She now lives in Massachusetts with her husband Fred Batstone.

    "Capt. Richard G. Spear lived his life and lived it well. Generations of Maine Maritime Academy graduates, those who graduated yesterday and those who will graduate in the future, are the keepers of our heritage – a heritage that was forged by Capt. Richard G. Spear ... and there is no more fitting way to memorialize what he has done for his state of Maine than to honor him as we are today."

    The new ferry, estimated at 465 tons, has the capacity to hold 250 passengers and 23 vehicles. It was designed by Gilbert Associates of Braintree, Massachusetts. The total cost, including all design, engineering and construction work, is $10.9 million.

    Capt. Richard G. Spear

    The following brief biography was included in the launching program.

    Richard Glen "Dick" Spear was born on January 4, 1922 in Rockland, Maine. Growing up near the ocean, he became an Eagle Scout and a Sea Scout. At age 17, Dick was given a year's leave of absence from high school to join an expedition sponsored by Harvard University to retrace the route Christopher Columbus took to America.

    Professor Samuel Eliot Morrison, a renowned naval historian, led the expedition and would later use it as a basis for his book, "Admiral of the Sea," which won a Pulitzer Prize. The barkentine, Capitana, visited Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. A picture of Dick onboard the vessel was featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1940. At the end of the expedition, he returned to Rockland and graduated from high school in 1941.

    In 1942, Dick enrolled in the newly established Maine Maritime Academy. He graduated from the school's second class in 1943, with honors and a third mate's license. He was a commissioned ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, where he reported to the Liberty Ship, Henry Jocelyn.

    In the Merchant Marines during World War II, Captain Spear served in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean war zones. In later years, he received a bachelor's of marine science degree and held an unlimited master's license for ships of any size, any tonnage, in any ocean.

    After working in the maritime field for several years, Captain Spear become the first employee and assistant manager of the Maine State Ferry Service in 1959. Later appointed manager of the Ferry Service, he held that position for 30 years until his retirement in 1989.

    Dick led an exceptionally busy life outside of the ferry service. He was a scuba diver, pilot, and member of numerous civic and fraternal organizations. He served on the Port District in Rockland for close to 60 years, making him the city's longest serving elected official. He traveled to many parts of the world, including the North Pole, Antarctica, Cuba and Australia.

    Dick was a wonderful husband to Dorothy, father to Linda and friend to countless others. He was well-known for his easygoing manner, his dry sense of humor and his willingness to help others.

    Dick passed away on May 3, 2018 in Rockport, Maine at the age of 96. That same month, the members of the Maine State Ferry Service Advisory Board voted unanimously to name a vessel in his honor.