Lizzie Hinckley sets sail in Southwest Harbor on Night Train, a sailboat from her childhood that she is refitting. PHOTO COURTESY OF LIZZIE HINCKLEY

Resurrecting Night Train 

Lizzie Hinckley paints Night Train, a sailboat that her dad named after a James Brown song.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Lizzie Hinckley, the granddaughter of Henry Hinckley, the founder of the Hinckley Company, is restoring a family sailboat to the way she remembers it from her childhood.  

Lizzie shares a birth year with the sailboat, which launched for the first time in Southwest Harbor in 1969.  

“This is the second Night Train,” Lizzie said, noting that the company’s staff built a prototype to work out kinks before the boat was perfected to sail. “[The second Night Train] was the one that was supposed to be a real passage maker, a real seagoing sailboat, that could safely get you through races.” 

The boat was designed for her father, Robert Hinckley, to participate in various races such as the Newport to Bermuda Race, Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race and the Monhegan Island Race.  

“They (Robert Hinckley and his team) placed seventh out of 63 boats in the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race and his team also won the Monhegan Island race the same year,” said Lizzie. “The Hinckley Company designed it and worked together to make this boat be really fast, but by today’s standards it’s like an antique.” 

Henry Hinckley started a service yard in the 1930s, which developed into the Hinckley Company. The company started building small, wooden sailboats for summer people and also created a railway for launching them. “Back then, they made every locker door, they wrapped steering wheels, they made everything in the boat,” Lizzie said. 

In the late 1950s, early ‘60s, the Hinckley Company started making fiberglass sailboats, one of which included Night Train. Robert Hinckley managed to save a video that showed the company manufacturing Night Train. The video begins with a raspy voice of a man explaining the definition of a yacht.  “A yacht is a dream transformed into reality, but you can’t build her from the form in the mind’s eye. She must first take shape on paper and every detail drawn to scale. Altered and re-altered until her designer feels she will be the safest, fastest most comfortable, boat of her size ever built.” 

In the early 1990s, Robert Hinckley sold half of the company and eventually sold the rest of it in the early 2000s.  

An old photograph shows Lizzie and her siblings sailing Night Train when they were young.

Lizzie’s most fond memories were spent sailing aboard Night Train. Her father named the sailboat after the popular song by James Brown. “[Night Train] kind of vanished for 30 years,” said Lizzie. Years later, the sailboat was sold to new owners, who renamed it Eagle Wing. “It was out of the family for, I think, 30 or 40 years, more like 40 years, so I think I spent the first 10 years of my life on the boat,” she said.  

As luck – or fate – would have it, when Lizzie decided to begin looking for a boat, the opportunity presented itself for her to buy Eagle Wing. At the time, the boat had been out of the water for about seven years.  

“She was in pretty rough shape,” Lizzie said. “I thought about it and then I spoke to the owner who, at that moment had lost interest or the ability to sail, so I made a deal that they could come sailing on the boat if I fixed it up.” 

Since the deal was sealed, it has been one of Lizzie’s priorities to get the sailing vessel back to its former glory. “I wouldn’t call it a restoration project. I just want to get her back to where she was in 1969,” she said. 

From the ages of 16-19, Lizzie remembers working for the Hinckley Company as a tour guide while in high school. She also learned how to paint, varnish and rig boats.  

This summer, Lizzie has been polishing, painting and varnishing Night Train. The sailboat has a blue hull that Hinckley plans to paint red. “Originally the sailboat was black with a red hull,” she said. “The boom is a little shorter than it was then because it was dangerous, she was in really rough shape, but the hull has more integrity.” Lizzie also managed to save Night Train’s propeller from the 1960s. 

While Lizzie has been working in the biomedical industry during the pandemic, she has enjoyed refitting the boat in her spare time.  

“My dad hasn’t been able to go fishing in Canada since COVID-19 hit, which was his favorite thing to do, so now having the boat on the dock, he’s helping me work on it,” said Lizzie.  

To Lizzie, Night Train will always be her dad’s boat, but she is happy to have it back in the family. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.