The hull of the schooner Bowdoin with holes where bad planks have been removed. The historic boat is getting 18 new planks this winter at Bristol Marine in Boothbay Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAINE MARITIME ACADEMY

Schooner Bowdoin returns to Boothbay for hull work

BOOTHBAY HARBOR — Maine Maritime Academy’s schooner Bowdoin, the Official Vessel of the State of Maine and a National Historic Landmark, is undergoing hull restoration at Bristol Marine. The project requires replacement of 18 hull planks, identified in a marine survey conducted by GF Full and Associates.

“Our goal is to maintain the boat to the highest standard, to go above and beyond, in order to preserve this living piece of history,” said Dana Willis, marine operations manager at MMA.

“At this early stage of restoration, we are pleased to see that the vessel is in good condition, which attests to the excellent workmanship and care Bowdoin has received over her lifetime.”

Work is expected to be completed in time for the summer sailing season. When the project is complete, the ship will again be home to groups of students in sail-training courses within the Vessel Operations and Technology major at MMA. Students sail coastwise and offshore in the summer, learning to navigate and maintain the vessel to fulfill degree requirements and competencies toward a U.S. Coast Guard-limited license.

Bowdoin joins the Ernestina-Morrissey, also known for its role in Arctic exploration and research, at Bristol this winter. The historic schooner, sometimes referred to as Bowdoin’s “Arctic sister,” is undergoing a restoration of her hull and deck for the State of Massachusetts.

“We are excited to welcome the Bowdoin back to Boothbay Harbor where she was launched by Hodgdon Brothers nearly 100 years ago,” said Bristol Marine’s Ross Branch.

To follow the Bowdoin hull restoration project, visit the project blog at

Maine Maritime Academy is the only college in the United States with a dedicated sail training program that leads to a U.S. Coast Guard license as mate on an auxiliary sail vessel. Students may start with no prior sailing experience and graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, a U.S. Coast Guard license and all necessary certificates.

To follow the adventures of the schooner Bowdoin throughout the summer, visit or on the Arctic Schooner Bowdoin Facebook page.

Bowdoin’s Captain, William McLean, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Vessel Operations and Technology with a Sail Training Concentration, from MMA in 2012. He came back to Castine in the spring of 2017 following a winter sail schedule with Call of the Sea, an educational nonprofit in California dedicated to environmental education through sailing.

There, he was captain of the Seaward, an 82-foot classic staysail schooner, conducting six-day charters in the Sea of Cortez. Previous to working with Call of the Sea, he was Senior Chief Mate/Relief Captain on the Robert C. Seamans with the Sea Education Association for three years.

The Bowdoin enjoys a long history of seafaring education and Arctic exploration. Commissioned by explorer Donald B. MacMillan to facilitate his work in high northern latitudes, Bowdoin has made 28 trips to the Arctic, 25 of them before 1954 under the command of MacMillan. MacMillan sold Bowdoin to the U.S. Navy for use in World War II during the Greenland Patrol.

After WWII, MacMillan bought the ship back and continued to sail her for nine more years around Greenland. After MacMillan’s retirement, the boat belonged to the Schooner Bowdoin Association until 1988, when MMA purchased the vessel for the purpose of training students.

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