Venerable Bunker and Ellis yacht gets new life

TREMONT — A unique wooden 1957 Bunker and Ellis motor yacht is getting some major restoration work at Bass Harbor Boat Shop this winter.

The boat is named Hushai II. It was commissioned and is still owned by the Murch family, who summers on Great Cranberry Island.



According to Bob Murch, whose grandfather had the boat built and who named it, there was once an old hermit in a small town in Ohio from whom the elder Murch bought some property. The story goes that the hermit’s name was Hushai Corlette.

Hushai was apparently shy, so much so that if you approached his cabin he would run out the back door.

“I don’t know whether [Murch] befriended him or just liked the name,” Bass Harbor Boat’s Richard Helmke related. “But that’s where the boat got its name. There was also a Hushai I, of course.”

At 42 feet in length, Hushai II has lots of space. Below decks, there’s a large galley, head and sleeping quarters for at least four people.

On deck, it features a forward cockpit for enjoying the view, one of the only Bunker and Ellis boats built with one.

“I bet it’s fun riding up there, too!” Helmke said. But the mahogany coaming on the forward cockpit has begun to rot. “It’s a common area for leaks and rot because the water sits in there. That area has been rebuilt several times.”

The boat’s captain recommended bringing the boat to this shop, still often known as “Chummy’s” for founder Robert “Chummy” Rich.

“He knew of us and told the owners, ‘You know, there’s a shop in Bernard that deals just with wooden boats. Maybe you ought to get ‘er over there,’” Helmke said.

“They love the boat. They want the boat all original.”



At first, the plan was just to do paint and varnish work, stripping the hull and cabin sides to bare wood. As is often the case, though, “when we got it in here, we found where it needed some repair work,” he said.

“It was one of those things. The transom had its issues, but I didn’t think we were going to replace it. And then I sent a picture to the owner of the deck issues, and he saw a split in [the stern] knee.”

The owner wanted to replace the knee, which required replacing the whole transom.

Chummy is building the new mahogany transom, taking the shape right off the boat with cardboard patterns.

While the back of the boat is opened up, they’re also replacing the stern deck, its support beams and rudder blocks that hold up the posts and stuffing boxes for the two rudders. They’re doing away with a built-in cooler that used to be attached to the stern deck.

While the hull paint is stripped, it’s also the right time to repair the cedar hull planks and do any needed refastening and caulking. A few frames are cracked, so they’ll add laminated “sister” timbers to provide support.

“As soon as we hauled the boat out for the first time, you could see that [some of] these planks weren’t fair on the bottom,” Helmke said. “They were starting to come loose.”

Helmke has enjoyed the challenge of matching the original Pettit “bikini blue” paint color. He plans to have Epifanes, a maritime finish producer, match the color and mix new paint for the deck.

Much of the boat’s hardware, he said, is being rechromed this winter at a shop in Bucksport.



Next year, Hushai II may come back for some more work, Helmke said. The two diesel engines sit just under the steering station under the main deck. There’s not enough room for them.

“The engines are way too close to the bottom of the boat. They need to be either brought up higher or [moved forward] into the hatch. Something has to give,” while leaving enough headroom for the captain and anyone else standing in that part of the boat.

This is just the kind of project the crew at Chummy’s loves to tackle.

“It’s fun work, that’s the great part about it,” Helmke said.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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