GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 9, 2013

From one island to another: Crew recreates Essex-built boat's Maine voyage

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — More than 250 years ago, Abraham Somes, his wife Hannah and their four daughters piled into a Chebacco boat in Gloucester and sailed up the coast to Maine, where they settled in what is now Somesville on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park.

Today, members of the Mount Desert Historical Society set sail in the schooner Lewis H. Story, built in 1998 by Essex ship builder Harold Burnham, in an effort to recreate the historic voyage to Mount Desert Island’s earliest settlement.

The vessel, like Chebacco boats of the era, has two sails, but crew members this time around have something settlers could only have dreamt of — an engine.

Members and volunteers with the Mount Desert Historical Society will be taking the boat from Gloucester to the Maine island, where it will be available for sails and educational tours. The ship will then leave Maine on July 22 and make its way back to Gloucester.

The Lewis H. Story weighs is 32 feet long with an white oak frame, but it weighs seven tons.

“It’s built like a tank,” Fritz Fuller said.

It only sleeps two crew members, and as Fuller noted, anyone sleeping on the port side has to be a bit shorter, as a stove lies next to the bed.

The vessel Happy Wanderer will also carry four crew members and accompany the Lewis H. Story, rotating people in and out to ensure the crew is well rested and fed.

Fuller said he often takes the vessel out with other members of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Members of the museum were giving the new crew members of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society the ins and outs of the ship on Monday, from handling tips to new additions on board, to a quick lesson about the engine and the batteries.

The ship had new masts built for the three-day voyage to Maine and it’s been freshly painted.

The vessel’s volunteer captain will be Andy Horner; other crew members include Mike Joyce, Seth Singleton, Lincoln Williams and Ned Butler. All either summer on or live on Mount Desert Island.

Horner said that, while he normally helps deliver yachts, skippering the Story should not pose anything out of the ordinary.

“In a lot of ways they are all the same,” he said.

Horner, who also volunteers with the Mount Desert Island Fire Department, said he was looking forward to the spotlighting tradition of Lewis H. Story returning to the island.

Joyce, meanwhile, will be calling in to an online boating radio program in Maine, Boat Talk, to give details and updates on the voyage.

“I believe in the mission of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society,” Horner said.

There is much history between the regions; Somes had traveled up to Maine for fishing expeditions before settling on Mount Desert Island in 1762; some of his descendants still live there.

Even the type of boat, the chebacco boat, was named after Chebacco Parish, which later became Essex, where the Lewis H. Story was crafted.

In 1999, Burnham traveled with some of the descendants of Abraham Somes to Mount Desert Island in the vessel, but it was not as celebrated as the current voyage, said Tim Garrity, executive director of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.

This will be second time the vessel will make the voyage to Maine.

“It’s important for us to not lose touch with our maritime heritage,” Garrity said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.