BATH, Maine — The historic schooner Mary E, believed to be the oldest Maine-built wooden fishing schooner still afloat, arrived on Sunday at its new home, the Maine Maritime Museum.
The 73-foot, two-masted clipper schooner was built in 1906 on the banks of the Kennebec, just upriver on land that is now Bath Iron Works, according to the museum. Recently acquired by the museum, the Mary E is believed to be the oldest Bath-built wooden schooner, and the oldest fishing schooner built in Maine, still sailing.
The son of a Georgetown farmer, shipbuilder Thomas E. Hagan built the Mary E and sold it in 1907, according to the museum.
The schooner worked as a fishing vessel and for coastal trade, then as a dragger out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, according to the museum. Other stories tell of the Mary E carrying mail and passengers, and working as a rum-runner. The schooner was abandoned in 1960, and sank in the harbor at Lynn, Massachusetts, during hurricane on Thanksgiving Day 1963.
In 1964, William R. Donnell II of Bath, whose great-grandfather had been an associate of Hagan, bought the “half-sunken fishing schooner” for $200, according to an advertisement, and renovated it at what is now Maine Maritime Museum before sailing it in Penobscot Bay.
After stints based in Boothbay Harbor, New York City, and Key West, Florida, Matt Culen bought the schooner in 2006 and began restoring it with Capt. Eric Van Dormolen. The ship then was used for river tours from the Connecticut River Museum until the board of the Maine Maritime Museum approved acquisition in December 2016.
During summer 2017, restoration work started by her former owner will be completed on the museum’s campus, giving the public the opportunity to witness historic shipbuilding techniques first hand.
The project will be overseen by shipwright Andros Kypragoras.
Mary E will be launched at the museum in spring 2018, and the museum will offer public tours and cruises.
BDN writer Beth Brogan contributed to this report.