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Custom vessel America comes to life

By Beth A. Birmingham | Jul 12, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Thousands of hours of work went into customizing America -- a labor of love for Friendship resident Tom Joyal.

Friendship — One local adventurer has blending his love of boating and tinkering around with his patriotism to realize a long-held dream.

When Friendship resident Tom Joyal purchased an aging hull from the Brooklin Boat Yard 13 years ago, he already had a vision  -- which didn't start coming to fruition until Jan. 1, 2016, with thousands of hours spent in his boatyard and workshop.

Modeled after the 1900s Casco Bay steamship the Comet, Joyal's trawler America made her maiden voyage south in February. Joyal and his wife, Tiffany, spent five weeks aboard the vessel with their two dogs and a cat, exploring life on the sea before returning to Friendship Harbor in April.

The boat is aptly named, Joyal said, "She will be used to focus on all the positive of our great country."

Complete with a pilot house, main salon, guest stateroom, and two full covered decks, America is constructed from repurposed wood from discarded parts of houses and buildings -- including wooden floor boards from an 1890s girls' camp in Newcastle and a window frame from a circa-1900 house in York Harbor.

Joyal owned and operated The Old House Parts Co. in Kennebunk for more than 20 years before selling it recently. He said he has dismantled and moved 15 or so structures, from churches to 1700s Capes, and hand-picked and purchased the materials over the past 10 years from Roxbury, Mass., to Rockland, accumulating thousands of square feet of antique lumber, doors and windows.

"There is a lot to this boat, but honestly it’s a very simple boat," Joyal said. "I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s really true."

The vessel is nearly 59 feet in length and 17 feet wide, with propulsion coming from two 60Kw electric drives, while two diesel generators charge the battery bank. It is similar to a hybrid car, but the combustion engines charge batteries instead of turning the props directly, Joyal said.

"The hull is cold-molded cedar with fir frames and titanium gussets," he said.

A builder by trade, Joyal built his first boat when he was 12 years old, and said he always wanted to be on the water -- which fits in perfectly with the couple's Tiny Barge Transport in Friendship, hauling whatever will fit on their rig, Lil' Grace, to the Midcoast islands.

The couple plan to use America as an educational tool, introducing schoolchildren to the boat's various systems and talking about the history of each part -- including the 1900s cast iron wall-mount can opener and the hand-crank coffee grinder.

They also plan to work with veterans' services to take veterans and their families out for a day on the water, as well as using the boat to raise money for various causes, like veterans' services, school fundraisers and town needs.

Joyal said as it is a for-profit venture, as they plan to take people on day trips as well as some overnight adventures along the eastern seaboard.

"The income will help to keep the boat up, as well as accomplish the other ventures," Joyal said.

America will be in Rockland for the Maine Boat & Home Show in early August.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at

Custom vessel America comes to life
There is 800 square feet of living space aboard America -- complete with two covered decks, a full kitchen and two staterooms. Her home port is Friendship. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Tom Joyal, builder of America, in the wheelhouse of his custom vessel July 10 in Friendship. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
One of the decks on board America with a circa-1900s window frame Tom Joyal repurposed for his main stateroom. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A circa-1900 window frame was salvaged by boat builder Tom Joyal to include in his custom vessel, America. (Source: Facebook)
The main stateroom of America being built in Tom Joyal's garage in Friendship. (Source: Facebook)
An authentic U.S. Navy anchor was acquired by Tom Joyal to include on his custom vessel, America. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Tom Joyal tells about the various wood used to assemble this custom kitchen aboard America. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A sitting room aboard America. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Molding detail above the wheelhouse on America was an idea borrowed from one of the last known working steamships in Mystic Harbor, according to Joyal. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
America before Tom Joyal began his painstaking work to add a second deck to his customized vessel. (Source: Facebook)
The 1900s Casco Bay steamship Comet was the inspiration behind Tom Joyal's vision of building his custom vessel, America, in Friendship. (Source: Facebook)
America rests in Friendship Harbor July 10. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
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Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 14, 2019 17:01

America is a beauty! Smooth boating and safe harbors! I grew up in Roxbury, Mass. and am so happy you too sort of experienced such a small least it was small when I was growing up...Enough said, One is as young as one feels! Again thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure of yours.

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever +:)


Posted by: Jane Conrad | Jul 14, 2019 16:45


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