Friendship sloop restoration a teaching tool

By George Chappell | Jan 19, 2013
Photo by: George Chappell Tom Hammermeister, a director of the board of the Sail, Power and Steam Museum in Rockland, oversees the volunteers working on the restoration of the Persistence, a 1966 Friendship sloop.

Rockland — The restoration of a Friendship sloop is designed to be part of a living historical exhibit at Capt. Jim Sharpe's Sail, Power and Steam Museum.

"It's a dynamic exhibit of the museum," said Tom Hammermeister, a board member of the nonprofit museum on Mechanic Street in Rockland. Hammermeister is head of the volunteers working on the 1966 sloop to ready it for fishing for lobster under sail and taking guests.

The restoration itself is part of the education process, said Hammermeister at his Waldoboro home Jan. 9. While volunteers work on the sloop, visitors to the museum may watch the work in progress and get a first-hand look at boat building.

In the spring, the museum will launch the 26-foot, 9-inch boat Persistence, the longest "being built" Friendship sloop in the world. The boat was started in 1966 by Carlton Simmons, a famous boat builder from Friendship, from which the well-known fleet of boats is named, according to a news release from the museum.

Friendship sloops can vary in length from 15 to 47 feet. Close to 300 have been built since the early 1900s, when the first, a 30-foot boat, called Voyager, was built by Charles A. Morse and launched in 1906, according to the museum.

Simmons never finished the vessel, owing to his wife's ill health, and for 40 years the boat was kept in a local barn, Hammermeister said.

John Lichtman, a visitor to the area from Oregon, saw the partially planked boat in a field outside Friendship. He bought it, and then bought property on Muscongus Bay, where he built a barn and a home, said Hammermeister.

Lichtman became a home builder, but he never had time to work on the sloop. In 2011, he donated the boat to the museum with the agreement that it become a working exhibit for visitors to see under construction, said Hammermeister.

There are now four volunteers working on the project two days a week, said Hammermeister. "We anticipate it will be done the summer of 2013."

"The volunteers come from all over the place," he said. "One wanted to learn more about building boats," he added. "Another wanted to help, and just showed up."

The primary boat volunteers are Hammermeister, John Holliday and Charlie Witherell, all of Waldoboro, and Marshall Merriam of Owls Head.

The project received a boost by a donation of a 1923 Friendship sloop of similar size to Persistence that had been abandoned at a boatyard in Spruce Head. The hull of the boat was beyond repair, but many usable parts, including an engine, iron keel, steering gear, mast, rigging and sails, could be put to good use on Persistence, said boat builder and volunteer coordinator Dennis Gallant, who is one of two employees at the museum.

The older sloop came equipped with an aluminum mast that will be used temporarily on  Persistence, Gallant said.

The boat is built of cedar strips over steam bent oak frames. The strips are set in epoxy adhesive. Each strip is 1 inch by 1 inch and every fourth one is fastened to the frames with bronze screws. In addition to being set in filled epoxy, each strip is nailed to the one beneath it with bronze ring-shank nails on about 6-inch to 8-inch centers.

As a final step, the hull will be sheathed in fiberglass to minimize maintenance, Gallant said.

Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or at

Comments (2)
Posted by: William Pease | Jan 19, 2013 15:07

I agree with Kendall Merriam's comment above wholeheartedly. Please give us the names of the 5 volunteers themselves. I've seen a couple of articles on VillageSoup online about this admirable restoration project, including this one, and neither gave the names of the 5 volunteers actually working on this project. Please do so. They very much deserve the recognition!

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 19, 2013 14:50

Why feature the Board of Directors and the Head of the Volunteers but overlook crediting the volunteers, themselves, by name. After all, its the volunteers who do all the labor and heavy lifting?

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