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Historic schooner marks 150th anniversary with launch

By Stephen Betts | Apr 28, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts Capt. Garth Wells balances on the bowsprit of the schooner Lewis R. French before the 150-year-old vessel was launched back into the waters at North End Shipyard.

Rockland — The historic Lewis R. French glided into the waters off North End Shipyard April 28, as it prepares for its 150th season at sea.

The French had regular maintenance and its annual Coast Guard inspection done at the Rockland shipyard. The schooner is on its way to Camden, where it plans to begin taking guests on trips beginning Memorial Day weekend.

The French did not sail last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions.

But this year, it's full sail ahead.

The French has been owned for the past 18 years by Capt. Garth Wells and his wife, Jennie Tobin. Tobin said April 28 that reservations are strong for the season.

The French was based in Rockland but moved its base of operations to Camden in 1993.

The schooner can carry 20 guests on trips of three to six days. The French sails from Boothbay to Bar Harbor. At the end of June, the French will make a special trip to Christmas Cove in South Bristol where the ship was built and launched for the first time in April 1871.

The 101-foot long French is a national landmark, designated as one in 1992. The vessel carried freight for more than 100 years before being sold and undergoing a massive rebuilt in 1973 when she joined the Maine windjammer fleet.

She is the last of the 19th century schooners still plying the waters of Maine with passengers.

The Lewis R. French prepares for its launch on its 150th anniversary. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Greg Dorr, left, and Wes Cotton provide music for the launching. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
The flags atop the Lewis R. French. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Capt. John Foss of North End Shipyard in Rockland oversees the launching of the schooner Lewis R. French. Foss is a schooner captain and a co-owner since 1973 of North End Shipyard. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
The Lewis R. French enters the waters at North End Shipyard. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
(Photo by: Stephen Betts)
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