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Rockland schooner captains honored for lifetime on the seas

Doug and Linda Lee announce sale of schooner Heritage
By Stephen Betts | Sep 12, 2020
Photo by: Maine Windjammer Association Linda and Doug Lee.

Rockland — Captains Doug and Linda Lee of Rockland were honored this week for their lifetime of dedication to the windjammer industry.

The Lees also recently announced that they sold the Schooner Heritage to long-time crew members, Ben Welzenbach and Sean Grimes, both licensed windjammer captains and fellow mates aboard the Schooner Heritage for the past seven years, according to a news release from the Maine Windjammer Association.

“We’ve had other opportunities to sell the Schooner Heritage,” Doug Lee told his fellow windjammer captains. “But we couldn’t imagine better stewards of the ship which we designed, built and sailed than Ben and Sean who will carry on the Heritage’s legacy capably and proficiently."

The Lees have made the North End Shipyard off Front Street in Rockland their home since 1973. Each summer about 600 passengers from outside the city come for the adventure of sailing aboard the Heritage.

In the late 1970s, the couple decided to build their own schooner. Over the next five and a half years, they designed and built the Heritage at North End Shipyard.

The construction was done during the off-season when they were not sailing the Isaac Evans.

The construction of the Heritage cost $500,000, not including the couple’s sweat equity. The couple used the Isaac Evans as loan leverage and also got help from a neighboring businessman and the bank.

At high tide on a chilly April 16 in 1983, the Lees’ pride and joy was launched before 3,000 guests who came to celebrate the newest addition to the Maine windjammer fleet.

The Maine Windjammer Association — the country's largest fleet of historic working windjammers, presented their highest honor — The Lifetime Appreciation Award — to the Lees at a ceremony Sept. 8.

Captains and crew of the Maine Windjammer Association applauded the Lees for their decades of dedication and shared wisdom, while crediting them both with building the windjammer industry in Maine.

In bestowing the Maine Windjammer Association’s Lifetime Appreciation Award, Captain Barry King of the Schooner Mary Day acknowledged Doug Lee’s ability to solve any problem, build and fix absolutely any piece of windjammer equipment or system, and the courage and tenacity to build the industry as the founding member of the Maine Windjammer Association.

In addition, Linda Lee was recognized as one of the first female windjammer captains in Maine to empower female crew members to achieve their dreams and go on to become licensed captains.

In addition, Linda, also a founding member of the Maine Windjammer Association, introduced scratch cooking to the windjammer experience. Together, the association recognized the Lee’s ability to raise a family aboard while building and sailing windjammers throughout Maine for more than five decades, setting the example for other captains who came behind them.

Doug Lee’s roots to the sea run deep. His father, Maynard “Bud” Lee, was involved in schooners in West Bath, where he was raised.

Doug met Linda while she was attending the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In a 2013 article, former schooner captain and former harbormaster Ed Glaser said the Lees were the perfect couple to operate a windjammer.

“Doug and Linda are great hosts, they are great entertainers, they are great sailors, and they are great historians,” Glaser said.

The Lees’ first interaction with Rockland came a few years before they acquired North End Shipyard. The couple worked aboard the much smaller 58-foot schooner Richard Robbins from 1969 to 1971. Doug was a relief captain aboard that schooner while Linda was a relief cook.

After that, the couple spent the next two years rebuilding the schooner Isaac H. Evans at the former Percy & Small shipyard where the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath is now located. The Isaac Evans was built in 1886 in Mauricetown, N.J., and for many years was used to harvest oysters on the Delaware Bay.

The Lees overhauled the 65-foot vessel and converted it into a passenger schooner.

The couple looked for a place to sail their schooner and initially looked at Camden but there was no space in the inner harbor for them. They turned to Rockland because of its large harbor.

The site that met their needs was the former Rockland-Rockport Lime Co. property on the North End waterfront. The waterfront neighborhood had once been the home of working lime kilns and docks used to ship the lime to ports in southern New England.

The Lees’ first season sailing out of Rockland was in 1973. They initially leased the shipyard property but in three years managed to purchase it.

Rockland was home to few recreational boats at the time as fish packing plants were located along the city's waterfront. And a fish meal rendering plant named Seapro would often create odors and an oily film across the North End.

But the Lees' faith in Rockland and its future was rewarded as the community has become a destination for visitors from around the world.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | Sep 11, 2020 18:46

Doug and Linda took a then rookie manager of Manset Marine in Rockland and let him regularly wander in and watch the later stages of building the Heritage.  I had the pleasure of helping construct a mast hoop as one of my memories.  Manset Marine later honored the Heritage with being the cover photo of the Manset Marine catalog.  Thank you guys for great memories and tradition.

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