Out of friendship comes ‘America’

Friendship boat builder envisions a future by salvaging the past

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 12:00pm

ROCKLAND — A 60-foot labor of love is a collage of modern technology and the nuts and bolts of a recycled history. Looking toward the future, the owners of the E/V America hope to again piece together fore and yore through educational youth programs and benefit charters for veterans.

A year after America first sliced the tides of Friendship Harbor, it slipped into a coveted berth in Rockland as the opening-day feature of the Maine Boat and Home Show, Aug. 9 - 11. Her owner and builder, Tom Joyal, stood in the Pilot Room, speaking to visitors fascinated by the houseboat’s history.

“The amazing thing about it is that every detail that you see is hand picked,” said his friend James, who volunteered to help with the boat tours. “Every door, every window, every piece of hardware is because Tom ran a salvage company for most of his career, which he just retired from.”

In fact, Joyal spent 12 years collecting the materials that would one day become the houseboat he’d build for his wife, Tiffany.

Some people, according to James, would call Joyal a hoarder. In this case, it’s a hoard of treasures, such as the stained glass in reflecting color into the downstairs common area, and the window frames in the master state room that date back to the 1800s.

Having already built four houseboats – a self-taught boat builder since the age of 15, according to James – and being a collector of items through his salvage business, Joyal began filling a 12,000 square foot space in Kennebunk with the materials he believed someday worthy.

He started with a hull – and only the hull – of a mid-1800s steamship called Comet, from the Brooklin Boat Yard, which he trucked home to Kennebunk in 2001.

Three years ago, in 2016, he began to renovate that hull, and then to build upwards, according to Tiffany.

Sixty feet long and 17 feet wide, America has a 17-foot bridge clearance, and draws 3.5 feet, making it a fairly shallow boat, according to James.

“I watched him build it, and I still don’t believe that it’s done,” said James. “I do some carpentry, and I take shortcuts. Just to do one tiny part of a room would take me a week. He just kept at it.”

America is an electric boat. It runs off of dual electric motors that are powered by diesel generators, and eventually will be powered by as many as 16 solar panels.

“He’s got a lot of his heart and soul in it,” said Tiffany.

Because of that heart invested, Tom intends to share the science at work in America by providing children with tours of the boat to explain the electric, the diesel, and the solar portion of it – to inspire them, said Tiffany. 

For the adults, a chartered afternoon afloat a well-lit, finely-tuned houseboat could soon be possible, with features of the past that give way to the future.

Two tours have already been auctioned off for up to six people, for four hours, in Muscongus Bay. That will be the Joyals’ first tour, said Tiffany. They’ll figure it out from there. 

Click here for more information on the America.


Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com