Built in 1925 by Hodgdon Brothers, East Boothbay

Century-old schooner embarks on $500,000 refit in Thomaston

Sat, 10/17/2020 - 8:15pm

    THOMASTON — A schooner built almost a century ago in East Boothbay Harbor is being restored in Thomaston in an effort to rehabilitate the schooner into its best condition ever. 

    The Schooner Hindu is hailed by its current owners, Josh and Bill Rowan, as a living ambassador of maritime history. 

    The Hindu was built in 1925 by Hodgdon Brothers and designed by yacht designer William Hand. The schooner is one of a few Hand vessels still sailing in the world.

    The Rowans have chosen Thomaston as the base for the schooner’s restoration for several reasons, including the town’s historical relevance to maritime history.

    “In researching boatyards, and knowing what a huge project this was going to be, we realized it would be more cost effective longterm to buy land to get the project done,” said Erin Desmond, who works with Hindu Charters, the company that owns the Hindu. “We had chosen our shipwrights, and needed to find a locale that was convenient for them. Additionally, we needed to find a property that the Hindu could make it to over land, which limited our options quite significantly despite the willingness of Dan Miller from Belmont Boatworks to look at every option we proposed. Aside from Thomaston's proximity to our shipwrights and a big enough travel lift at Lyman Morse, we were drawn to the Sea Captains houses in Thomaston, and it's history as one of the most prodigious ship building ports in the country. We feel very lucky to have Thomaston as our home for this project, and for ourselves once the project is done.”

    The Hindu has a storied past, and once served as a scout for German U-boats during World War II, according to the Rowans, and sailed to India to collect spices following the Great Depression. 

    The Hindu helped initiate the whale watching industry, per the Rowans, and has been one of the longest running charter boats on the East Coast, calling Provincetown, Massachusetts, home port since 1947.

    Under the Rowans’ ownership period, since 2004, the hollow spars have been replaced, as well as the main and main boom, fore and foreboom, and a specially designed jackyard spar.

    “Dave Berig designed and made the Dacron sails with intricate hand stitching details throughout including the grommets and rope footings,” said Desmond. “The Hindu has gained a knot in all conditions due to the sails Dave made.” 

    After navigating the earth’s waters for 95 years, a major overhaul to the Hindu became apparent to her owners. 

    “Short and simple, it needed to be done,” Desmond said. “The Hindu has been through some abuse in her 95 years including sinking at the dock in Key West, Florida, while she was in possession of a bank before [we] purchased her. She was iron fastened when she was built; over the years with fresh water leaking in through her decks, her frames and fasteners were progressively decaying. We were sick of applying bandages to a wounded soldier who deserves better.” 

    The Rowans are still in the beginning stages of the Hindu restoration project, and a $500,000 fundraising effort is underway for the project. To date, the GoFundMe page has raised approximately $40,000 since the end of June, though there have also been some donations from businesses. 

    “The Hindu is currently a bare backbone with some hull planking remaining for protection and shape, while we [assess] what can stay and what has to go,” said Desmond. “All of the bottom sections of framing will be replaced, and many of the uppers as well. Our shipwrights are using locust to make new frames, which has already given the Hindu twice as much stability and strength. Additionally, locust marries well with purple heart, which we are using for our new keel timber. They share properties that we appreciate; low levels of swelling, and high static and dynamic load bearing.”

    The new hull planking will come from the Rowans’ property in Oregon, where up to 500-year-old dead standing trees are being milled for use.

    “The Hindu will have a sprung wood composite teak deck,” said Desmond. “Some of her deck framing will remain, and some will be replaced. The cabin house will be rebuilt, and the interior will be sketched in for a further down the road reconditioning to her original layout. This is an ambitious once in a century rebuild. We hope that, with regular general maintenance, it will keep the Hindu sailing for at least another 100 years.” 

    Why, however, is it important to restore the schooner? 

    “We continue to pour our hearts and souls into the Schooner Hindu because we believe in her spirit, and the magic she brings with her from this century and the last,” said the Rowans. “We believe she is worthy of any and all acts of preservation, and would be honored if you'd join us in the quest to keep her sailing through these Covid times and beyond to the good times that have yet to come.”