Gulf of Maine Chapter

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Peter Thompson

Historic Gulf of Maine Schooners

As part of my Gulf of Maine fishing history research I've located and put online the names of 144 schooners mentioned in the Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission between 1881 and 1901, along with a link to the relevant Bulletin text in which each vessel is described.

Click here for the list.

I'm very interested in finding out if any of these schooners still exist, or any additional information about any of them.

Ron Huber
Penobscot Bay Watch
Rockland Maine

Surviving fishing schooners

I don't believe any of the 144 schooners listed here are still in existence, but two others survive from that era; Lettie G Howard, built 1893, now at South Street Seaport, and Ernestina, ex-Effie M Morrissey, built 1894, now at New Bedford. These vessels fished in the Gulf of Maine, and may be very similar to some of those in the list. There is a lot of history displayed on Ernestina's website.

There is a good deal of information available on the schooners in your list. The Essex Shipbuilding Museum would have details, along with the Cape Ann Historical Museum and the Sawyer Library in Gloucester. The book, Fast and Able, by Gordon Thomas is the classic record of schooners like these.

Al Bezanson

Elsie M. Smith

Here is brief biography of one schooner from the list, Elsie M. Smith from the book, Fast and Able.

Builder: George Christensen
Launched: 1882 at Kennebunk, Maine
Gross tons: 113
Net tons: 107
Length: 93.5 ft
Breadth: 24 ft
Depth: 9.1 ft

She was fast, strong, and exceptionally staunch. She had a clipper bow and a figurehead of an eagle, which was an unusual feature for a fishing schooner. During her Down East career she was commanded by the highly capable Capt. Lincoln Jewett, who later rose to fame as commander of the sixmaster Eleanor Percy. Very few vessels could boast of victory over Elsie Smith and Capt. Jewett, especally in heavy weather. In February 1890 the Abial Smith firm sold her to Albert P. Babson of Gloucester.

She had a few narrow ecapes. In February 1899, lying in the stream in Gloucester harbor, having just returned from Newfoundland with a cargo of herring, she was carried ashore on Rocky Neck by drifting ice in a heavy blizzard. She lay stern on with her bow hove down. The next day, after the storm subsided, three tugs attempted to float her without success. The frozen herring was then lightened, and she was towed off and pumped out on the high tide the next night, then repaired at Burnham's ways. In August 1901 she ran into 3 fathoms on the North East Bar of Sable Island, but got clear though the skill of Capt. Fred Thompson.

In December 1894, Allan Leary, 35, of Philadelphia, on his first trip in this vessel, was drowned when his dory capsized on LaHave Bank.

On the night of February 13, 1902, in a blinding snowstorm, she stranded on Orleans Bar, while bound for Boston from the South Channel, with a fare of fresh fish. When she struck, five of the crew attempted to reach shore in two dories, and brothers Silvine and Dean Doucette of Tusket, Nova Scotia drowned in the surf. The thirteen remaining on board were saved through the efforts of the Orleans and Old Harbor Lifesaving Station, who planted their sand anchors and sent a line over the vessel's jib stay on the first shot. It was made fast to the rigging ten feet below the mast head, and all on board were brought ashore by breeches buoy. When her life ended there she was valued at $8,000. The book has a photograph of her in the surf, with sails still set and her back broken, the saddest of sights.

Al Bezanson

re Surviving fishing schooners

Thanks for the info!

Ron Huber
Penobscot Bay Watch
Rockland Maine