The Sycamore, a steel, two-masted schooner built in the backyard of Fred and Mary Bowers’ Alna home, was lowered into the water at Ocean Point Marina in East Boothbay on Thursday, Aug. 3. “It floats!” shouted family and friends who gathered to celebrate the completion of Fred’s lifelong dream.
The schooner has been 16 years in the making, Fred said. He still needs to hoist the masts and finish the cabin before The Sycamore is complete. “It’s very gratifying to get to this point,” he said.
The Sycamore is a steel representation of a pinky schooner, one of two vessel designs originally used in Maine’s fisheries about 150 years ago, Fred said. He selected the design out of appreciation and respect for maritime history.
“This (boat) is a lot older than me in concept,” Fred said. While pinky schooners were historically wooden vessels, he chose to use steel due to his background as a blacksmith.
Fred is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and a former captain of a research vessel for the University of Maine. He now works as a farrier – a person who shoes horses.
“It’s been my lifelong intent to build a boat,” Fred said.
Sixteen years ago, he launched into action. He purchased design plans from Thomas E. Colvin, a naval architect who specializes in steel boat-building.
“My goal was to do something every day on the boat, even if it was just ordering a part or spending half an hour on something,” Fred said.
He took over his “patient, long-suffering” wife Mary’s barn for the initial stage of the project, which involved lofting, or drawing the plans to full size, he said. The project then moved to the backyard, where the frame and paneling took shape.
Every Sunday, he was in the backyard, working on the boat, Mary said. “After 16 years of watching it grow and grow, it was emotional” to see the boat transported to the marina, she said. “There’s this big empty space in the backyard now.”
A friend warned there may be some post-partum depression involved in The Sycamore’s completion, Fred said. “There probably will be. It was certainly a long gestation period.”
Fred named the boat after a swath of sycamore trees that surrounded his boyhood home, and the fond memories and good feelings they evoke, he said. While there was sadness in seeing the boat transported from Alna, watching it hit the water at the Ocean Point Marina “is a great source of joy,” he said.
The Sycamore will remain moored at Ocean Point Marina until the fall. Once the masts are installed, Fred and Mary will venture out on the open water.
When The Sycamore is pulled from the water in the fall, it will return to Alna and Fred will complete the cabin in preparation for extended sailing trips. The couple plans to sail to the Bay of Fundy in the coming years, he said.
“Don’t ask me how many manpower hours went into this. I didn’t keep track,” he said. “I’ve got something to show for it, though, and it’s going to bring a lifetime of enjoyment.”