Cartwrites: Friendship Sloop long a-building finds home port at museum

Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in Features

Cartwrites: Friendship Sloop long a-building finds home port at museum

by Steve Cartwright

ROCKLAND -- Volunteers at a Rockland marine museum are planking the hull of a 30-foot Friendship Sloop whose keel was first laid more than 50 years ago.

The saga of the gaff-rigged Persistence started with the late Carlton Simmons of Friendship, Maine, a builder of sloops that were, in the age of sail, the vessel of choice for lobstermen. Simmons, then in his 70s, started building a final Friendship Sloop for his wife and himself in 1966. But his wife fell ill; the project languished for a decade.

Enter then 21-year-old John Lichtman, who had seen a Friendship under sail while vacationing in Boothbay Harbor. He thought he’d like to build wooden boats, so he drove from Gold Hill, Oregon, to Friendship and found Simmons. Simmons was glad to get rid of his half-planked project.

Lichtman needed a place to store his boat, so he bought a waterfront property – prices were more affordable in that era – and stored his boat under a blue tarp. Wife, kids, construction work...the boat stayed in the woods for another 10 years until he completed a shop and stuck it in the corner. And there Persistence stayed until a neighbor suggested last fall that he donate it to the budding Sail, Power & Steam Museum, founded by veteran Camden windjammer Capt. Jim Sharp.

“It’s heartening to see her there,” said Lichtman, whose wife, Dr. Jackie George, now offers acupuncture in one of Sharp’s buildings. Lichtman said he looks forward to a sail aboard Persistence when launched ~ for the first time ever.

“The Friendship Sloop is so indigenous to this part of the coast,” said Sharp, who hopes to enter the museum’s new boat in the annual Friendship Sloop regatta, held each July in Rockland. Sharp is no stranger to racing, having won events with his schooner Adventure, a dory-fishing vessel that he donated in 1988 to Gloucester, Massachusetts. (See Points East ????)

Sharp said the project is 100 percent volunteer. Tom Hammermeister of Waldoboro, who first suggested Lichtman donate his sloop, is a regular at the twice-weekly work sessions. He is milling cedar for planking and said he doesn’t anticipate completing construction until spring of next year.

Hammermeister knew of the Eagle, a derelict 1923 Friendship Sloop, beyond repair but good for a variety of parts. It was built by Wilbur Morse, and had been stored at nearby Spruce Head Marine. Janice McLennan, boatyard owner, was happy to donate the vessel to the museum.

A three-cylinder Universal engine from Eagle still runs, and the sloop’s former owner is expected to donate sails and rigging. Thanks to donations and volunteer time, it appears that Persistence pays off.

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