BATH — For the first time in decades, crews are working on a wooden sailing ship at the former Percy and Small Shipyard.

The Mary E is a two-masted clipper built by shipwright Thomas E. Hagan in 1906 and launched on the Kennebec River.

The 73-foot ship was sailed home to the former shipyard – which now houses Maine Maritime Museum – earlier this year from New York. After a brief stop at the museum, where it will eventually be on permanent display, it was hauled out of the water at Robinhood Marina in Georgetown and trucked by land to the old shipyard, where it sits under a pavilion built to house as it is restored, probably by next spring.

Museum staff are trying to find out what the ship looked like when it was first launched as a fishing vessel.
Kurt Spiridakis, director of watercraft and traditional skills, is currently on Block Island off Rhode Island trying to track down early images of the Mary E. The ship was used by fisherman there for four decades in the early 1900s.

“I believe that the first owners were four brothers out on Block Island who were fisherman,” said Katie Spiridakis, communications manager for the museum.

The only photos the museum has of the Mary E are more modern. Many were taken after an earlier restoration in the mid-20th century. “We don’t know what she originally looked like,” Katie Spiridakis said.

While the museum intends to make the restoration as historically accurate as possible, the ship must also meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements that will allow it to carry passengers. “We’re not trying to bring it back exactly,” she said.

The restoration crew has already demolished large sections of the Mary E after inspecting each part of the ship. The decking and much of the hull planking have already been removed.

“There’s definitely more work than the initial scope of work,” said Andros Kypragoras, the shipwright leading the restoration. “But there’s always something extra once you open it up. We’re taking lots of pictures, documenting the work that we’ve done. It will also help when we go to put it back together.”

While the decking and most of the topside of the Mary E will be replaced, the keel and the bones of the ship are in good shape. Staff photo by Chris Chase

The bones of the ship, he said, are still in great shape. Someone restored the keel and most of the hull below the waterline and whoever did it knew what they were doing. “All that stuff was well done, and it’s solid,” he said. “Most of what we’re doing is topside.”

Initially, the restoration crew thought the ship was “hogged” – sagging fore and aft because the keel had slowly lost its shape. Their inspection showed that the sagging was more because the aft of the ship had drooped a bit, something the crew will fix over the coming months.

While the Mary E was well-maintained over the years, lots of little fixes tend to add up over time until the entire ship needs restoration.

“You replace one rotten section with a block of wood, then you replace another rotten section with a block of wood, and the next thing you know you have all these little blocks of wood everywhere,” said Kypragoras.

Tim Clark works at drilling holes in new beams for the Mary E. Staff photo by Chris Chase

Throughout the restoration, the crew can be observed doing the work from a special viewing platform. The museum has already raised about a third of the $2 million needed to restore the vessel, make dock improvements and to establish a funding reserve to maintain the ship.

For more information on the Mary E, or to support the project, visit the Mary E website.