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Maine’s Proud History of Building Boats

A look back at the past 200 years

By The Editors

Schooner launchings were often festive, like this well-attended one in 1905 at the Holly Bean Yard in Camden (now Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer). At 308' LOA with a 48' beam and 27' draft, the Helen J. Seitz could carry 4,500 tons of coal. Ships such as this were the maritime equivalent of today’s trains and tractor trailers. Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum

MAINERS HAVE BUILT thousands of boats and ships in the last 200 years. Four are the state’s signature types, wherever they are found: the canoe, the peapod, Friendship sloops, and lobsterboats.

Maine’s first peoples, the Wabanaki, were building birchbark canoes (“aquiden”) long before Europeans arrived. In the late 19th century, Mainers transformed these into wood/canvas canoes, the first successful production small boat.

The lobster industry, created by the first great lobster boom in the post-Civil War years, gave rise to three more distinctly Maine boats: the double-ender, or peapod; the sloop boat or Friendship sloop; and, once engines became common, the lobsterboat.