Eastport will have the beginning of a windjammer fleet come June 2004 if plans by John Bishop and Capt. Butch Harris come to fruition. They’re building a 92-foot clipper-bowed, gaff-rigged schooner, the HALIE MATTHEW, on the grounds of the Eastport Boat School.
When she’s launched she’ll join the knockabout schooner SYLVINA BEAL, owned and operated by Harris, which had her first season last summer. The HALIE MATTHEW, named for Harris’s children, will be co-owned by Harris and Bishop, who adds, “But Butch will definitely be the captain; he’s the skipper.”
In an effort to get her built on schedule, Bishop and Harris, along with their crew, are working “every day of the week except Sunday,” Bishop says.
When completely finished right down to the name boards, the new schooner will accommodate 30 overnight passengers in 10 staterooms. But she’ll probably only be able to carry day passengers by June 2004, according to Bishop. “But this is Eastport, and if the weather turns on us, we could lose a year,” he added. “If the breaks go our way, she’ll be operational by the 2004 season but not complete. When she is completed, she’ll be able to carry overnight guests on three- or four-day cruises. And she should be able to take about 90 day passengers.”
Because the HALIE MATTHEW is a composite of wood and fiberglass, she’s being built upside down. “You always want to have the weight below you, not above,” says Bishop. And if construction goes according to schedule, she’ll be righted in August once the exterior lamination is completed.
“We’re thinking about two cranes to turn her over, but nothing has been contracted yet,” he adds.
He and Bishop “began thinking about this a couple of years ago,” Harris says. The chose the clipper-bow style “after looking at a lot of boats up and down the Maine coast. She’s not really modeled after a specific schooner, old or new, although we saw a Gloucester schooner that we liked the looks of. The HALIE MATTHEW will have a lot more headroom than she did, however. Basically, we just picked this design because we liked the looks of her.”
Bishop adds that the two went to Eastport naval architect Tom MacNaughton with their idea. “We told him what we wanted, and he drew it.”
For his part, MacNaughton describes her as a “clipper-bowed two-masted schooner with an elliptical counter stern with solid wrap around taffrail. She will be very traditional in appearance.”