A fascinating look at coastal schooners

Lost Maine Coast Schooners by Ingrid Grenon gives us a fascinating look at those old huge wooden-hulled schooners, many of which were sunk, with crews drowned. The book is subtitled “From Glory Days to Ghost Ships.”

Yes, danger lurked all along coastlines, and then there were the German U-boats. One of those sunk 6 schooners in a single day.

But there are also many uplifting stories here, as our schooners sailed the world, delivering things. I was particularly interested in the history of those two old schooners that sat in the water near the shore in Wiscasset for so many years. I often stopped to marvel at them. And when they finally fell apart, my Dad somehow got a piece of wood from one of the ships and mounted one of his fish decoys on it.

Grenon grew up in an old Maine farmhouse and fell in love with history at an early age. She even heard stories about her great-great-great-grandfather, Captain William Peachey, who was lost at sea when his schooner sunk near Portland Harbor during a gale in December 1876. Grenon is a member of the Maine Maritime Museum (one of my favorite places), Boothbay Region Historical Society, and the Hill-Stead Museum.

There’s a lot of interesting history in this book, published by The History Press. As Grenon writes in the introduction, “History is made daily, and what is more recent replaces that which came before it, coming to us and leaving like the ebb and flow of the tides – or of time itself.”

I must thank Grenon for not allowing the history of our schooners to leave us on an outgoing tide.

Down East Schooners and Shipmasters is another great book by Ingrid Grenon. This one focuses on sailing ships and includes some amazing stories. These ships required wind to move and this led to lots of disasters and delays.
As Ingrid reports, “In the wake of all history and the great age of sail, what have we left today? Unfortunately, the big schooners are all gone. The four-masted Margaret Todd is a steel-hulled replica, and the Victory Chimes is the only working three-masted schooner left.”

In 2003 we voted to put the image of the Victoria Chimes on our state quarter. There are some beautiful color photos in the book, including one of the Victoria Chimes.

But Ingrid also notes, “Maine maritime history is still alive. It lives in the blood of the descendants and in the vessels that still work the coast.” And that is really good news.

Finally, I love Ingrid’s advice at the end of the book: “In this fast-paced, computer-generated world, perhaps we should all get out to sea on a Maine schooner, let the crisp ocean breeze tousle our hair and sail into another century. Perhaps this could be the greatest treasure of all.”

Yes, indeed.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.