Bath shipbuilders seek tools, funds, volunteers

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BATH — The organizers of an effort to reconstruct a 17th century tow and sailing vessel this summer are looking for volunteers, tools and money for the project.

The Merrymeeting Area Summer School and Maine’s First Ship are working together on the program, where 14 Morse High School students will work with Morse science teacher Eric Varney and shipwright William West to build a shallop.

The 18-foot vessel replicates the kind used for transportation and fishing by the colonists of Popham Colony more than 400 years ago.

“The Popham colonists brought pieces of a shallop over with them and assembled it at Fort St. George in Popham,” Varney said last week. “But there were already shallops here at that time which were probably discarded from fishermen and were used by Native Americans in the region.”

The project is scheduled to begin Monday, July 5, and run about two months. The shallop will be constructed in a rail/sea freight shed from the 19th century, on the BFC Marine property at Commercial and Lambard streets. Varney said property owner Howard Kirkpatrick is allowing the shallop to be built there at no cost.

Varney, who is on the board of Maine’s First Ship, said the group hoped to build a shallop several years ago, but the project never came to fruition.

“I decided that now is a great time to start,” he said, noting that the primary goal of Maine’s First Ship is to reconstruct the Popham-built pinnace Virginia, “and this is a step along the way. … I think this will be an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and hopefully raise funds and material donations for the larger project of building Virginia.”

The students, who had to apply for this two-credit elective class offered through the Merrymeeting Area Summer School, will work weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Three adult volunteers are needed to supervise them. Woodworking experience is not needed, and Varney and West will be present, too.

Adult volunteers are also needed to help build the vessel in the afternoons. No students will be there, and woodworking experience is required. Volunteers don’t have to be master shipwrights, though, since West will be there to guide the operation.

Shop stationary tools such as a band saw and drill press are needed, along with five to 10 sets of personal tools for students: bevel gauges, hand saws, spoke shaves, tri squares, screwdrivers, cabinet rasps, hammers, awls, hand planes, compass dividers and tape measures.

Varney is also looking for safety gear like latex gloves, dust masks, hearing protection and safety goggles; shop setup equipment like a shop vacuum, lights and brooms; and additional shop tools, including drill bit sets, battery-driven hand drills, sanders, power planes, c-clamps, hand lanes, bar clamps and saber saws.

Finally, the organizers are collecting money to fund the costs of lumber and other materials. Since Maine’s First Ship is a non-profit organization, all monetary and material donations are tax deductible.

Varney can be reached at or at Morse High School, 443-8250.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.