CASTINE — On Columbus Day last year, students and waterfront staff at Maine Maritime Academy took the first visible steps toward a major restoration project for the schooner Bowdoin. The project would include replacement of her 30-plus year-old deck and the refurbishment or replacement of many of her aging mechanical systems.
This week, while shipwrights from Andros Kypragoras Shipbuilding were hard at work on the boat’s deck and hull in a shed at the Lyman-Morse shipyard at Wayfarer Marine in Camden, four students from MMA’s Vessel Operations and Technology program were nearly done rebuilding Bowdoin’s 35-year-old Cummins diesel engine in Professor Donald Eley’s hands-on Small Craft Technology laboratory.
Starting last month, first-year students Hila Shooter, Will Guerette and Martin Manning and senior Mackenzie Vosburgh — a double major in business and VOT — tore down the engine to a bare block. All of the exterior parts were sandblasted to remove three decades worth of rust and grime and repainted a sparkling “Cummins white.”
During the tear-down, Eley said, “we only broke one bolt,” despite the engine’s spending nearly 35 years in the bilge of a wooden boat used on salt water.
Then, working primarily under the supervision of Peter Shepherd, a longtime technician from Cummins Northeast, the students reassembled the engine using all new parts. Cummins donated all of the parts, and Shepherd’s time, to the project.
Cummins donated the 190-horsepower diesel to Bowdoin when the boat underwent a major restoration in the 1980s. Though it was nearly 35 years old, Eley said, the engine had accumulated only 8,600 hours of use — out of a predicted 20,000-hour service life — so “it was a young’n in that sense.”
MMA planned on completing the engine rebuild during the seven-week lab course and, as of last week, with two more weeks to go things were “right on schedule” to truck the completed engine down to Camden to be hoisted back into Bowdoin next month before her new deck is installed. If all goes smoothly, the schooner will be ready to launch around June 1 under the command of her new skipper, Captain Emma Hathaway.
Rebuilding the engine was one element of MMA’s long-term maintenance and care plan to replace Bowdoin’s deck and complete other upgrades most easily accomplished after the old deck was removed. Upgrades include replacement of the main engine exhaust with a new, stainless steel system, electrical system improvements, replacement of the generator and installation of a watermaker recently donated to the project together with funds for its installation and ongoing maintenance.
Work officially began last Columbus Day, two days before the schooner’s masts were removed and the ship was prepared to be delivered to Camden. Lyman-Morse is providing workspace and additional expertise for the project
The renovation is funded through the Bowdoin Centennial Campaign, a $1.6-million fundraising campaign to replace the ship’s deck and strengthen her endowment. The aim of the campaign is to keep the schooner — first launched in 1921 for Adm. Donald B. MacMillan at the Hodgdon Bros. shipyard in East Boothbay — exploring, sailing and training for another century.