Summertime, launched in 1986, on a broad reach showing off her blunt bow and “pinked” stern. KATHY ALLEN PHOTO

George Allen, mariner, boatbuilder, raconteur, dies at 95

BROOKLIN — George Allen, storyteller, mariner, boatbuilder and folk artist, died last week at his home in North Brooklin at age 95 and his death changed the character of the small, seaside community his family called home since at least 1763.

Allen was widely known as a shipwright who, with the help of Captain Bill Brown and a handful of friends, built the 50-foot pinky schooner Summertime — still sailing as part of the Maine windjammer fleet — in a field near his North Brooklin home using plans from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Like its historical predecessors, Summertime was built of locally cut and seasoned woods, including oak, locust, cedar and white pine for the deck.

Captain George Allen built the Pinky schooner Summertime using traditional methods and materials.

Using traditional boatbuilding methods and working in winter, when he wasn’t otherwise occupied as shipwright for the three-masted schooner Victory Chimes, the largest vessel in the Maine windjammer fleet, Allen spent five years on the project and launched Summertime in 1986.

Although he spent all of his life around boats — his father ran a large yacht for the New York Yacht Club and, according to his daughter Kathy Allen, served in the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Pacific during World War II before returning home to work in several Hancock County boatyards — Allen didn’t get into schoonering until the early 1960s when Cy Cousins, owner of the East Blue Hill boatyard where Allen worked, bought the Stephen Taber. Allen signed on as mate.

Three years later, Allen went to work in Rockland for Captain Frederick Boyd Guild and ran the powerboat Dirigo on fishing cruises. Later, he returned to the Stephen Taber, then rebuilt and skippered the fishing schooner Richard Robbins. He also filled in as skipper on the schooner Mary Day, filling in for her injured owner and skipper, Bud Hawkins, for one summer. Then he returned to shore, but worked for Guild for another decade as the shipwright and carpenter for Victory Chimes.

When the boat was at sea, Allen began using his downtime to make wooden toys, decorative art, ornaments and other objects that he and his wife, Georgene, sold at the HOME craft co-op established in Orland. Eventually, Allen retired from the sea and settled in to carving toy boats for children and items such as candle boxes, salt boxes, two-pocketed trays and clam hods, among others, in his Creeping Thyme Gift Shop.

Allen also had a reputation as a storyteller, honed in small-town variety shows as a young man. His stories were so good, according to a 2003 interview with the University of Maine recorded with Marshall Dodge of “Burt and I” fame, a cassette tape of his tales called “Half Truths and Whole Lies” was issued.

“In the last six years since my mom’s death my dad and I have gone to Sylvia’s Diner every Saturday and my father gave away small wooden lobster boats to any child who was there,” Kathy Allen said in an email this week. “It amounts to hundreds over those years and it was his favorite time of the week. He and I glued them up and he did the painting. He was always a worker and needed a job to do daily.”

Charles Guilford, a former boatbuilder and a hospice volunteer who spent time with Allen during the last few months of his life, described him this week as “a tremendous spirit.”

“Knowing him at that stage of his life,” Guilford said, “I wish I’d known him in his prime.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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