Mary E, Historic 75' 1906 Schooner, Long Island Sound's Official Tall Ship

Sail the Historic Schooner Mary E

75 Foot Authentic Clipper Built in 1906

History of the Schooner Mary E

By Captain Eric G. Van Dormolen
Contributors:
Captain William R. Donnell 2nd
Nicole and Nick Vitale
Captain Aaron Paolino

The "Mary E", built in 1906 by Thomas E. Hagan, is the lone survivor of more than 4,000 wooden sailing vessels that were built in the Bath, Maine area. She is the oldest Maine- constructed clipper bowed sword fishing schooner still afloat, and the last wooden vessel built in Bath before Bath Iron Works took over the ship building industry in Maine.

The "Mary E" was originally sailed by Capt. Dunn of Newport, Rhode Island, and plied the Block Island waters for thirty- eight years as a fishing and cargo schooner. She was also active in passenger and mail service, as well as a transporter of illegal goods and liquors during prohibition. It is rumored that the actor, Sterling Hayden, was a crew member in 1936 before he was a screen star. While in transit off Rhode Island, Captain Dunn lost a man overboard on a cold night and sailed back to his location to retrieve him and save him from certain death. He did this with no electronics; only the salt water running through his veins.


Mary E After the 1963 Hurricane

Washed Ashore After 1963 Hurricane

In 1944, the "Mary E" was sold and converted into a motorized dragger. She sailed under a number of different owners for the next twenty years until a Thanksgiving Day hurricane in 1963 sank her in Lynn Harbor, Massachusetts.

The "Mary E" lay in the mud for two years until a Shipwright and logger, William R. Donnell II, the great-great grandson of the original designer, Benjamin, purchased her in the summer of 1965 from Al Gleason. Donnell enlisted the help of his Father, William T. Donnell 2nd the grandson and namesake of William T. Donnell, who started the shipyard at the Maine Maritime Museum. Mr. Donnell towed her back to Bath off the stern of the charter fishing boat, "Hey Babe", and began a restoration that would consume the next two years of his life. This restoration included a restored 471 Detroit Diesel, along with spars and rigging that required numerous expert boatmen from the Deer Isle- Stonnington area. Having used seaweed to plug the holes after she was pumped dry, Mr. Donnell enlisted the help of friends to muck out the mud and clean off the barnacles.

   

  
Mary E Restoration in Bath, Maine

The restored "Mary E" was the first historic schooner to be certified as a USCG passenger vessel. Captain Donnell sailed her out of Rockland, Maine around all the scenic islands of Penobscot Bay. Soon after, the entire Maine Windjammer fleet became certified by the Coast Guard. Mr. Donnell paved the way for historic vessels such as "Grace Bailey" and "Louis R. French" to enter the ranks of certified passenger vessels.

In 1970, Donnell relinquished his reign and the vessel entered the hands of Robert Morse of Morse Marine in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She sailed with day and overnight passengers. Soon after, she changed hands yet again, and in the early 1970's Teddy Charles, a famous jazz vibraphonist, found himself behind the wheel, steering her toward the New York area from Boothbay, Maine.

The "Mary E" operated out of South Street Seaport before the Schooners "Pioneer" and "Lettie G. Howard". When the South Street Museum purchased its own fleet, she moved on to the Seven Seas Sailing Club out of City Island, New York. The sailing club brought sailing to many people of New York City who could not afford to own their own boats. The "Mary E" was one of five traditionally rigged sailing vessels that Captain Ted had owned (Tiki, Golden Eagle, Barbara, Valente, and the Christeen). In 1990, Captain Ted moved the vessel to Greenport, NY, where she sailed until 2006. At the start of the season in 1994 she suffered a fire below decks during the night. Her crew worked hard and rebuilt the charred interior. With Capt Ted at the helm, the "Mary E" sailed winter voyages to Key West, Florida in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001. There she operated out of the infamous Schooner Wharf Bar. She made overnight trips to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson.

In 2006 Matt Culen and Captain Eric Van Dormolen began another restoration, forty years after the original began in Bath. Under the watchful eye of the Long Island Maritime Museum, and the help of Master Shipwright Josh Herman, the recent restoration began. Coast Guard certifications, and respect for the authenticity of the vessel dictated that bilge stringers, 80% of the frames, top sections of both masts, main transverse beams, mast partners, drilled keel bolts, and a completely re-caulked hull be accomplished. This effort continues today with updating and restoration utilizing traditional methods.

The "Mary E" continues to sail out of the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. Since her original keel was laid, she has performed a magnitude of different jobs that have only added to her prestige and proud tradition. We keep that tradition alive with Pirate Birthdays and wine tasting sails. We travel from Baltimore to Maine to work with any interested parties.

Mary E Schooner approaching Bug Light
Mary E passing close to Bug Light