By Carla Charter
ROCKLAND, ME.-The Sail, Power and Steam Museum is in the process of preserving the 118-year old Black Jack, the oldest Friendship Sloop known to be in existence.
The Friendship Sloop is an icon on the coast of Maine. “It was the pick-up truck of the 19th century. The roads were terrible so people got around on boats. The first thing the homesteaders did was build a boat. It provided food for the family table and brought furniture to island farms. It was small, one man could handle it yet it was large enough so it could be used on the big waters. It was the first lobster boat in Maine,” according to Capt. John Sharp of the museum.
Wilbur Morse, a Friendship boat builder who produced many of these sloops, was known for building 500 Friendship sloops between 1901-1903. “During that time Morse launched a new Friendship Sloop, every two weeks,” Sharp said. The sloops were 20 to 40 feet in length and custom made for the man who ordered them.
Morse also built the Black Jack. “We have restored it as close to how Wilbur Morse would have built it in 1900 and when we are finished it will be the best representation of a 1900 era Friendship Sloop that exists.” It is hoped the Black Jack will be launched at the beginning of July.
In the late 1800s, Rockland was among the top four busiest harbors in the United States. “There was Philadelphia, New York, Boston and then Rockland. “In it’s heyday in 1893 there were over 9,000 sailing and steamers coming in and out of Rockland, from 2-masted to 6-masted schooners “It was a veritable parade of sails,” he said.
The Black Jack originally came from Massachusetts and is the second sloop donated to the museum. “We were worried it wouldn’t make the trip back to Maine as it was in such poor condition.” Sharp continued. The first Friendship Sloop donated, the Persistence, is a 26-footer and took two years for the museum to restore. “It is a pretty little vessel,” Sharp continued.
Along with the Friendship Sloops, the museum also boasts a collection of boat making tools, navigation equipment, sextons and charts. The museum itself is located on a historic site as well. “We’re situated on hallowed grounds of the Snow shipyard, owned by the Snow family for 140 years, where more ships were built than anywhere else in New England.” Sharp explained.
Volunteers to assist in restoring the Black Jack are always welcome. More information on the restoration of the Black Jack and the sail Power and Steam Museum can be found at www.sailpowersteammuseum.org.