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Fall 2019

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Patriarch of Maine Shipbuilding

In PATRIARCH OF MAINE SHIPBUILDING, by Kenneth Martin, in the years following the American Civil War, Yankee sailing ships and shipyards were threatened by foreign competition and modernizing technology. Despite decades of stiff competition, a few builders in Bath, Maine, the “City of Ships,” persisted in building wooden schooners, modifying and enlarging them to meet the changing times. Gardiner G. Deering (1833-1921) was one of these diehards. Genial and unaffected but driven to succeed, he started at the bottom of the trade and worked himself to the top, building ninety-nine vessels over his long life, dozens of which he personally managed. As this spirited, absorbing study reveals, Deering prospered in the face of ferocious competition and economic gyrations. Through thick and thin, he seemed to enjoy himself immensely. Deering schooners were built for hard use in America’s coastwise trade, filling a vital need as the nation modernized and urbanized. Their construction was precisely timed. They were fast. And they made money. Although rooted in archaic sailing-vessel traditions, they grew ever larger: four-, then five-masters, using size, speed, structural innovation, and ease of operation to hold their own against the future. Many led short lives, falling victim to storms, shoals, structural strain, and even submarine warfare. Some set records for earnings and high performance. By about 1910 the heyday of coastwise schooners seemed to be over. But the onset of the First World War gave these giant windjammers a new lease on life, during which they earned prodigious profits hauling cargoes to ever more distant ports. Deering, who by then had become the Grand Old Man of his trade, was at last well rewarded. And then, suddenly, it was over. When Gardiner Deering died in 1921, he was widely acknowledged as the last of his breed, the “Patriarch of Maine Shipbuilding.” The history of Deering’s fleet mixes traditional New England values, sharp business sense, occupational dangers, and outright disasters, including the mystery of the schooner Carroll A. Deering, whose bizarre demise has never been fully explained. This book is the first to tell the full story of Gardiner Deering and the exploits of his many vessels. The salty tale is richly illustrated with dozens of evocative period photographs and paintings.

 

Available wherever books are sold.

 

Honors and Awards:

2009 United State Maritime Literature Award