PORTLAND — There’s something about wooden boats that makes people get weak in the knees.

Walking below deck of the 65-foot Alden Schooner Lions Whelp on Sunday afternoon, Mike Dryver of Newburyport, Mass., widened his eyes and admired its custom wooden interior.

“When it comes to boats like this, I’m a romantic,” Dryver said. “When a boat is made with wood like this it’s like a woman. It’s elegant and graceful like the actress Sophia Loren it’s unbelievable.”

The schooner was one of many boats on display at the annual Maine Boatbuilders Show, held Friday to Sunday at the Portland Company Marine Complex on Fore Street.

Phineas Sprague, the show’s founder and owner of Portland Yacht Services, gave tours of Lions Whelp, which he designed and built at his boat yard. Sprague said he sailed around the world after college in a boat similar to the one he designed. It is for sale for a hefty price, although Sprague declined to say how much.

“Boats that are really good tend to be elegant in a physical and practical sense,” Sprague said. “The woodwork is done perfectly, but it’s simple. It’s a world-class yacht.”

In another room at the complex, the much older Alden Schooner Tar Baby drew big crowds. The boat was launched in 1929 and purchased by Portland Yacht Services in 2004 for a much-needed restoration. It is one of the finest examples of a classic wooden yacht in the world. It was designed by John Alden, widely considered one of the world’s greatest schooner designers. It, too, is for sale.

“It’s a shame no one took care of it like they should have,” said Ken Kuster, who drove from East Kingston, N.H., to attend the show. “It’s interesting to see what people are selling.”

As of 2 p.m., about 4,500 people had attended the show. Sprague said it’s a good economic boost for the city. He said he knew of six exhibitors who sold boats.

“Every time a person comes here, that’s a table for a restaurant or a tip for a waitress,” Sprague said. “Every time we sell a boat here, we keep a village employed.”

More than 50 boats were on display, ranging from kayaks and dinghies to power launches and sailboats.

French & Webb Company Inc., of Belfast, showed off its new hybrid diesel/electric launch Zogo, which features an arched cabin covered with solar panels to help keep the battery charged. The design was driven by their clients’ concern for the environment. The boat was the first that many people saw walking into the show.

Steve and Stephanie Rowe, owners of Great Island Boat Yard in Harpswell, had a steady stream of people at their booth. One prospect plans to visit his marina today for an estimate on installing a new engine. The company does repairs and refits on boats, and collected a page of possible jobs at the show.

“Today, we’ve had a lot of people interested in re-power,” Steve Rowe said, referring to installing new engines on boats. “Maybe people have been wanting to do it, but have been putting it off. It’s not a small job.”

Steven White, owner of Brooklin Boat Yard, got a potential big job. A man from Argentina who attended the show wants White’s company to build him a boat.

“I love building boats,” said White, who has worked at the company for the past 31 years. “There’s a huge amount of pride that goes into building something that is tangible. These boats will be around for the next 75 to 100 years, long after I am gone.” 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]


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