BATH — Life has been good lately for the Mary E.

That hasn’t always been the case. Since its 1906 construction in a Houghton shipyard, where Bath Iron Works now stands, it has weathered many ups and downs – including sinking after a hurricane.

But upon being purchased in 2017 by Maine Maritime Museum, which neighbors the location of its birth, the two-masted clipper schooner has benefited from a massive renovation, and a recommissioning and relaunch a year ago.

And beginning June 5, the 73-foot vessel has for the first time become available for public cruises embarking from the museum’s Kennebec River docks. Given that the Mary E is the last surviving schooner to have been built on that waterway – as well as the oldest fishing schooner built in Maine that still is sailing – it’s little wonder that the vessel’s revival has generated some interest.

“It’s been so awesome; people are so excited about this vessel,” Katie Spiridakis, the museum’s marketing and communications manager, said Tuesday. “I think it has a lot to do with her history.”

“We’ve heard from so many people, interestingly, who have some past history with her,” she added. “A lot of people are really excited to see her back in the water and all restored.”

Although the museum offered onboard, dockside tours last summer – as well as a few cruises as part of Portland’s Schoonerfest – it waited until this summer to offer regular tours from Bath.

“We really wanted to get a crew prepared, and see how she handles on the water before we committed to a full-time (cruise) schedule,” Spiridakis said.

The museum offers cruises at 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 28. The 2.5-hour trips run past Doubling Point Light and the Kennebec Range Lights, as well as the shipyard where Thomas E. Hagan built the Mary E more than a century ago. Passengers can view Navy vessels being built at BIW, and either help crew members set and trim sails, or relax and enjoy the river views as they hear anecdotes from the vessel’s storied past.

Built by Thomas Hagan, the ship was originally owned by Block Island, Rhode Island, residents William, Dwight and Curtis Dunn, along with Jesse Lewis. While the origin of the name “Mary E” is not certain, the wife of one of the owners was named Mary E. Dunn.

After spending a few decades as a fishing and trade vessel, and then as a dragger, the Mary E was abandoned in 1960 and sank after a hurricane on Thanksgiving 1963 in Lynn Harbor, Massachusetts.

William Donnell of Bath – whose great-grandfather was a shipbuilder associated with Hagan – purchased the vessel in 1965 for $200 and brought it back home for restoration. Following that two-year endeavor, Mary E became a passenger vessel in the Maine Windjammer Fleet.

The vessel was last owned by Matt Culen of Pelham, New York, who spent 2006-16 restoring the planking and framing below the water line. After the museum purchased the schooner in early 2017 for $140,000, a crew led by master shipwright Andros Kypragoras replaced all frames and replanked the hull above the waterline, as well as reframing and planking the deck, and replacing the engine.

A $2 million fundraising campaign is underway to pay for the Mary E’s acquisition, restoration, and maintenance. The museum has so far raised about $1.5 million, which covered the purchase and restoration costs, and the remaining $500,000 will cover upkeep and continued maintenance.

Cruise tickets – which cost $45 for members, and $56 for nonmembers – are available at, by calling the museum at 443-1316, or by visiting its campus admissions desk at 243 Washington St.

Cruises will also be available at the Portland Schoonerfest Regatta on June 21-23, the Casco Bay Gaffers Race on June 24, and the Boothbay Windjammer Days Parade of Sail on June 26.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Cruises of the 1906 schooner Mary E launched for the first time this month from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.

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