The Mary E, a schooner built in Bath in 1906, lays on its side as crews work to stabilize the vessel and get all the passengers off safely. Photo courtesy of Paul Kalkstein

Roughly one month after the Mary E capsized on the Kennebec River with 18 passengers aboard, the Maine Maritime Museum has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland in an effort to avoid any potential liability in connection to the incident.

According to court documents filed Aug. 20, the Bath museum — which purchased the historic schooner in 2017 — claims it is not responsible for any “loss, damage, injury and destruction” sustained during the capsize because it “used due diligence to make the subject vessel seaworthy and safe” before and during the July 30 cruise.

The museum maintains the Mary E was also “properly equipped and supplied, and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the services for which she was engaged,” according to the complaint.

 

“This is a routine filing for any maritime incident of this nature,” Maine Maritime Museum Marketing and Communications Manager Katie Spiridakis told The Times Record. “It is not a statement by the museum to downplay the seriousness of the incident.”

Although no lawsuits have been filed yet against the Maine Maritime Museum in connection to the capsize, the museum stated it “believes claim(s) will be asserted for personal injury, pain and suffering and other damages” that would exceed the Mary E’s post-incident value of $150,000, according to the complaint.

Spiridakis said the museum hopes filing the complaint will “expedite the process of managing the incident from a legal perspective.”

On July 30, the Mary E capsized while on a cruise with 15 passengers and three crew members on board. The 73-foot vessel capsized around 5:30 p.m. near Doubling Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic, according to Bath Chief of Police Andrew Booth.

The schooner, advertised as “the only Kennebec-built schooner still afloat,” was scheduled for a river cruise from 4-6:30 p.m. that would take passengers past Bath Iron Works, Doubling Point Lighthouse and the Kennebec Range Lights, according to the museum’s website. The Mary E had sailed past BIW on its way upriver when it capsized, Coast Guard Lt. James McDonough said.

All passengers were rescued by BIW security, Sea Tow and Bath Police. Two people were taken to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, McDonough said.

Spiridakis said those two people were treated and later released. She had not heard reports of any injuries that arose after the incident.

Sea Tow righted and returned the Mary E to the museum on Aug. 1, but it was brought to Derecktor Robinhood shipyard in Georgetown the following day, according to court documents.

In the filing, the museum states the historic schooner “sustained a knock-down,” meaning the boat tipped sideways to the point where its masts were at or below the water. Spiridakis said the museum is still waiting on the results of the Coast Guard’s investigation of what caused the capsize.

The newly renovated schooner Mary E sails the Kennebec River in 2019, slightly downriver from where she was launched in 1906. Contributed photo via Maine Maritime Museum

The Coast Guard didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday.

The museum also stated the Mary E “sustained damages” but Spiridakis declined to describe the nature of the damages or how much it will cost to repair it, as the museum is “still evaluating the condition of the vessel.”

She said the museum hopes to make the necessary repairs and continue using it for passenger cruises.

Maine Maritime Museum purchased the Mary E in early 2017 for $140,000 and uses it for cruises on the Kennebec River.

The two-masted schooner was built by Thomas Hagan in 1906 at a Houghton shipyard, where Bath Iron Works now stands. For 38 years the schooner operated as a fishing and trade vessel before it was sold in 1944 to become a dragger. The ship was abandoned in 1960 and sank three years later in Lynn Harbor, Massachusetts, after a Thanksgiving Day hurricane.

In 1965, William Donnell of Bath – whose great-grandfather was a shipbuilder associated with Hagan — bought the schooner for $200 after seeing an advertisement in a commercial fishing magazine.

Donnell brought the vessel home for restoration where it was used it as a passenger schooner in the Maine Windjammer Fleet before being sold to the Maine Maritime Museum.

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