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Zeigler donates 40-year-old Hampton Boat to Sea Scouts

By Fran Gonzalez | Jan 08, 2020
Courtesy of: Stanley Paige Zeigler Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler's sailboat beached at Mosquito Island near Port Clyde in 1977. Zeigler is wearing the hat and Gene Bryant, the boat's builder, is on the right.

Montville —

Stanley Paige Zeigler loves the sea, so he gave his boat away.

The state representative attended graduate school at Maine Maritime Academy and spent 35 years as a U.S. Merchant Marine officer. Zeigler told The Journal recently he donated his 17-foot sailboat, "Dana," to the Sea Scout Ship 215 in Searsport, as a way to get some “sea spray sailing around the bay,” and also be able to return home at the end of the day.

“I was just too busy to use the boat,” Zeigler said, though he admits longing to be on the sea after spending 35 years in the trade. In addition to his legislative duties, he is also chairman of the Unity Area Regional Recycling Center.

When trying to find a suitable adoptive home for his sailboat, he said he sought out groups teaching sailing, but no one was interested in his wooden boat. Finally someone from Penobscot Marine Museum told him about the Sea Scouts.

A branch of the Boy Scouts, the Sea Scouts teach kids 14 through 21 seamanship and leadership. The Searsport branch is sponsored by the Maine Ocean School and is based on the former Boy Scout Troop 215. The group currently has 14 youths in the program.

Scoutmaster and troop "skipper" Travis Otis said he was not sure of the specific needs of the vessel, but added, "Wooden boats need special care. It's a living artifact and if the material is left to its own accord, it will rot away."

Gene Bryant, a local farmer, woodsman, carpenter and friend of Zeigler's, built the sailboat, Zeigler said. "All his designs were from the 19th century."

“Bryant had 200 acres in Palermo,” he said, “mostly wooded, with some pasture. He had a team of horses which he used to twitch out logs for his steam-powered sawmill as there was no electricity down his dirt road."

In the mid-'70s, Zeigler was working for Georgia Pacific up north as a logger, when his partner was badly injured.

“They laid me off and Gene was nice enough to let me stay at his farm for a trade of labor,” he said. “The lumber that was milled, was sold or used to build his boats. His first was a Peapod rowboat, and he then built the sailboat. The boat was a design from Hampton, New Hampshire, used by the fishing fleet.”

Bryant and Zeigler used the boat to sail around the islands off the coast of Maine. Eventually, Bryant sold the sailboat to his brother on Cape Cod and the two men sailed it there.

“On the way we slept on the islands or the wooden thwarts under the canvas tarp he had sewn and strung out on a spar, which came down and knocked me out cold,” Zeigler said, remembering the prolonged headache that bothered him for the rest of the voyage.

“We got stuck on the Isle of Shoals for a day or two when the weather came up. It was late fall,” he said. “We sailed up to my Seafarer's Union I was a member of that was in Gloucester (Massachusetts). The dispatcher thought anyone out in a boat that size was crazy.”

Years later, when working on re-flagging a Canadian ship moored in Massachusetts, Zeigler drove out to Cape Cod, where he spotted the sailboat once again. “It hadn't been in the water for five years. I felt bad that it was just rotting away," he said. "So I bought it."

At the time, Bryant was sailing down to Cape Cod in his new boat, a replica of the Noank sloop smack Emma C. Berry.  He had launched her in Belfast, bringing firewood and maple syrup from his farm and selling them to a store in Provincetown (Massachusetts). “When he sailed back, he brought back my boat tied to the stern,” Zeigler said.

“I was at sea, but when I returned in January I had to get a trailer and get it (home) to Montville,” he said. “A wooden boat should be moored in salt water so it swells. I was at sea too much to have a whole summer off and rarely put the boat in the water. My wife is a kayak guide and she would rather paddle than sail, and Gene let me sail with him on his sloop. So I put my boat under cover next to the barn and there she sat.”

Bryant said he met Zeigler 40 years ago. Originally from Provincetown, he got into sailing in his 20s, then moved to Maine in '76 to homestead in the back-to-the-land movement.

"I had been running a small farm and quit my job as a carpenter," Bryant said. "I was tired of driving to work in the snow in my old Saab. The call of the sea got to me."

He took the plans for the sailboat from a Howard Chappell boat building book he was reading at the time. In the book, Chappell uses the boat as a demonstration on "lofting," which means to transfer full-size two-dimensional template designs to wood and then cut out the individual pieces.

Chappell called the vessel the "Hampton Boat," which was a popular design in Hampton, New Hampshire, in the 1800s and was used for fishing or lobstering, Bryant said.

The 17-foot boat is made of pine and red oak and was built over the course of a winter in '79 at Bryant's farm in Palermo. The boat was put in the water in Belfast in 1980, and he remembers only two or three other sailboats in the bay at the time. According to Bryant, the boat spent a few summers in Belfast before he sold it to his brother on Cape Cod.

As Bryant remembers, his brother never used it much and eventually traded the boat back to him for something else. Bryant then sold the sailboat to Zeigler.

Despite being in his 70s, Bryant still enjoys woodworking. "I've got a couple dories I am working on," he said. "I will have them up for sale eventually." He also sells lumber, firewood and maple syrup at his Banton Road farm in Palermo.

"We have had a few great sails on that boat," Bryant said, recalling the journey with Zeigler to Cape Cod. "It is a tough little boat."

When Otis towed the boat away, Zeigler said, he promised Zeigler could sail with the Sea Scouts after the vessel is restored.

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