MWA WELCOMES NEWEST MEMBER: LADONA
Midcoast, Maine— Forty years ago, Captain Noah Barnes was a nine-year-old boy watching his parents, Captains Ken and Ellen Barnes, completely rebuild an historic schooner that would become a beloved member of the Maine Windjammer Association—the Stephen Taber. Now, forty years later, after owning and operating the Stephen Taber for more than a decade, Captain Noah is elbow-deep in a rebuild of a different schooner—Ladona—a vintage 82-footer originally built in 1922 in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, as a private yacht for the Loring family.
Ladona has had a long, winding history. Once her tenure as a yacht had finished in 1942, she was enlisted by the US Coast Guard to keep watch for U-Boats off American shores during World War II, earning both the Victory Medal and the American Campaign medal. She had a stint as a fishing dragger, a training vessel and then finally joined the Maine Windjammer fleet in 1971 under the name of Nathaniel Bowditch.
When Captain Noah and his wife, Jane, bought the schooner in 2014, they knew that she was in desperate need of a rebuild. It’s been a multi-stage process involving a team of master builders and many months out in the cold under a tarp making certain she’s built to perfection.
Says Captain Noah, “The raw fact is that we’re trying to prove that you can rebuild a vessel and make it work as a for-profit operation without relying on government funding or grants. We want to return this vessel to service and have her stand on her own two feet. So, what does it take? It takes disregard for your own comfort and a strong desire to preserve commercial sail. You have to be willing to go out and shovel snow off your oak planking stock so you can drag it inside and push it through a planer in the middle of winter.” In other words, clear vision, tenacity and tremendous commitment. Is it worth the trouble? Absolutely! Says Captain Noah, “Ladona is stunning—like Rita Hayworth stunning—she’s going to be a show stopper. It would be a lot less fun fixing a boat we weren’t all in love with.”
The plan is for Ladona to carry 16 passengers—fewer than any other windjammer in the Association. This will enable the captain and crew to offer a more personalized experience, especially when it comes to food. “We struck a chord with the Taber—offering delicious food is something that is difficult to do aboard a schooner and we put a lot of energy and effort into it. With Ladona, we are shooting for something that’s along the same lines but even more. There are things you can do for 16 guests that you can’t do for 20 or 30, like plated courses, more extravagant ingredients, serving wine every night, and offering something special like a glass of port after a meal. We are hoping to do personalized breakfasts as people get up, rather than ringing a bell for everyone at 8. Also, there will be seated dining al fresco on deck by lantern light.”
The shipwrights began work on Ladona in August of 2014 and her crew will welcome her first guests on June 2, 2016. This is the most complete rebuild she’s ever had and should stand her in good stead for 100 years.
The Maine Windjammer Association is the oldest fleet of commercial sailing vessels in North America and the addition of Ladona brings their total number to nine unique ships. For more information about the historic vessels belonging to the Maine Windjammer Association, visit www.sailmainecoast.com.