Lewis R. French (schooner)

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Lewis R. French NHL.jpg
United States
Name: Lewis R. French
Launched: 1871
Status: In service as of 2019
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 35 gross register tons (GRT)
  • 64.7 ft (19.7 m) (LOA)
  • 56.6 ft (17.3 m) (LWL)[1]
Beam: 18.8 ft (5.7 m)
Draft: 7 ft (2.1 m)
Depth of hold: 5.4 ft (1.6 m)
Lewis R. French (Schooner)
Lewis R. French (schooner) is located in Maine
Lewis R. French (schooner)
Lewis R. French (schooner) is located in the United States
Lewis R. French (schooner)
LocationCamden Harbor, Camden, Maine
Coordinates44°12′38″N 69°03′46″W / 44.21056°N 69.06278°W / 44.21056; -69.06278Coordinates: 44°12′38″N 69°03′46″W / 44.21056°N 69.06278°W / 44.21056; -69.06278
ArchitectFrench Bros.
Architectural stylecoasting schooner
NRHP reference #82005263
Significant dates
Added to NRHP4 December 1991[2]
Designated NHL4 December 1992[3]

Lewis R. French is a gaff-rigged topsail schooner sailing out of Camden, Maine as a "Maine windjammer" offering weeklong cruises to tourists. Built in 1871, she is the oldest known two-masted schooner in the United States, and one of a small number of this once-common form of vessel in active service. She was designated a US National Historic Landmark in 1992.

Description and history[edit]

The Lewis R. French was launched in 1871 in Christmas Cove[4] in the town of South Bristol, Maine. She is 101 ft long, has 64.7 feet (19.7 m) of deck, a 18.8-foot (5.7 m) beam, and draws 7 feet (2.1 m) with a full keel. Sail is her only means of power. Her frame is of double-sawn oak and her planking is white pine. Fastenings were originally treenails, but were replaced during restoration by spiking.[5]

According to her current owners' website and to researcher and author Virginia L. Thorndike, the schooner was built by the sons of Maine storekeeper Lewis R. French and named for their father. In Thorndike's book Windjammer Watching on the Coast of Maine, the author writes that the three sons had an agreement with their father that he would finance the building of the vessel, and yet he never did. They then retaliated, in a way, by naming the schooner after him, thus forcing the elder Mr. French to honor a maritime tradition which decreed that any living person with a vessel named for them must supply her with a set of flags.[6]

Joseph W. French was her first master. At first used in the coasting trade, she was operated as a fishing vessel between 1877 and 1888 before again returning to coasting. In 1928 her masts were removed and she was converted to engine power, with a pilot house on her poop deck. She remained in the coasting trade, carrying all manner of cargo, until 1973, when she was purchased by John Foss. He spent three years restoring the vessel to its original sailing condition and outfitting its hold for passengers. The Lewis R. French was among the first schooners sailing out of the North End Shipyard, owned by Foss, in Rockland, Maine as part of the "Maine Windjammer Fleet."[5]

In 1986, Foss sold the schooner to his brother-in-law Dan Pease,[5] who sailed and captained the Lewis R. French out of Rockland until 2003. That year, she was purchased from Pease by Garth Wells,[7] her current owner and co-captain with his wife Jenny Tobin,[8] and now sails out of Camden. Continuously since 1976, she has been in the tourist trade along the Maine coast.[5]

The Lewis R. French was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991,[5] and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.[3] She is the oldest two-masted schooner in the United States (slightly older than Stephen Taber, also built in 1871), and is one of only two that has a full keel (the other, the Governor Stone, is also a National Historic Landmark). She is the oldest sailing ship built in Maine, and the only known surviving Maine-built schooner that has always been home-ported in Maine.[5][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dean & Delgado 1990, p. 3.
  2. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ a b "Lewis R. French (schooner)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  4. ^ a b "A Little History". Schooner Lewis R. French. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Dean, Nicholas; Delgado, James P. (5 October 1990). "Maritime Heritage of the United States NHL Theme Study—Large Vessels / Lewis R. French (schooner)" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  6. ^ Thorndike, Virginia L. (2002). "Windjammer Watching on the Coast of Maine (Third Edition)". Down East Books. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  7. ^ "Captain Dan Pease". Schooner Lewis R. French. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  8. ^ "About Your Hosts". Schooner Lewis R. French. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

External links[edit]