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Spruce Point Inn, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Resort, Hotel, History

The reason for keeping the history afloat

We were reading about the Bowdoin in the Register and just had the opportunity to see her during Windjammer Days off Spruce Point. Owned by the Marine Maritime Academy and operated as sail training vessel, the Bowdoin is the Official Vessel of the State of Maine, as well as being a National Historic Landmark (there are 44 of them in the state!)

In this summer of celebrations honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Parks, including “our own” Acadia up in Bar Harbor, it is good to consider the concept of preservation and take a moment to think about what drives those who do and the resources necessary – the Bowdoin just receive a second $5,000 grant from The Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum – for such exercises in protecting the past for future generations.

Spruce Point Inn itself is one example; and we as innkeepers are honored to be stewards of a historical place that holds the stories of Boothbay’s early days as a rusticators’ retreat as well as curating the “oceanside memories made in Maine” of generations of families who’ve come to appreciate this spectacular corner of the Midcoast. But we’ve been delighted to share in the progress of another labor of love we expect to see on our dock again soon: the yacht Palawan, one of many owned by Thomas Watson, former head of IBM, that is shown in the photograph of the Kennedys and friends at the Spruce Point Inn dock.

Palawan’s current owners say they came into the role of being her champions “by accident.” They had chartered from Portland Schooner Company for several years before thinking about buying a boat of their own for their summer sails along the Maine coast. “We looked at other boats,” they said, “But they never caught my fancy as much as Palawan and her history.  We like old things: old movies, old cars, our house dates to 1785.”  Looking at the boat, which they note had been well taken care of, they decided to buy; and so began a 5-year restoration project, only done off-season, so they have the summers to sail her.

Like Spruce Point, the investment was first in habitability (electrical systems and heads) and then in amenities like new electronics and painting the (still sound) aluminum hull. Meanwhile the owners are collecting the history of Palawan so they can trace the route of original cruises like the one the Kennedys enjoyed.  They’re bringing her back to her mid-1960s era, with china, glasses and silverware Tom Watson might have used to outfit the boat.

They love sailing her, as we love operating the resort.

That’s because of the secret thrill every preservationist knows: the satisfaction comes not just from keeping history afloat but from those who comment to each of us engaged in this love affair about “how good it is to see [fill in the blank] alive and well.” It’s the people we preserve with these priceless properties; the stories that are the real treasures. As Bowdoin and Palawan’s owners understand, it’s an honor to be entrusted with a piece of history, before passing it down to the next generation.

All we wish, for our “tall masts,” is for someone in the future to say, “they took care of her” and in that way to be part of the story that’s preserved.