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Bowdoin (Arctic schooner)
Bowdoin SableIsland.jpg
Bowdoin at anchor off Sable Island, Nova Scotia
Owner: Donald B. MacMillan
US Navy 22 May 1941 – 24 January 1945
MacMillan 1945–1959
Mystic Seaport 1959–1967
Schooner Bowdoin Association, Inc. 1967 – 1988
Maine Maritime Academy c.1988–
Builder: William H. Hand, Jr. (designer)
Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard
Launched: 1921
Commissioned: 16 June 1941 as IX-50
Decommissioned: 16 December 1943
Struck: 14 May 1944
General characteristics
Tonnage: 66 GRT
Length: 72 ft (22 m) LWL
88 ft (27 m) LOA
Beam: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Draft: 10 ft (3.0 m)
Sail plan: Gaff-rigged Schooner

The schooner Bowdoin /ˈbdɨn/ was designed by William H. Hand, Jr., and built in 1921, in East Boothbay, Maine, at the Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard now known as Hodgdon Yachts. She was designed for Arctic exploration, under the direction of Donald B. MacMillan, and has made 28[1] trips above the Arctic Circle in her life, two[1] after she was acquired by the Maine Maritime Academy in 1988.[1] She is currently owned by Maine Maritime Academy, located in Castine, Maine, and is used for their sail training curriculum.


The schooner's design and construction were carefully considered and well-executed, although neither was radical for their day. The vessel is unique today because of her specialized purpose—she is heavy and carries less sail for her displacement than most schooners because, in addition to the obvious ice hazards, the Arctic is known for having either no wind at all or too much.

Bowdoin first crossed the Arctic Circle on 23 August 1921. A place unknown to most of the world, the Arctic had had few visitors. Only sixteen years before, the goal of many generations of Arctic explorers had been reached when a northwest passage was traversed—a route which was, practically speaking, unusable, and after the construction of the Panama Canal, no longer necessary. Peary's North Pole expedition was merely a dozen years past. The last few Hudson's Bay and Davis Strait whalers had made their final trip home two years before.

Bowdoin sailed north with Macmillan two dozen times, carrying scientists, adventurers, and students.

On 22 May 1941 the United States Navy purchased Bowdoin from MacMillan for use in the war effort. Designated IX-50 she was placed in commission on 16 June 1941, with MacMillan in command.

Bowdoin was assigned to the South Greenland Patrol but did not report for duty at Ivigtut. The Greenland patrol existed for two major purposes: to assist in the defense of Greenland and to support the Army in its task of setting up air bases on Greenland as stopover and fueling points for aircraft being ferried to Great Britain. Bowdoin provided services in conjunction with air base site surveys and construction. That assignment lasted about 27 months. During that time, in October 1941, the two portions of the Greenland Patrol—the northeast and Bowdoin's south—were combined into a single command, the Greenland Patrol, Task Group 24.8 which took its orders directly from Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet. About two years after that event, on 23 October 1943, the auxiliary schooner was placed in reduced commission. On 16 December 1943, Bowdoin was placed out of commission at Quincy, Massachusetts. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 16 May 1944. She was sold as a hulk on 24 January 1945 through the Maritime Commission's War Shipping Administration. Purchased by friends of Admiral MacMillan's, the battered schooner was refitted once again for Arctic exploration.

In 1959, Admiral MacMillan sailed the vessel to Mystic Seaport and turned it over to them for display. Little was done with the ship, and the seaport removed (and broke) its masts and left it in a state of neglect. In 1967, at MacMillan's urging, the Schooner Bowdoin Association, Inc. was formed by friends of the admiral's, including former crew members and others interested in saving the ship. Mystic Seaport relinquished the schooner to the Association, which leased her to Capt. Jim Sharp[2] of Camden, Maine. Sharp restored the schooner to operating condition and sailed her to Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1969 on a sentimental journey to MacMillan's home, where the admiral, in his 90s, saw Bowdoin sail again one last time.[3]

Jim Sharp had restored what he could on Bowdoin for $25,000, using her as a wharfside museum in Camden, Maine and sailing her on charters. In the mid-1970s, though, Coast Guard requirements for passenger carrying, which would have called for rebuilding the schooner and destroying her historic character, forced Sharp to return Bowdoin to the Schooner Bowdoin Association. Used for sail training and leased by the Association to various groups, Bowdoin has persevered since then. A major restoration effort at the Maine Maritime Museum between 1980-1984 brought the schooner back to excellent condition.[4] The work was supervised by Jim Stevens, owner of the Goudy-Stevens Yard in East Boothbay, formerly Hodgdon Brothers,[Clarification needed] who first built Bowdoin in 1921.[3][5]

Bowdoin was declared the official sailing vessel of the state of Maine in 1986.[1][6] In 1989 Bowdoin was made a National Historic Landmark.[7][8]

The restored schooner sailed in OpSail '86 in New York harbor in the parade of ships that celebrated the Statue of Liberty's restoration. In 1987–1988 she was leased to Outward Bound, Inc., an educational organization, and in 1988 was turned over to the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine on a two-year lease with an option to buy.[3]

On 30 July 1991, again with students aboard, she came full circle, crossing the Arctic Circle once more. Bowdoin was a part of the quest for understanding for decades and now, under the ownership[when?] of Maine Maritime Academy, she has turned to her own milieu, the North.

The Maine Maritime Academy has assigned Professor Andy Chase as Bowdoin's captain. Chase hopes to expand her cruises to northern voyages, so that within the next five years, Bowdoin might again sail north to the waters that she charted with Donald MacMillan at the helm more than fifty years ago. Admiral MacMillan was the last of the old-time Arctic explorers, and Bowdoin is America's last sailing Arctic exploration vessel.[3]


See also[]

  • List of schooners


  • Virginia L. Thorndike: Arctic Schooner Bowdoin: A Biography (Paperback), 1995.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Schooner Bowdoin Facts". Maine Maritime Academy Office of Public Relations. Retrieved 2011-02-14.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "MeMA" defined multiple times with different content
  2. "Title unknown". [dead link]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Delgado, James P. (1989). "Bowdoin (Arctic Exploration Schooner) National Historic Landmark Study". National Park Service Maine Heritage Program. National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  4. "Maine Maritime Museum". Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  5. "Goudy-Stevens Yard". [dead link]
  6. Guadazno, Laurel (16 September 2004). "The Schooner Bowdoin". Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  7. "Bowdoin (schooner)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  8. Delgado, James P. (30 June 1989). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Bowdoin (Arctic Exploration Schooner) / USS Bowdoin (IX-50)" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-08-24.  and
    Delgado, James P. (30 June 1989). "Accompanying seven photos, from 1924, 1988, and 1989" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 

External links[]

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