Feature Articles and Media

Searsport museum’s shipwreck exhibit chronicles dramatic ends

The schooner Alice E. Clark half-sunk on Coombs Ledge off Islesboro.

The schooner Alice E. Clark half-sunk on Coombs Ledge off Islesboro.

SEARSPORT — For decades, the town has boasted of its sea captains and their voyages to the four corners of the world. If there were any doubt about the truth behind this pride, a visit to the True-Fowler-Ross House, a 19th century residence now part of the Penobscot Marine Museum campus, puts it to rest.

There’s a gallery of photographs spanning two walls in the back of the house that makes the point—scores of captain faces look down at visitors. In all, 284 Searsport ship captains hailed from this small coastal town.

Coinciding with the museum’s summer exhibit, “For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks, Memorials and Rescues,” a star has been added to the portrait of each captain who died at sea. The captain may have perished when the ship went down or died from disease contracted in exotic ports of call. Both were all-too-common ends.

Click here to read the full story by Tom Groening at The Working Waterfront

Rescue at sea leads to big payoff for Maine man

SEARSPORT, Maine — Nearly 20 years ago, Capt. Skip Strong responded to a distress call from an ocean-going tugboat that was in trouble off the coast of Florida during Tropical Storm Gordon.

As it turned out, his decision to help the five men aboard the distressed vessel had some big ramifications, made headlines and led to a major settlement in a court case.

Strong, who now lives in Southwest Harbor, will be speaking about the 1994 rescue at sea Thursday night at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

“If someone’s in trouble out on the water, you go out and see if you can give them a hand,” he said Wednesday. “We were going out there to see if we could help these five guys on a tugboat who seemed to be having a pretty bad night.”

Strong, who was 32 then and who had graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine about 10 years earlier, was captain of the Cherry Valley, an oil tanker trying to outrun the tropical storm. But he couldn’t ignore the call for help from the tugboat, which had lost 75 percent of its engine power and was struggling in heavy winds and seas that were as tall as 25 feet.

“The barge they were towing had a lot of sail area. They were getting dragged to the coast of Florida, right by a shoal area,” said Strong, who today is one of four owners of Penobscot Bay and River Pilots.

Click here to read the full story by Abigail Curtis at the Bangor Daily News

Community Members Learn Sea Safety Skills in Searsport


Searsport – Commercial fishermen are required to have certain safety equipment on board their vessels, but survival instructors say pleasure boaters should too.

Community members learned sea safety skills at the Searsport town dock on Wednesday. “Disasters still happen even though we have technology. We’ve got these great life rafts, but you still have to be prepared when you go out there,” said Cipperly Good, Collections Manager and Assistant Curator at the Penobscot Marine Museum.

Click here to read the full story and see the video by Caitlin Burchill at WABI TV 5

Searsport, Maine is a destination all its own

The first question anyone will ask you in Searsport, whether you’re checking into a motel or tearing into a boiled lobster, is “Where are you headed?” As though you’re not already someplace.

Thus, it’s easy to feel a little sorry for Searsport, or to find yourself humming a few bars of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.” But instead of “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” they’ve got Camden to the south of them, Bar Harbor to the north — two major tourist zones. But Searsport makes the most of it. “We’re a great base for people going to Bar Harbor and those who want to explore Camden and Rockport, since we’re in the middle,” says innkeeper Anita McLellan of the Homeport Inn. “We get the overflow when they have events,” she adds. Bonus for those who hunker down here: Restaurant and lodgings prices are more reasonable in Searsport than in the big-name tourist haunts. Hang around a bit, and explore the funky antiques shops, great parks, good eats, and terrific marine museum, and you may forget all about where you’re heading next.

Click here to read the full story by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright in the Boston Globe

Deirdre Fleming: A high seas hero returns to his hometown to share his story

Tim Garrold never planned on a life of adventure at sea when he graduated from Searsport High School. Even when he mowed the lawn at the Penobscot Marine Museum, never did he imagine one day he would be a featured speaker there, sharing tales of maritime rescues in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and off Iceland.

Garrold, now a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., will be back in his hometown this week to share stories from a 32-year Naval career that was made memorable by dozens of rescues at sea.

A professor of Joint Maritime Operations at the 126-year-old college, Garrold teaches about the ways the nation’s military services work together. But in his career serving in the Navy, Garrold traveled the world and came to know its oceans intimately.

Click here to read the full story at the Portland Press Herald

Grants Help Museum Speed Up Online Photo Archiving Process


The Penobscot Marine Museum recently received two grants to make the job of archiving these pictures online a lot easier, and quicker.

“We came up with the idea of using a high end 35 mm SLR camera to do that so it would be an instant capture. The grant allowed us to get the camera and a lens and its just a huge step for us. It quadruples the speed that we can capture these images in,” said Kevin Johnston, Photo Archivist at Penobscot Marine Museum.

It has taken six years for museum employees and volunteers to put 60,000 images on their website. They hope to get the remaining 80,000 pictures online in half that time.

Click here to read the full story at WABI News

Maine Boats & Builders: Old Ways & New

A playlist of five complete presentations from the 2011 history conference, consisting of:
Boat Building in South Bristol, Maine, by David Andrews
Comparative Study of Maine Peapods, by David Cockey
Evolution of the Maine Lobster Boat, by Jon Johansen
Friendship Sloops, by Ralph Stanley
Rebuilding the Dragger Roann, by Walter Ansel

Click here to watch all 5 videos


Peabody Essex Museum

Maine shipyards turned out about sixty of the over 400 clippers built to satisfy the need for speed generated by events in the mid-nineteenth century. The 1849 California Gold Rush, the 1851 Australian Gold Rush, and Britain’s use of American vessels as tea carriers beginning in1849 fostered so great a demand for fast ships that merchants in New York and Boston turned to smaller ship building areas like Maine. Then as now, Maine ships had a reputation for high quality and relatively low costs.

Read the full story

The Worlds of Jacob Pike

A Video by Blake Hendrickson, Basic Explanations Studio


Penobscot Marine Museum was instrumental in saving the Jacob Pike, a historic Maine-built sardine carrier. Sardine fishing and packing once formed important financial and cultural bases of Maine’s coastal economy. The Pike’s continued use in a working role enables her to represent this once thriving industry. This video, in five parts, was partially organized by the museum and describes the history of the sardine industry and the history of the Pike itself.

Click Here to watch the 5 part video