, Newburyport, MA

February 29, 2012

A whale of a project

Lowell's Boat Shop embarks on $100,000 effort to build historic replica

By Bruno Matarazzo Jr.
Staff writer

AMESBURY — Lowell's Boat Shop is embarking on an ambitious fundraising drive to create a piece of maritime history.

The working museum is hoping to raise $100,000 to build a replica whaleboat that will accompany the last remaining whale ship, the Charles W. Morgan, at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.

"Essentially, you're helping to preserve — which is what we do — a piece of history," said Graham McKay, manager and boat builder at Lowell's Boat Shop on the banks of the Merrimack River along Amesbury's Point Shore neighborhood.

The money, which has to be raised by September, will go toward paying staff and covering the cost of materials for getting the boat completed.

Money will also be used to create and implement a whaling curriculum to present to local schools during the construction, and two to three apprenticeships for local high school kids.

"So far, we've only just started to get interest and get the word out in earnest," McKay said about the fundraising efforts. "I have a couple thousand dollars so far. I need to have $60,000 in pledges to start to get the materials and get the people lined up."

The plan is for construction to start in the winter and last six months.

While Lowell's Boat Shop works to build a new whaleboat, Mystic Seaport is undertaking a massive rebuilding of the last remaining whale ship.

The Charles W. Morgan was built in 1841 in New Bedford and made 37 voyages before retiring in 1921.

A number of whaleboats would hang around old whale ships like the Charles W. Morgan during their voyages out to sea, which could last years, according to McKay.

The two vessels worked side by side in the 1800s when the whaling industry was an important economic force in Massachusetts.

When the crew spotted a whale, six to seven men would pile into a whaleboat and either sail or row so they could get close to the whale and kill it with a harpoon.

"They're lightly built for their size," McKay said. "They're relatively light boats so you could haul it up and down the side of the ship."

Lowell's Boat Shop is planning fundraisers to help it raise money for the project. An event aboard the HMS Bounty when it visits Newburyport in July is among those being considered.

Donations for the whaleboat project may be made to Lowell's Boat Shop, 459 Main St., Amesbury 01913, Attn: Whaleboat Project.