ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — This schooner looks new, but was actually a well-known part of the windjammer fleet for more than thirty years-- well-known along the coast as the Nathaniel Bowditch.
But she was falling apart from age until another veteran of the windjammer fleet decided to step in and save her.
For Noah Barnes, Ladona has been a labor of love.
"I couldn't help myself," Barnes said. "I don't know what to tell you, I couldn't help myself."
Love, but also lots of labor. Three years ago, he saw the schooner was in trouble.
"Anybody serious about it knew she would need major surgery … she was in serious need of a rebuild," Barnes said. "I took a hard look at my wife, Jane, and finally wore her down."
"It made me nervous … made me really nervous," Jane said. "And as we got into it, the project got bigger. It's been tough. Has not been a cakewalk."
But for Noah Barnes, windjammers like Ladona are part of life. He grew up — literally — on this one.
"I was a schooner rat. My folks bought the Taber when I was six[-years-old]," Barnes said.
That's the windjammer Stephen Taber, the oldest vessel in the fleet. Noah and Jane took it over 12 years ago. So, when the chance came to rescue the old Bowditch, they jumped at it. But the schooner was in much worse shape than either Barnes or boatbuilder Mike Rogers had thought.
"It's been long … a lot of hard work and a lot of decisions to make," Rogers said.
It took two years instead of one and cost a lot more than planned. The Ladona, said Barnes, is now almost completely new.
"Yeah, take care of this boat. She's good for another lifetime," Barnes said.
Now they're almost ready to sail. And while the windjammer business had been changing, Noah and Jane both said there will be enough passengers to support the second schooner.
"I think our brand of hospitality, host-manship, great food, serving line just really taking care of our guests. It's a working formula for us," Jane said.
"Stephen Taber is 147 years old this year," Barnes told kids Tuesday. "She is the oldest vessel in continuous service in America of any kind."
Captain Noah sailed the Taber Tuesday taking a crew of kids from North Yarmouth Academy. Their friend and business partner, J.R. Braugh, will captain the Ladona.
This week, after two years, the re-building ends. Sailing begins.
The name of that windjammer is the original name when she was launched as a private yacht in 1922 in East Boothbay.
She was used by the Coast Guard in World War Two and is a sister ship to another schooner you may have heard of: the arctic exploration ship Bowdoin, now owned by Maine Maritime Academy.
She's going through a major renovation of her own, not far from Rockland.
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