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Harvey Gamage, South Bristol Shipbuilder

In 1924, Harvey F. Gamage left his apprenticeship in East Boothbay boatyards to set up his own business in So. Bristol. That same year, he built a large boatshed on the waterfront property where his granduncles Albion & Menzies Gamage had built sail & steam-powered vessels for 50 years. From 1924 to 1976, Harvey Gamage oversaw the construction of more than 288 sailboats, powerboats, draggers, scallopers, and windjammers.

Most of his early boats were sloops, as well as schooners designed by the well-known naval architect John Alden. Powerboats and small fishing and lobster boats became more common in the 1930s and 1940s. The construction of eight wooden military vessels occupied Gamage boatbuilding from 1940 to 1944. In 1944, the business turned to building rugged, able, and profitable wooden fishing boats. Averaging about four boats a year, a total of 93 boats were launched between 1944 and 1969. Heavily framed, diesel-powered boats ranging from 70 to 112 feet in length, these boats were the backbone of the Gloucester and New Bedford fishing fleets. Gamage also built a few yachts, pleasure powerboats, and lobster boats during this period.


In 1960, Gamage launched the 83-foot Mary Day, the first schooner designed specifically for the windjammer passenger trade. From that date until 1976, when Harvey died, the shipyard’s output was 43 vessels – a mixture of draggers, research vessels, yachts, and large schooners. In addition to the Mary Day, the famous schooners Shenandoah, Harvey F. Gamage, Clearwater, Bill of Rights, and Appledore II all slid down the ways. At 152 feet, the Shenandoah was the longest vessel to come from the boatyard. The Antarctica research vessel Hero also dates from this period. In 1970, the yard’s first steel-hulled boat, the fishing vessel Elizabeth, was launched. This concession to change was followed by nine more steel fishing boats.


Harvey and Jennie Plummer Gamage married in 1919 and launched a large family with six daughters and a son. They are, with married names: Ella Lane, Gertrude Rice, Dorothy Wright, Eunice Sigler, Harriet Moroney, Nancy Gamage, and Linwood Gamage. There are now many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with quite a few living locally.


Sources: Caldwell, Downeast Magazine, April 1970;


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