No matter where you’re from… a born Mainer and have the pleasure of being there all the time, or from away, like me and like to visit Maine every summer… or just once in your lifetime, if you ever find yourself near Bath, Maine I highly recommend fitting into your trip this delightful stop.
After driving on the bridge of Hwy 1 past Bath, ME so many times and seeing the intriguing view of the huge ships being built by Bath Iron Works below in the water, with the massive cranes decorating the skyline, my husband and I finally made it a priority to stop at the Maine Maritime Museum which is a hop, skip and jump just past the Iron Works.
There is so much to experience at the museum…
Wonderful old photos like this one giving a glimpse into the deep history lobstering, fishing and boat building in Maine has been for generations.
As they say in Maine, I’m ‘from away’… but still have a great appreciation for the industrious spirit of Mainers.
What dairy farms are to Wisconsin, where I’m from, is what lobstering is to Maine. It’s a hard vocation that takes scads of dedicated labor but there seems to be instilled in one’s spirit a love for that life’s work that comes with pride and passion passed down from one generation to the next.
At the museum, which is on a gorgeous water front grounds, there are several displays, including a special building celebrating lobstering’s rich history in Maine.
It was interesting to see all the different styles of lobster traps used through the years:
And this is something fun for most people that travel through Maine…
It’s super common to have some decorating the yards and cottages on the coast, but did you know this about the buoys in Maine…
Each and every family has their own buoy coloring and marking, making them unique to their family lobstering business. So not only do they mark where the lobster cages are resting on the bottom of the ocean, they also mark whose cage (and hence, lobsters) it is! Cool, huh? (If you were a lobstering family, what pattern and color would you make your buoys be?)
This map shows you where each family set their traps!
Then inside the main building, it feels ship-like inside the main hall, with separate rooms splaying off to each side. Each with their own unique displays.
There are wonderful antique displays pertaining to ship building.
These were the models precisely to scale that the ship builders would refer to as they were making the much larger version:
There are many wonderful antique paintings of famous ships, some, I’m sure were built right here in Bath.
I don’t know much about ship identification, but last summer I watched the Tall Ships come in, it was beautiful and fascinating!
I don’t recall seeing any with 5 masts though, wow!
There are also actual full model ships like this gorgeous one:
It’s true that all ships are referred to in the female vernacular…
But, did you know they aren’t always named with female names?
Nor are the figureheads (you know those wooden decorations projecting off the front bow of the boat) always women!
Take a look at this original figurehead from the 1880’s:
This fellow is from a ship that was rebuilt in the 1880’s, replacing the original ship that was shipwrecked. Both ships had the same name… ‘Samuel Skolfield II’ and named after a family member of the shipbuilder. But the ship itself was still referred to as ‘her’.
This figurehead was originally painted all white when it was adorning the ship, I think I like it better with this paint finish though.
Here’s an interesting story about the museum obtaining it…
When the museum found out about the figurehead, shocked it was still in existence and in really good condition, they made arrangements to get it to their museum in Bath… via hearse! I’m not sure why they wound up choosing that mode of transportation, but it worked and unlike most things transported in a hearse, this one has found a 2nd life. 😉
Of course, no ship display would be complete with one in a bottle…
I loved the shape of the bottle and the color of the frothing sea in this wonderful vintage work of art.
Once we were done inside the buildings, it was time for the tour!
This was my favorite part!!
Remember I said the museum was on the water front? The tour is aboard a boat. It takes you down to get a much closer view of the Bath Iron Works:
You can see the bridge for Hwy 1 in the background… that’s usually that angle our view is from where we get a glimpse of these cranes and the ships being built.
But this day, we were really getting a terrific view of the production, including this:
it was ‘top secret’ ship being built for the military. Although it must not be too top secret as they showed it to us and didn’t tell us not to take pictures of it. I knew it was A-OK to show this picture I took of it after we saw photos of it for sale in the museum’s gift shop. 🙂
Here is a map of this part of the Maine coast:
The Iron Works are right by Hwy 1, the Maine Maritime Museum is a little further down, then on the opposite side of the water further down a little more is the Doubling Point Lighthouse.
When I first saw it, it was so tiny, that I actually thought it was someone’s ‘dock decoration’.
But in reality, it was built in the 1880’s and is maintained by the Coast Guard.
Even though it’s not tall, it marks the point of land that juts out into the water. If you’ve ever been by the ocean when a heavy fog can suddenly roll in and suddenly hide everything from view, you can understand the importance of lighthouses helping to navigate through treacherous waters.
There is so much more to see at the Maine Maritime Museum I haven’t told you about… from the seals we saw frolicking in the water on our boat tour, to the huge lobster car, to the Captain’s helm complete with a ship wheel you can sit at and pretend you’re the captain.
If you haven’t the opportunity to visit the museum, I hope this was a fun little mini tour for you… but if you do have the chance to stop by, here is the website and contact info.
I appreciate you stopping by.