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A couple restores the Hindu schooner

By Nora Saks
Photos by Dave Waddell
From our June 2024 issue

The first time Josh Rowan laid eyes on Hindu it was in 2007 when he agreed to captain it for a friend who ran a charter company in the Florida Keys and Massachusetts. The 1925 schooner had been partially restored at the time, and Rowan was immediately smitten. “I thought, what a gorgeous boat,” he recalls. “A boat is two things, form and function and with Hindu they are very well balanced. At that point, I had probably sailed 300 different boats and seen thousands, and she was my favorite.”

After Rowan’s friend got into a legal dispute with a business partner, however, the elegant old vessel was repossessed by the bank and, still in need of significant repairs, was left neglected. Rowan then saw Hindu a few years later in Key West. It was chained to a marina dock, infested with wood-eating shipworms, sinking slightly with each passing day. “There were mushrooms growing in the back,” he says, “and you could put a pencil through the boards.”

Views of work in progress earlier this year.

Rowan grew up sailing and at the age of 15 started his own charter company specializing in sunset sails in Key West. However, his passion for commercial sailing began to wane in his late 20s and he considered leaving the business – until he fell in love with Hindu. In 2011, he and his father, Bill, joined forces to purchase the boat, and once it was again seaworthy, it became the centerpiece of a Provincetown and Key West fleet they christened Hindu Charters.

The hull has received mosaic fixes over the years, and the boat would at some point require a thorough restoration, but a freak accident eventually moved the timeline. In 2020, Rowan and his now wife, Erin Desmond, manager of Hindu Charters, were sailing through Long Island Sound when they hit a sunken yacht. Hindu took a leak and limped back to Provincetown. From there, they motored to the central coast town of Thomaston, pumping water as they went, then had the schooner trucked a short distance to a lot on the side of Route 1, where it spent the last four years.

For Hindu, the trip to Maine was a homecoming. Along with the official state vessel, Bowdoin (based at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine) and the charter vessel Rockland Ladona, is one of the few remaining schooners by renowned designer William Hand Jr. and was built at what is now Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay. At 63 feet long, with two masts, Hindu it was originally a large pleasure craft called Princess Pat. It changed hands and name twice more before an entrepreneur bought it in 1938, took it to India on spice trading expeditions and gave it its current name. Then, during World War II, Hindu it was painted battleship gray, equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun, and commissioned by the government to track German U-boats. After the war she found a new purpose as a sight-seeing boat, stalking whales in Cape Cod Bay, and has carried on the tourist trade ever since.

Rowan and Desmond brought in the wounded Hindu back to its home state because Maine is one of the few places with a critical mass of skilled craftsmen who understand old wooden boats. To lead the repairs, they hired shipbuilders Simon Larson and Mike Rodgers, whose past projects include refits. Ladona. In Thomaston, Hindu it was locked in a wooden barn, wrapped in plastic, which makes it feel a bit like a giant ship in a bottle. Almost the entire hull, wooden keel, and deck had to be rebuilt, every frame, plank, and stanchion removed, while the spars retained all of the schooner’s original contours. “If you do that, then it’s a rebuild, not a replica, because you’ve never lost the soul of the boat,” says Desmond. “It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to start from scratch, but there’s something to be said for getting things right and getting things right, even if it means years of life.”

plans of the Hindu schoonerplans of the Hindu schooner
The detailed plans helped ensure that, as Desmond put it, “the soul of the boat” was preserved.

When construction is complete, the crew will set sails in time to begin the June 15 celebration. Hinduhis centenary year. The boat will slide back into the water in Thomaston, Rowan and Desmond will crack a bottle of champagne over the bow, and a few weeks later they will sail back to Provincetown, where Hindu will resume her career as one of the longest running charter boats on the east coast. “Whatever awaits us,” says Rowan, “we won’t let her die on our watch.”

The public is invited to a celebration on June 15 a Hinduis relaunching, in Thomaston, at Lyman-Morse (84 Knox St.) and neighboring Slipway Restaurant (24 Public Landing). Visit salasyouare.org for more information.

May 2024, Down East MagazineMay 2024, Down East Magazine

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