By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,367)
“This is my signature yacht,” Jake Stevens, told mhn.com Saturday afternoon as we sat in the stern of the super yacht, Columbia, docked at Portland Yacht Services, 58 Fore Street for the duration of the Tall Ships Festival. Stevens was the project manager for the construction of the 141 ft. Columbia, a privately owned yacht, built in Panama City, Florida.
Stevens, 69, is the grandson of Jacob A. Stevens, who along with Wallace Goudy, founded the iconic boatbuilding business in 1919 in East Boothbay, Maine. That’s where this business developed a legendary reputation for building small wooden boats, yachts and pleasure boats for which it is highly regarded in the State of Maine and elsewhere. Under Goudy & Stevens ownership, America 11 was constructed there for the movie; the Sea Star was constructed for Lawrence Rockefeller and the Cassiar for the Mellon Family. That is a partial list of the long list of memorable yachts for which this yard is so highly respected. During WW 11, this yard collaborated with Hodgson Brothers to build 120 ft. mine sweepers for the war effort and beyond. In the 60’s, the yard began building commercial fishing boats because of the downtown in the economy, Stevens said.
Seven (7) years ago Brian D’Tserna, president of Eastern Shipbuilding Group, in Panama City, hired Stevens for his yard to be production manager. Two years later, Stevens was asked to be the project manager for the construction of Columbia – a replica of a classic Gloucester, MA. fishing vessel that D’Tserna had always dreamed of owning. (See previous post for more on this subject.)
Stevens said he was well prepared to be project manager because of his varied, past experience building boats in East Boothbay. “I worked for so many very good people in East Boothbay. I listened and watched them as a young man,” Stevens said. Prior to Stevens arrival at Eastern Shipbuilding, a builder of commercial ships, work on the project had already begun. Plans for the original Columbia were located in the builder’s house in Essex, MA. The plans by A. J. Storer. D’Tserna took the plans to Jack Gilbert, a naval architect in Boston and asked him to convert the wooden plans to steel. It took Gilbert about ten (10) years to do that because it wasn’t considered a priority for either party according to Stevens.
However, in 2010 the construction of the Columbia became a priority for D’Tserna, 72, and the construction began in earnest. “The hardest part of the job was to teach workers down there how to build a ship,” said Stevens. “I had to find outside woodworkers and teach them boat building. They did not know what ‘fair lines’ are,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get this boat into New England waters. They don’t build boats with traditional lines in Florida. Lines don’t matter down there and here they are valid,” Stevens said.
So successful was this venture that D’Tserna decided to build another replica of the Gloucester fishing vessel Columbia. The rigging has already been built in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, (near Halifax) the same place where all the rigging for this Columbia was built. Stevens said he will spend some of the summer in this area visiting family, but looks forward to returning to Panama City in the fall to begin work on the hull of the new yacht. In the meantime, there may be a historic third rendezvous .in Nova Scotia with the Canadian fishing vessel Blue Nose That decision will be made by Columbia’s owner in the next few days.
“This is a classic yacht. It is not a presumptuous show of wealth. It’s a traditional fishing vessel with ‘yachty’ amenities. I’ve been so fortunate to build another man’s dream. There wasn’t a day my father wasn’t working on the deck of Columbia at Eastern Shipbuilding, with me,” said the modest Jake Stevens, always of East Boothbay, Maine.