Do You Know Where My Parents’ Keel Is? Apparently Not!


By Carol McCracken

Do you know where my parents’ keel is? – may be just one of many questions occupying the thoughts of Phin Sprague, Jr. Apparently, no one does know its whereabouts. Because Sprague recently hired a diving company to search the shoreline in front of Portland Yacht Services for the missing keel that was once affixed to the bottom of the family sailboat that is normally moored there.

The keel on the sailboat belonging to the wealthy Phineas Sprague, of Cape Elizabeth, went missing sometime this summer. Despite PYS repeated searches for the keel of the Spragues’ 25 ft. sailboat, Bon Adventure, it hasn’t been found, according to a PYS employee knowledgeable of the situation. The keel is a “retractable” keel which means it can be lowered and pulled up by a  winch located inside the boat – should shallow water or other conditions warrant.  Incorrect useage of this winch could result in a separation of the keel from the bottom of the boat.  It also is called a centerboard.

So, a diving company for which Ron Birch works, was hired to take on a more comprehensive and bottom search of  the harbor to find the keel. As of today, Birch had spent three days working four hours a day walking the bottom of the waterfront looking for the keel. Birch, from western Maine, says he has “walked” the bottom of the Harbor as far out as 600 Ft. from the shoreline and as deep as 30 ft. down.  He says he’ll continue to look until he’s told not to do so any more.

According to Phin Sprague, Jr. who said in an email to the MHN that the keel weighs 1100 lbs. and that when the cable broke, (for whatever reason),  the keel   headed straight for the very soft mud below it and probably ultimately  for “China.”  This keel (called a centerboard) is very hard to replace. The boat is a Parker Dawson designed by a family friend in Harasseket.

The Sprague family owns at least several other sailboats including the 72-foot luxury schooner Lions Welp. It was launched in mid-July of 2003 at PYS where everything but the hull was built over a few years.  It’s equipped for world-wide cruising with no expense spared.  For this reason, particular attention was paid to comfort and safety.  It sleeps twelve, has a sauna, a complete sound and video system.  The navigational equipment is likewise the best there is.   Probably there’s no centerboard.

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