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Samoset Boatworks: Lettie Elise, a vintage Young Brothers 45

By Brian Robbins

Photos by Brian Robbins

It’s no surprise that Eben Wilson makes his living from the ocean: His roots are well-irrigated by salt water.

Eben’s father is noted sailmaker and accomplished sailor Nat Wilson, Sr. of East Boothbay, and young Eben was on the water from an early age (as were older brother Nat Jr. and younger brother Nick). He was rowing on his own by age five (inspiring small-boat designer Platt Monford’s “Ebenezer 11” skiff design) and acquired a lobster license when he was eight so he could tend traps from his great-grandfather’s 1932-vintage dory.

From there, his workboats grew with his gang of lobster gear; throughout his school years, if he wasn’t out on the water to earn money, he was sailing with the family. Plus, there was always winter work in his father’s sail loft.

After a few years spent sailing and working in a sail loft in the Caribbean, Wilson returned home to East Boothbay in 2011 and has been immersed in lobstering full time since (although he and his wife, Dana, make time in the summer to take daughters Lettie and Elise out sailing in their 36' Zephyr, built by Paul E. Luke in 1961). His lobsterboats have changed with the amount of gear he was fishing and the distance he had to cover: a BHM 31 took Wilson as far as it could; that was replaced by a used 40' wooden John’s Bay; and, in 2017, he bought a 45' Young Brothers that was launched originally in 2004 by Little River Boat Shop in Cutler.

Norbert Lemieux, who owns the Little River shop with son Nick, built the 45-footer for his own use. The Lemieuxs, like many of their fellow members of the Cutler lobster fleet, fish off in the tide-wracked waters of Grand Manan Channel. Thus, the 45-footer was built rugged, and had been well-maintained. But Wilson knew he wanted to change a few things eventually to make his longer runs offshore in the winter months more bearable: primarily, switching the main cabin from an open single-station setup to a split dual-helm configuration with a closed-in, heated wheelhouse.

The hull, a 45'x15' design by the late Ernest Libby, Jr. of Beals Island, proved itself to Wilson early on.

“A lot of people go with the wider hulls now, I know,” he said, “but I like a hull that pushes easily. Ernest Libby nailed it with the 3:1 length:width ratio, as far as I’m concerned. And even though the Young Brothers is narrower than some of the newer models out there, it’s a comfortable hull: She’s deep and fairly sharp forward; the bottom doesn’t flatten out until you get farther back, and I think that’s what allows her to really cut through a chop nicely.”

Once he figured out the basics of what he wanted to do to the 45-footer (renamed Lettie Elise for his daughters), Wilson began gathering “parts and pieces,” including a new inline-6 MAN from Billings Diesel in Stonington, rated 800 hp at 2,300 rpm. “I talked with Billings about what I was looking to do and the MAN—with a 2.47:1 ZF 500-1A gear—sounded like the way to go,” Wilson said. “A slow-turning, good-sized prop made sense to me.”

He had dealt with Matt Sledge and his crew at Samoset Boatworks in Boothbay in the past and knew he wanted to work with them on the project. (And “work with” is apropos: Wilson is a hands-on boat owner.)  

Ernest Libby Jr. designed the 45’x15’ Young Brothers hull using his classic 3:1 length:width ratio.

When the opportunity came to haul Lettie Elise out and back her into a bay at Samoset Boatworks, “It took about three days to tear everything apart,” Wilson said. “It took four months and a week to put it all back together.”

When Wilson tells me that, he’s smiling—not complaining, just acknowledging how much work went into repowering and rebuilding Lettie Elise.  

The process began with cutting out the main deck between the fuel tanks and the main bulkhead to gain clear access to the engine compartment and all the systems that were to be replaced: “Wiring, hydraulics, shaft, engine and gear, engine beds, batteries, you name it, it came out,” Wilson said.

The rebuild and refit processes included components from R.E. Thomas Marine Hardware (a new 2-1/2" shaft and driveline bearings), Lonnie’s Hydraulics (Wilson replumbed the system himself), Bluewater Fabrication (everything except for the original trap rack), Coastal Marine Wiring, and Rockbound Computer.

The refit included remodeling the wheelhouse and moving the inside helm to port. Wilson took the opportunity during the conversion of the wheelhouse to a dual-station split setup to move the fo’c’sle door from the port side of the main bulkhead to the center. “Having the inside helm over on the port side opens things up,” he said. “Nobody has to squeeze by you to go down forward, and the visibility is excellent.”

Wilson has nothing but praise for the work done by Sledge and his crew. He describes the effort put in on details such as getting the trim color on the house just right: “They take every step of the job seriously.” 

When Lettie Elise left Samoset Boatworks, she looked like new; when she hit the water, the new 800-hp MAN rolled its sleeves up and took over, proving itself to be the right choice for the job.

After Nautilus Marine tweaked Lettie Elise’s 4-blade propeller to final dimensions of 36"x37", the 45-footer pulled an easy cruise speed of 17 knots at 1,650 rpm with an 18-gal/hour fuel burn. (1,700 rpm gives an 18-knot cruise while 1,800 pushes her just over 20 knots.) Top end is 26 knots—and even at that, Lettie Elise makes very little fuss going through the water.

“Sitting at the inside helm, it’s actually quieter with the pilothouse door closed,” Wilson said. “The water coming off the hull makes more noise than the MAN.” 

The bottom line? “I couldn’t be any happier with the way she turned out,” he said. 

Big praise from a man who knows a pretty, easy-going boat when he sees one—sail or power. 

A former offshore lobsterman, Brian Robbins is senior contributing editor for Commercial Fisheries News.

45' Young Brothers Specifications

LOA:  45'
Beam:  15'
Transom:  14'
Draft:  5'

Ernest Libby, Jr.

Original Hull Builder:
Young Brothers & Co.
Corea, ME

Original Finisher:
Little River Boat Shop
Cutler, ME

Samoset Boatworks
106 Industrial Park Road, Boothbay, ME

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