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1812 Gunboat Schooner Porcupine

 The  Schoolship for Presque Isle Bay

An historic, sustainable, and high profile Bayfront asset.

The Bayfront Maritime Center is designing and building a representation of Erie’s historic Schooner Porcupine. This project began with the generous donation of a 40′ fiberglass hull meticulously crafted by an Ohio couple, Keith and Kathy Palmerton, who dreamed of retiring aboard and cruising the world.  Their plans were thwarted by health challenges.  The Palmertons heard about the important work being done at BMC with inner city and underserved youth who are struggling to succeed in school and donated the hull and 85 HP marine diesel engine and other equipment.

Porcupine’s mission will be sailing as the Schoolship for Presque Isle Bay, a hands-on sailing STEM classroom and historic regional attraction, interpreting her important part in the War of 1812, sailing for the US Coastal Survey Office, being a United States Revenue Cutter, and carrying cargo as the merchant schooner Caroline until 1873.

The completed topsail rigged Porcupine will be operated by the Bayfront Maritime Center as a historic, sailing science vessel for area school students. Porcupine will also offer sailing charters and special events during the sailing season. Because of her size and draft Porcupine will be able to visit Erie’s smaller neighboring ports on both sides of Lake Erie that are not accessible to larger vessels. Because of her modern high density closed cell marine foam and fiberglass hull, she will be a sustainable, efficient, cost effective and high profile local asset with deep ties to Erie.

ERIE TIMES-NEWS August 18, 2017:  

Big Ideas Learning partners with the Bayfront Maritime Center on the shipbuilding and education project.


L-R: Rich Eisenberg-BMC Director, Dennis Williams-BMC Board Secretary, Ken Phillips-Porcupine Volunteer, Matt Totzke- CEO at Larson Texts, Sue Dombrowski- VP Finance and HR Larson Texts, Doug Boucher-BMC Board President

Thanks to Marlinspike Magazine for the article in their special issue, Sail Boston Summer 2017! Boatyards_Summer2017


Porcupine_Ales_Winter 2017

Over 600 supporters gathered at Ales for Sails for a close up view of the Schoolship under construction in the BMC boatshop.

Porcupine_rudder_Winter 2017

The mahogany rudder has bronze rods in it running fore and aft. Stainless steel straps welded to the rudder post are riveted in place with bronze and let-in flush with the mahogany.



 Four USCG MSC inspectors liking what they are seeing! The port diesel tank is visible lower right.

Schooner Porcupine, The Erie Time News Front Page Story on Monday November 28.

Looking forward into the main cabin. The lower bunks and bulkheads are all installed. The templates for the fuel, water, and holding tanks have been made and the tanks are being built. The fir planking for the sole is on site and being milled. The bilges have been painted. All the storage compartment doors are built with Pennsylvania cherry and are installed.

Deck Framing

The forward bitts are in place. They are seen running up through a piece of the marine plywood sub-deck which is already cut. The cockpit is seen, aft.


Ken Phillips making one of the companionways.

Volunteer extraordinaire, Ken Phillips, is making non-skid plates for the aft companionway. The treads are cypress with a cherry edge.

Read the Erie Times News Article, and see additional photographs.

Porcupine Tall Ships Banner

The Gunboat Schooner Porcupine received her official Tall Ships America banner during the Tall Ships Festival in Erie

Porcupine_laying out & installing bulkheads and bunks

Shipwrights Nick Rinn and Bob Arlet laying out and installing the bulkheads and bunks.

Porcupine_Nick Bob Nate Pete

Nick, Bob, Nate and Pete applied fiberglass fabmat to the interior of the hull. Here in the forward cabin, the glass is being saturated with epoxy.

USCG Marine Safety Center_Porcupine

The USCG Marine Safety Center approved the hull structure and came in force to inspect, seen here with shipwrights Bob Arlet and Nick Rinn examining the rudder post arrangement.

The port side of the hull being faired by Nate and Pete.

The port side of the hull being faired by Nate and Pete.


Erie’s Rich Maritime Heritage.

The Bayfront Maritime Center assembled an accomplished team.


Phase II of the Porcupine Project

Richard Eisenberg – Project Director

Robert Arlet – Shipwright

Iver Franzen – Naval Architect

Grant Writer – Maria Firkaly

Volunteer Carpenters – Frank Coskin and Ken Phillips

Phase I of the Porcupine Project

★ David Bierig, Sailmaker – Designer, & ★ Richard Eisenberg, BMC Executive Director ★ Project Directors

 ★ Robert Arlet ★  Shipwright

★ Nick Rinn ★  Shipwright

★Iver Franzen★ Naval Architect

Shipwrights, Bob Arlet and Nick Rinn.

The next step for this project is fundraising.  The hull and associated equipment represents a large

Click here to see giving and naming opportunities!

Click here to see giving and naming opportunities!

investment in materials by the builders. The Bayfront Maritime Center is seeking $200,000 in donations, gifts, sponsorships and grants to add to $200,000 in pledged contributed services for the completion and launch of the gunboat.  Contributions will be fully tax deductible because they will be directed toward the Bayfront Maritime Center (BMC) which is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Organizational gifts may be eligible for the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Contributors will be named in a permanent way on the schooner as well as on the BMC campus, and divided into the following categories.

We hope to secure several major gifts and grants to ease the fundraising task needed to launch Porcupine.   We are also interested in increasing the number of stakeholders, so we have provided giving levels from as little as $25.  Donors will each receive a one-year BMC membership  and their names will be permanently affixed to both the Porcupine and on the BMC waterfront campus. They will receive a regular newsletter apprising them of progress on the Porcupine project, and  will be invited to the launching party.

                      Please call Rich Eisenberg, 814-456-4077 with any  inquiries, or email:


The Schooner Porcupine hull in BMC's boatshop. The 2nd St. Ayles Skiff is seen (bottom left) nearing completion.

The hull with its original deck on its oak cradle shortly after it arrived at BMC.

                          Schooner Porcupine Construction photos:



The ballast keel of 1/2″ CorTen steel plate was welded up by volunteer Jerry Bien. When filled with pieces of 5″ thick steel plate, lead, swarf, and pitch, it weighed 7,800 pounds. Seventeen keel bolts fasten it to the hull. The form is in place to create the  new transom shape.


Keel Inspection

Keel in place and being inspected by USCG Dave Baisden, smiling. Retired boilermaker and volunteer extraordinaire Jerry Bien, center.


New Bow Shape

The “inner” glass plys being applied over the 1″ x 1″ cypress mold of the new 1812 fuller bow shape.

New Bow

The closed cell high density marine foam core was epoxied onto the glass. The screws and washers were removed before the outer skin of fiberglass and epoxy was applied.

2015-10-13 11.34.30

Later, glass was epoxied over the foam core and new white oak stem. L to R: David Bierig, Nick Rinn and Bob Arlet.


2016-02-23 16.36.41

2016-02-19 11.17.15



Deck construction.

Deck construction.


George Stabile fastening deck beams and installing blocking on Porcupine's new deck.

George Stabile fastening deck beams and installing blocking on Porcupine’s new deck.


Construction volunteer Rick Hersey and boatbuilder Nick Rinn.

Construction volunteer Rick Hersey and boatbuilder Nick Rinn.


Deck beams, carlins, clamps and blocking.

Deck beams, carlins, clamps, and blocking.


White oak knees.

Bob Arlet and Nick Rinn laying out the collision bulkhead.

Bob Arlet and Nick Rinn laying out the collision bulkhead.

Nick and George

George and Nick working on the deck. The deck beams and carlins are laminated cypress.

The bow.

The breasthook is installed and the collision bulkhead is in place.

Breast hook

Breast hook


Tall Ship Schooner Porcupine

Tall Ship Schooner Porcupine.

Porcupine deck construction.


Engine room bulkhead.

Nick working to install the engine room bulkhead. The 85 HP Perkins marine diesel engine is covered up.

Deck framing from below. The engine is center covered up.

Deck framing from below. The engine is center covered up.


Gunboat Schooner Porcupine History

The Porcupine was one of the schooner rigged gunboats built in Erie by Daniel Dobbins and Ebeneezer Crosby to fight in the battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.  The gunboat schooner Porcupine was used as a hospital ship immediately following the Battle of Lake Erie.  She fought in several later campaigns supporting  the Detroit and Thames River land forces, making her story  intimately connected to regional history.  Porcupine was transferred to the US Coastal Survey Office and used to chart and document coastlines.   She later served in the Revenue Cutter Service.  She was sold to a merchant in 1825, renamed Caroline, and carried cargo on the Great Lakes for 47 years, making this square topsail schooner the longest lasting vessel of Perry’s fleet.

The unfinished fiberglass hull rolling into the BMC boatshop.

The unfinished fiberglass hull rolling into the BMC boatshop.

Dry land incline experiment.

The incline experiment determined a starting point for the vertical center of gravity.


Hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in the boatshop!


The keel sitting on an angle iron “knife edge” for precise, accurate measurements.


20 Responses

  1. Congratulations on a great choice of Captains! Cpt. Trost is so very maritime talented/knowledgeable and works well with all generations. He will be missed in Baltimore!

  2. bob schneider

    volunteers for the project needed ?

  3. Ian Bell

    What an exciting project. Fair winds on your new adventure. We’ll be watching for her sails from the pier in Port Dover!

  4. […] Interested supporters can check out the Porcupine’s Kickstarter page,, Facebook,, and website, […]

  5. Hi
    The Friends of the Tall Ships Worldwide Association are delighted to be able to feature this magnificent project in our forthcoming 4th quarter free downloadable pdf e magazine for all friends of tall ships.
    Good luck with this I know how hard it is to get this off the ground as I have spent nearly 40 years supporting the STS Lord Nelson project.

  6. Trying to get in touch with Jamie Trost-

    Peter Huston
    Friends of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

  7. great undertakeing “Fair Winds”

  8. Charles

    When can I crew on her? (Merchant marine engineer)

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