Arts and Culture
Food and Wine
People and Places
Science and Nature
Travel and Lodging
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES » MAINE » BlueJacket Shipcrafters: A See-worthy Port of Call
The sidewheel steamship PORTLAND, lost with all souls during the Thanksgiving Day Storm of 1898
BlueJacket Shipcrafters: A See-worthy Port of Call

Searsport, Maine

By Robin Tierney | September 06, 2011

Enter BlueJacket Shipcrafters and you’re in a museum, not just a showroom.

BlueJacket's Model Gallery

Located in Searsport, six miles north of Belfast in midcoast Maine, this port of call displays more than 100 exquisite models of all kinds of ships. “To our knowledge that’s more models than you’ll find anywhere else, museums included,” says Jeff Marger, who owns the enterprise with his wife Suzi.

The restless retirees sought to move from Westchester, New York, to Maine to pursue their nautical passion. “We knew this was it!” recounts Jeff when in 2000 they discovered BlueJacket Shipcrafters for sale. The oldest wooden ship model and model boat kit repair and restoration company in the nation, BlueJacket has been building scale models since 1905. The Margers navigated the company into the 21st century, purchasing the building and surrounding property.

“BlueJacket began as the official modelmaker for the U.S. Navy. The founder was a naval architect, and in those days before computers, models were needed before they could build anything,” says Jeff Marger. “And that’s why our name is BlueJacket; ‘bluejacket’ is the Navy equivalent of an Army GI.”

Workshops surround the showroom-gallery. Every kit and custom model here is truly Maine-made, right on site. The models span wooden one-of-a-kind museum-quality finished pieces to ready-built decorator models. Unique sea-themed craft kits, fittings, tools, supplies, and books abound.

USS CONSTITUTION, the Official Model of the USS CONSTITUTION Museum

Pride emanates from the owners, crafters, and other staff. “The people of Maine still have the work ethic that has been lost in most of the country,” Marger says. “We’re very protective of our 106-year history, quality, and historical accuracy.”

True tales behind the models add to the fascination. The Portland, a sidewheel steamship, ran aground between Boston and Portland and went down during the Thanksgiving Day Storm of 1898. The remains were discovered about six years ago; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used BlueJacket’s plans to verify the craft.

National treasures such as USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides” – are represented. BlueJacket’s kit presents the “Connie” as she appeared in her glory years between 1812 and 1815.   Accuracy is based on three years of research by Larry Arnot, who read deck logs and maintenance records. Certified for authenticity, this kit has been named “The Official Kit of the U.S.S. Constitution Museum,” containing about 2,600 fittings, twenty different sizes of scaled rigging cord, photo-etched brass, and resin deck boats. Leave this one to the experts.

Better for novices: “Diesel Tugboat Classic New York Harbor,” the first in BlueJacket’s new line of “Great American Work Boats.” It has been designed with a carved basswood hull, laser cut wood for items such as the deck house, etched brass, and custom cast Britannia metal fittings.

USS BOISE (CL-47) Brookyn class WWII light cruiser

I see kits from $57 to $590, something for every budget and experience level. Repairs and restorations are also part of the business. Novice modelers have ruined many a model by the use of power tools.

Surveying the gallery’s impressive models, I inquire about the lack of sails. “Museum-quality ships don’t have sails on them,” Marger explains. Museum-quality models must be in absolute scale; for example, the steering wheel must be proportionate to the mast.   If made to scale, the material would have to be so thin to be proportionately correct that the sails would be transparent.

Consultation is among BlueJacket services, given that custom models can run $20,000, even more. Marger recently helped a client avoid a $10,000 mistake: the client dropped plans to buy a costly model off eBay after Marger immediately noted the suspect sails. It’s similar to buying a diamond: “If you’re not an expert, you’ll likely end up with a zircon.”

Regardless of expertise, you’ll find it easy to drift among BlueJacket’s gems.

All photographs are by Jeff Marger, and were kindly supplied courtesy of BlueJacket Shipcrafters.


BlueJacket Shipcrafters

160 E. Main Street, Searsport, Maine 04974

(800) 448-5567


Opening Hours:

Memorial Day to Labor Day

Mon–Sat: 9AM–5PM

Sun: Closed

Remainder of the Year

Mon–Fri: 9AM–4PM

Sat & Sun: Closed

Searsport Information:

(207) 548-6372


Share |
ONE is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.