Please select your home edition
North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Brooklin Boat Yard has recently finished restoring a handful of Jimmy Steele peapods

by Brooklin Boat Yard 18 May 2023 14:06 UTC
Joel White's peapod design (1998) © Brooklin Boat Yard

The peapod is as synonymous with Maine as the lobster, the blueberry or the moose. As far back as can be tracked, the peapod was the vessel of choice for those needing to travel the rocky, oceanic waters of Maine.

Its most prominent feature is its double-ended design. Additionally, they are often heavy to provide stability in choppy water, and most double as both working and sail boats.

Widely considered the quintessential Maine boat, the first peapod was likely built by the Passamaquoddy Indians with birch bark. Then, the first peapod made with plank-on-frame construction was made in North Haven, Maine, in the 1870s. The peapod has evolved in different ways in different places, but there is one fact that remains consistent through its history- it's a boat built and designed for utilitarian use. Our own Joel White designed his version of the Maine peapod, and it's regarded as one of the prettiest peapod designs available, though his particular design is geared more toward recreational use rather than work. (See Joel's design here).

Today, our harbor is dotted with peapods of different types and builders. Their presence, as steadfast as the rocks that cover our coastline, is an essential ingredient to the history of our boat yard.

Perhaps the most famous peapod builder around here was Jimmy Steele, who was one of the first people to build peapods for production with a mold. Coincidentally, he inherited the model for the mold from Havilah Hawkins, Sr. who is the father of our own Havilah "Haddie" Hawkins. Both Sr. and Jr. are well-known and respected wooden boatbuilders whose work dots the New England coast.

Havilah says of his dad's time building peapods, "He probably built around thirty or so. He built an upside down cement mold for production, and he designed some auto-sawing devices to ensure the planks were all the same size." Hawkins Sr. turned over his model for the mold design to Steele after Hawkins' mill, along with the cement mold, burned in a mill fire. Steel took the design and ran with it. It is his peapod you can see all over this coastal area.

Recently, Nelson Billings, who works here at the boat yard, was given the responsibility to restore a handful of peapods for the coming summer. Almost all of these were built by Jimmy Steele.

According to Nelson, "He had three levels- the Rolls Royce, the Cadillac, and the Chevrolet, and they were all different prices."

Nelson, Haddie and Nick Bellico explain the differences between the three types of Steele peapods. According to the group, the Rolls Royce was all varnish and 100% mahogany, the Cadillac is partly varnished wood/partly painted made with cedar planks, and the Chevrolet is all paint. While Nelson got the chance to restore several Cadillacs and Chevrolets, all three men admit they've never laid eyes on a Rolls Royce version of the Steele peapod in person. If you've seen one, let us know! We'd love to hear about it.

Related Articles

Ultimate Layering with Aktiv Stretch
Elevate your layering game with the the ultimate mid-layer companion Elevate your layering game with the Aktiv Stretch Jacket 2.0 : the ultimate mid-layer companion. Posted today at 4:00 pm
2024 Falmouth Classics Preview
Classic sailing event is set to welcome a variety of craft from well beyond Cornwall The 2024 Falmouth Classics fleet continues to grow in numbers as the event draws close. The three races and two parades will include vessels from ports and harbours from the Fal to the River Blackwater in Essex, together with some entries from France. Posted today at 12:37 pm
Discover rigging's essentials with Colligo Marine
Have you ever heard of Colligo Dux? It's the safest standing rigging you can buy! Have you ever heard of Colligo Dux? It's the safest standing rigging you can buy! If that doesn't ring a bell, well, consider yourself enlightened. Posted on 26 May
Everything to know about a circumnavigation
The live webinar will feature a panel of veteran circumnavigators Oyster Yachts invites sailors and adventurers alike to ask their hottest circumnavigation questions to a panel of circumnavigators and bluewater sailing experts at a live Q&A session discussing the Oyster World Rally. Posted on 26 May
Lagoon World Escapade
A success in every corner of the world It all started with a crazy idea from the Lagoon teams: how could the whole Lagoon family celebrate the turquoise brand's 40th anniversary together? Posted on 25 May
Reef shark conservation
Depending on a combination of protected areas & national fisheries management Marine protected areas (MPAs), areas that provide legal protection to important marine and coastal ecosystems, often have more reef sharks compared to non-protected areas Posted on 25 May
Young cancer survivors to join sailing adventures
With Dame Ellen MacArthur's charity this summer Hundreds of young cancer survivors from across the UK are looking forward to inspirational sailing adventures this summer, as the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust gets set for its biggest year yet. Posted on 25 May
Henri-Lloyd Explorer Shorts 2.0
Engineered from recycled materials, these shorts offer a 4-way stretch for maximum flexibility Engineered from recycled materials, these shorts offer a 4-way stretch for maximum flexibility, ensuring you stay agile during any outdoor activity. Posted on 24 May
SSCA Presents the Penobscot Bay Mini Gam
Taking place July 27th & 28th in Rockland, Maine Mark your calendars! You are invited to the Penobscot Bay Mini GAM in Rockland, Maine, hosted by the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). If you are heading Northeast after departing the lower USA, join us for a fun time in Rockland, Maine. Posted on 24 May
NOAA offers Inflation Reduction Act funding
To the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation NOAA Fisheries is providing $6 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Posted on 24 May
Crewsaver 2021 Safetyline FOOTERCyclops Marine 2023 November - FOOTERGJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - Footer