'She’s the queen of the fleet:' Dartmouth sailor bids farewell to beloved schooner

Oct 4, 2021

After more than 15 years along the docks of Padanaram Harbor, a mainstay of the South Dartmouth waters has sailed from its mooring for the last time.

Dartmouth resident and sailor Bill Greene, 88, last week bid a final farewell to his beloved wooden schooner “The Isabella” — named after his mother-in-law Isabelle. 

“I added the ‘a’ because it sounds better,” Greene said with a laugh.

The boat was modeled after the fishing boats that came out of Cape Ann during the early 1800s — similar to the “Fame” in Salem, a full-scale replica of the famous privateer from the War of 1812.

“It’s a classic,” Greene said. “You’re going to see less and less of this — there’s very few people with the patience to handle a traditional wooden schooner.”

Greene commissioned Essex-based designer and shipwright Harold Burnham — who crafted the replica of the Fame — to build the 38-footer along with a team of around 20 people.

The North Shore craftsman noted that Greene’s schooner is one of four private commissions he has received.

“Bill represents one quarter of people that have hired me to build a boat,” Burnham said with a laugh. “There’s very few people that have that time and inclination to take care of a wooden boat.”

The Isabella officially hit the Dartmouth waters in 2006.

Over the years, the Dartmouth sailor took family and friends to Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, and Provincetown. Green said The Isabella also hosted many surprise birthday parties with his nine children and 16 grandchildren.

“There’s been a lot of occasions where almost all of them were on board,” he said.

Everywhere The Isabella went, Greene said she was “the queen of the fleet.”

“A real sailor is always envious of the guy who has a traditional, wooden boat,” he said. “There are bigger and fancier boats, but they’re just big, plastic hunks.”

After he survived a heart attack earlier this year, the Dartmouth sailor decided it was for the best that he sell the boat now that it isn’t as easy to manually bring down the sails like he used to.

“So many years of great satisfaction, but I can’t really handle it anymore,” he said.

Along with family trips, The Isabella would also take part of historic reenactments at Fort Taber — equipped with small cannons.

“They would fire shots at us and we used to shoot at the fort,” he said.

Greene noted that his boat was also a popular destination for visiting classes from Friends Academy and the nearby New Bedford Yacht Club.

Every summer, he said, his boat was part of the Yacht Club’s annual “pirate night” where he and his crew, decked out in pirate gear, would spray kids with water and toss them some candy.

“It’s a visit to the pirate ship,” Greene said. “I wanted a plank on the side, but when my wife christened the vessel, she said this was a private ship, not a pirate ship.” 

“Some of these passengers would have been well-served with a plank,” he added.

Now, the schooner is back in Cape Ann where she will accompany a fleet of two other wooden boats constructed by Burnham and his crew and will join the upcoming Gloucester Schooner Festival.

The shipwright is especially touched to get the boat from Greene, noting that his late father actually helped out with the caulking of the boat back in 2005.

“He’s no longer with us, but he’s still keeping us dry as we speak,” Burnham said.

While Greene is sad to see his beloved schooner sail away, he said he is ultimately happy with the years he had with her, along with the joy it brought and will continue to bring to so many others.

“I was glad to be part of it,” Greene said.