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Model Citizens Turn a Hundred

BY CAPTAIN D

BLUEJACKETSHIPCRAFTERS, Inc., far and away the nation’s oldest ship and boat modeling company, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The company, which currently resides in Searsport, Maine, was founded in 1905 by Horace E. Boucher, a French-born naval architect who headed the U.S. Navy’s model shop. Boucher created models that came to be prized by museums all over the country—more than 40 are in the Smithsonian alone. His innovative idea of mass-producing cast fittings and selling kits to the general public started a new industry and helped turn what had been the art of a few highly skilled craftsmen into a hobby enjoyed by thousands.

The company bore his name throughout the 1970s, changing to BlueJacket Shipcrafters after his death, honoring his family’s wish to retain the name.

The current owners, Suzi and Jeff Marger, have continued the company’s tradition of fine craftsmanship, precision production, and warm personal service.

“We manufacture the finest and most historically accurate wooden model ships in the world, “ says Jeff Marger. “Every kit and custom model is built in Maine by our craftsmen We are proud to be a company that has as fine a reputation, is considered a prime resource by the professionals and museums, and has as many friends as does BlueJacket.”

Over the years, the company migrated up the coast. For several years, it was in New York City before stopping off in Connecticut for several more years. It spent time in Castine and Stockton Springs before coming to Searsport where its been for the past 13 years.

The Margers purchased the company five years ago. Jeff says it is meant to be their retirement although they’ve never ever worked so hard at anything else. “We may be working harder, but we’re having loads of fun,” he points out. Some of Bluejacket’s kits have hundreds of pieces that even skilled builders take weeks to assemble. Other kits, however, are intended for beginners and are quite easy.

“A project near and dear to our hearts are our Skillbuilder Ensign Kits which are designed for people building their first models,” he says. "Included are kits for the Yankee Hero and the Red Baron. Recently we added the international Optimist Dinghy.

“If you are looking for a great gift for a first time modeler, this is it! It will start the 'new' modeler off on the right foot—he will be successful, building a great looking model while learning basic modeling concepts. The kits are totally complete with tools, paint, brushes, sandpaper, wood filler, glue, and explicit, step-by-step illustrated instructions.”

Jeff says he started out as a researcher and professor in a medical school. When he got bored with that, he became a litigating attorney. Spent some time as CEO of “a pretty large corporation.” Suzi has been a computer consultant, working with medical software.

He says he had had a life-long association with boats and the water. “My first memory at about the age of three was being in some sort of plywood pram,” he notes. He has raced large sailboats and also for a brief period taught marine biology at the University of Miami. During this time, he went on the school's collecting expeditions.

Jeff says he and Suzi had been sailing up into Maine for 15 years prior to their retirement and had developed a strong attachment for this place. "We liked the idea of retiring to Maine rather than Florida," he says, "but we had to find a way to overcome certain practical problems. We knew two things: (A) We didn’t want to flip hamburgers and (B) we didn’t want to sell lobsters to tourists.."

Jeff says Bluejacket has changed substantially since they took over. “We have brought out several new major kit models,” he says. “Although we have always done restoration, it’s always been word-of-mouth. But now we’ve started to promote it. “Now we’re getting restoration jobs from all over the world.”

Their model of the U.S.S. Constitution is the only official model of this vessel. "We depict her as she was during the War of 1812. The gentleman who did the research was a member of the Constitution Museum's Board of Directors. For three years he sat in the Constitution Library reading deck logs and maintenance records. To recreate the way she looked."

At age 100, BlueJacket, the only full-service modeling company in the country, is heading into its second century with all the enthusiasm that made it world-famous.