Shipshape in Searsport

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For years I drove past the inland faux lighthouse on Route 1 in Searsport. I finally stopped in a few years ago; wow! BlueJacket Ship Crafters is a visual treat and an inspiring one at that. The company crafts custom, museum-quality models for collectors, individuals, museums and organizations; restores and repairs existing ship models; and builds kits for all abilities. It’s a museum and hobby store all rolled into one.

Since its founding in 1905, BlueJacket been the official model maker for the U.S. Navy. Its U.S.S. Constitution, created after three years of meticulous historical research into logs and records, is the official model of the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. While all models are distinguished by such accuracy, the skill level required to build them varies.

“We care about who tries to build our models,” says says co-owner Jeff Marger. When he and his wife, Suzi, took over the business, it was geared to experienced model builders, and Jeff found he was refusing to sell to potential customers. “They’d come in and say: ‘I’m good with my hands, sell me your most expert model.’ They were wasting $300-500 and only getting frustrated.” So Jeff created a model for beginners and gave all the company’s kits for a skill-level rating. First-timers can begin with a skiff kit, then progress onto more complicated Naval, sailing, power and radio-controlled vessels.

Ninety-five percent of model components are crafted on site, which also allows BlueJacket to create finished, museum-quality models for yacht owners from original boat plans. What customers receive, Marger says, “is an exact miniature of the original.”