1991 - Billings reunite on Mercantile - ancestors built.
Skipper relives early sailing days in Maine waters [Greenwich Times 1991] Robert E. Billings, who retired as captain of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in 1969 after 30 years of service, relived his early days of sailing this summer in the waters of Penobscot Bay, Maine. Family and friends of Billings, now an energetic man of 86, sailed aboard the schooner Mercantile, built in 1916 by his father and brothers on the shore of Little Deer Isle, Maine. As a young man, Billings worked aboard the vessel first as a crewmember and then as captain. He was responsible for carrying cargoes of fish, salt, brick and wood up and down the Maine coastline. When the schooner trade lost ground to the emerging trucking industry, Billings followed other avenues of work and finally settled in Greenwich. He now  lives in Stonington, Maine. The Mercantile was later sold for use as a mackerel fisher on Narragansett Bay and again as part of a fleet of cruise schooners in Camden, Maine. The ship is now owned by Ray and Ann Williamson, who take the refurbished ship on cruises out of Camden. During this summer's outing on the Mercantile, Billings guided family members to the location where the vessel was built. The ship rested overnight in its original mooring, and early the next day, Billings sailed it into the Eggemoggin Reach. As it approached the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, it was hailed by a group of local well-wishers who had gathered on the bridge to display a large banner that read. "Welcome Captain Bob and the Billings crew. She is still beautiful." The Mercantile's heritage is celebrated in a special way Island Advantages, Stonington, Maine: by Evelyn Billings LITTLE DEER ISLEThe schooner Mercantile relived a slice of its history August 3 through 7 . With members and friends of the Billings family aboard, it set sail for a look at its past. Leaving its port of Camden, the Mercer cruised to Eggemoggin Reach and anchored off the shore of Little Deer Isle where, in 1916, it was built by Pearl, Arthur, and Walter Billings. Walter Billings Jr., the present owner of the building site on Little Deer Isle, pointed out where the Mercantile was constructed and identified the remnants of the house, work shed, well, and windmill that belonged to his grandfather, John Jackson Billings. He told of where the Mercer picked up its cargo of fish, wood, or bricks and where it sailed to make deliveries. Robert E. Billings of Stonington added memories of when he worked aboard the vessel as mate and as captain, and how the ship often sailed with only two people as crew, handling the various duties of captain, navigator, stevedore, repairman, lookout, and cook. The high point of this heritage cruise came as the Mercantile sailed from its place of origin toward the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge. A group of family, friends and neighbors, gathered together by Norma Tewksbury Ooghe of Stonington, Jack Billings of Little Deer Isle, and Gary Hammel of New Hampshire, stood on the bridge to greet the Mercantile as she sailed through. A large banner prepared by Stonington's Lloyd Brimigion hung from the bridge declaring, "Welcome Captain Bob and the Billings crew. She's still beautiful." With ex-Capt. Robert E. Billings, now 86 years old, once more at the helm, the Mercer sailed under the bridge amid cheers, horns, and balloons. Ray Williamson, owner of the Mercantile, captained the Mercer during the cruise. He also shared pictures and information about the extensive restoration and renovation work that he did to transform the Mercantile from a worn work vessel into a comfortable passenger ship. He has created a "working museum."