Stay in touch with the coast.
Sign up for our newsletter »

Big bass, lots of lobsters, buried gin and more

By Polly Saltonstall

Young Maine bass fishing champs

Walking through the Maine Boatbuilders Show back in March, we were intrigued when we came to a booth staffed by two teenagers who were displaying a plush pillow in the shape of a fish and some shiny trophies. These were clearly not boatbuilders. Rather, Alex Williams and Daniel Rodgers, students at Windham Christian Academy, are Maine’s 2014 high school bass fishing champions. They were at the show hoping to raise enough money to represent the state in July at the second annual B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) High School National Championship in Tennessee. 

They qualified by beating 11 other teams last fall in the Maine High School Bass Championship, held on Pemaquid Pond. Fishing is a lot more than luck, Williams explained. He and Rodgers spent several days on the pond before the event, learning where the fish were. “It’s like a puzzle,” Williams said. “Figuring out what the fish wanted to eat before winter and where they were going to find it.”

In the tournament, they were judged on the cumulative weight of their five biggest bass and won with 12.45 pounds. Parker Lafrance and Luke Chadwick of Belfast Area High School took second place with five bass that weighed a total of 11 pounds. 

Williams has been fishing since before he could walk. His first gift from his parents was a life jacket so he could go boating with them when he just weeks old. 

A senior, Williams hopes to attend the University of Maine at Fort Kent, and would like to find a job some day that includes working with youth. Rodgers, a junior, hopes to become a game warden.


Illustrations by Ted Walsh Centennial garden tour

If the gin is buried at the right time and place, the sun will shine. That’s the word from members of the Camden Garden Club, who at press time were planning the club’s annual house and garden tour. Every year tour organizers bury a full bottle of gin in the club president’s garden before the tour so the gin spirit can rise from the bottle and provide good weather. It’s unclear just how far back this tradition goes in the club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. But organizers say the spirits have done well for them so far: the sun has presided over the event almost every year since its inception. This year’s centennial tour is scheduled for July 16 from 9:30 a.m.-
4 p.m. and will feature grand summer cottages and gardens from the club’s early years, including the Spite House, which was featured on the first tour. Tickets are $35 in advance, or $40 on the day of the tour. For more information, go to www.camdengardenclub.com

What we want to know is, who gets to drink the gin, and when?


Record lobster landings

Boatbuilders are getting lots of orders for bigger and faster lobster-fishing boats, and no wonder. For the third year in a row, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Maine lobster fishermen landed more than 120 million pounds of lobster, with a record overall value of $456.9 million.

At $3.69 per pound, the price for the 123 million pounds landed represented an improvement of 79 cents per pound over 2013, the largest one-year increase in per-pound value since DMR and National Marine Fisheries Service began keeping records. That one-year increase was more than the total value of the fishery 21 years earlier.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about the lobster business at a new Maine Maritime Museum show that is scheduled to open in Bath on July 26. One of the unique components of the exhibit will be a display of lobster buoys donated by fishermen from up and down the coast. Using touch-screen kiosks, visitors will be able to view photos and information correlating to each buoy, including the lobsterman’s name, location, boat name, and in some cases, personal stories gleaned from life on the water. 

Buoys and stories will be added to this permanent exhibit over time as an ongoing documentation of the lobster fishery.


Take a picture for me, please

Up the coast from Bath, Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum will present a special show on photography that will feature a huge, walk-in camera obscura. The show, Exploring the Magic of Photography: Painting with Light (May 23 through October 18), will feature selections from the museum’s extensive historic photography collection of more than 140,000 negatives, prints, slides, postcards, and daguerreotypes. Inside the camera obscura, light-sensitive paper will be available for visitors to take their own “photographs” from the projected image. Paper and pencils will be available for sketching the image, a drawing technique used by Leonardo da Vinci.

Other exhibits will include “selfies” taken by museum visitors, an antique darkroom complete with a glass plate negative enlarger, a show of photos by women in Maine between 1890-1920, and The Carters and the Lukes—Selections from the “Red” Boutilier Collection, which reveals the work of two of Maine’s boatbuilding families. The show is part of the Maine Photo Project (www.mainephotoproject.org), a year-long statewide celebration of photography in Maine by 26 cultural organizations.


Boon Island Light has a new owner

Lighthouses may be a new hot spot in the real estate market. Boon Island Light Station has changed hands twice in the last three months since being auctioned off in October by the U.S. Government. It is currently in the hands of a limited liability corporation registered in Delaware, according to the York Weekly. The government sold the island and its lighthouse to Boon Island Light, LLC, for $78,000. Then in December, the newspaper reported, Boon Island Light, LLC, turned around and sold the property for $119,673 to Boon Island, LLC.

Boon Island Light, LLC, is registered in Maine with Arthur P. Girard as its principal. Boon Island, LLC, registered in Wilmington, Delaware, in November 2014, has no identifying principals listed, according to the York Weekly.

Girard is a Portland real estate developer with a keen interest in lighthouses. He attempted in 2010 to purchase the Ram Island Ledge Light off Cape Elizabeth from the government, but lost in a bidding war to a neurosurgeon from Windham, according to the Portland Press Herald. The two ultimately decided who would get the sale by flipping a coin.

Boon Island Light Station, approximately three acres of land about six miles from Cape Neddick in the Gulf of Maine, was put up for sale for the same reasons as Ram Island Ledge Light—the U.S. Coast Guard lacks the money these days to maintain it.

The property, according to details offered in the deed filed with the York County Registry of Deeds, consists of a 133-foot tapered tower, originally constructed in 1855 with finely cut and fitted ashlar granite. Included are the remains of a boat slip at the shore and the ruin of the former keeper’s dwelling near the tower. The fog signal horn, the light beacon, and the 600-foot modernized generator building remain the property of the government.


High tide getting higher

Storm tides in recent years have seemed to be getting higher and higher, at least from our vantage point on Rockland Harbor. Apparently it’s no mirage. A new study contends that sea levels off Portland rose by 5 inches during 2009 and 2010 as part of what researchers called an “unprecedented” two-year spike resulting from changes in ocean circulation that are tied to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald

Scientists at the University of Arizona, with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, used monthly tidal data, some dating to the 1920s, to track sea levels at tide gauges along the Eastern Seaboard from Key West, Florida, to Newfoundland, Canada. Sea levels increased by an average of 3.9 inches in the Northeast—the tide data was gathered at 18 locations from New York to Newfoundland—but rose by 5 inches in the waters of Casco Bay, according to the study.

The sharp sea level rise in 2009-10 was attributed to changes in ocean circulation tied to rising levels of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere. As water gets warmer it expands, and last year NOAA scientists reported that the Gulf of Maine is warming at a rate faster than 99 percent of the world’s ocean water, according to the story in the Portland newspaper.


Marine industry incubator

In Portland, efforts to create a marine industry incubator along the waterfront are moving ahead. Plans call for renovating the Maine State Pier to accommodate a shared workspace for early-stage companies developing products from marine resources and with connections to Maine’s seafood industry, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald.

Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director, told the newspaper that city officials and leaders of the New England Ocean Cluster House project are “putting a framework” around the public-private partnership that would involve structural improvements to the pier and a 30,000-square foot space for the project.

Patrick Arnold, CEO of the logistics company Soli DG and leader of the waterfront effort in Maine, said 18 companies have expressed interest in locating at the site.

The only company Arnold would name was a venture in which he is involved, called Ocean Solutions, which is researching new uses for crushed lobster shells with a company in Iceland.

The model would involve tenants paying a lease and possibly an annual fee to be part of the cluster. Arnold told the newspaper that he hopes construction on the New England Ocean Cluster can start at the Maine State Pier as early as August.


SW Boatworks building tuna vessel

Reality TV seems to be all the rage these days and Maine is not immune. Last year weatherman Al Roker’s production company auditioned fishermen in the state to star in a show about lobstering (we’re not sure if anything ever came of that). Now comes word that one of the stars of a National Geographic channel show called “Wicked Tuna” is having a new boat built here. The show, now in its fourth season, follows a handful of fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the rod and reel fishery for bluefin tuna. We may be biased, but a Maine-built boat is a surefire way to get ahead of the fleet.

Skipper Dave Carraro apparently agrees, and is having a Calvin Beal-designed 44-footer built at SW Boatworks shop in Lamoine. Like his current boat, a Duffy 38, the new vessel will be named Tuna.com

“I’m getting older,” Carraro told a reporter for the Ellsworth American. “I like to stay out on a boat that sits well on the drift or at anchor. Lateral stability is very important, and the Duffy rolled.”

Looking for a boat with an easier motion, Carraro said, “everybody pointed at a Calvin 44, and everybody said if you’re going to get it finished, see Stewart,” referring to Stewart Workman, owner of SW Boatworks. “You’re going to get a good boat and get what you want.”

Carraro said he “wanted a Downeast boat, nothing else,” and he is getting exactly what he wanted, according to an article in the American. Tuna.com is a classic, skeg-built Downeast design with a solid fiberglass hull and a cored top that will help keep the weight low in the boat. 

Tuna.com is the 14th Calvin Beal 44 hull SW Boatworks has built and the third the company will have finished off. Eleven hulls have gone to other builders for finish work and SWB has orders for 11 more of the hulls.


Hawaiian paddling in Maine?

Somes Sound is a long way from the crystal blue waters of the islands of Hawaii. But the John Williams Boat Company in Halls Quarry is bringing some Pacific island flavor to local waters with the construction of a six-man Hawaiian canoe, known as a wa’a. 

The company invited John Martin, a prominent Hawaiian canoe builder and owner of Hawaiian Design to Maine, to lead the project. He has designed and built the prototype for the new Open Class, a 45-foot, six-man paddling canoe. It looked a little rough last March, but will blossom into a striking vessel after a little fairing and some Awlgrip, according to John Williams. The plan is to thoroughly test this prototype and, provided this design performs successfully, build a mold and four more canoes. The longer-range goal is to establish a paddling club on Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island.


Over the bar

This past winter the state’s maritime community bid farewell to too many good friends, Robert “Bob” Lane, 90, of Friendship; Loraine Hamilton, 66, of Searsport; Alessandro “Sandro” Vitelli, 70, of Mt. Desert; and Ben Cashen, 35, of Camden.

Bob started the wooden-boat building shop, Penobscot Boat Works, in Rockport, Maine, in 1951. Over the course of its 25 years, the shop built skiffs, sloops, big-water powerboats, cruising houseboats, and what would become known as the Penbo runabout. 

Loraine was a key player with her husband, Wayne, in the operation of Hamilton Marine, where she called herself “chief cook and bottle washer.” She had a lovely twinkle in her eye and a wonderful sense of humor. 

A graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy, Ben joined Wayfarer Marine in Camden in 2001. He worked as dockmaster during the summer and in sales and marketing during the winter. 

A notable sailor and writer, whose many jobs included a stint at Hinckley Yachts, Sandro wrote for several boating magazines, including this one, and co-wrote a handful of books including The International One Design, A Celebration of 75 Years and Classic Sailing Yachts. Born in Rome, Sandro moved to Boston with his family and began spending summers in Northeast Harbor when he was 12, beginning a life-long career around the water.  

People like Bob, Loraine, Ben, and Sandro are the heart and soul of the Maine waterfront. We feel lucky to have known them and are infinitely sad to see them go.