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Lee of the Boathouse - Issue 93

Issue 93

By Peter H. Spectre
Shortly after I became convinced that, finally, everything that could go to hell in a hand basket, had—brought on by reading about a soon-to-be-launched 228-foot burlesque that “will be the world’s first and only mega-yacht-based art and antiques gallery,” and about a patented dog dish called the Fido-Feeder, “an exciting new product that’s perfect for families who have yachts or boats”—I decided to clear my head and take a walk through the local boatyard (Spruce Head Marine). Down in the lower yard there was a working lobsterboat that had been for sale. A man and a boy were on deck, readying the boat for transport. A woman was down on the ground, supervising. “Buy the boat?” I asked. “My son did,” she said. “That’s him up there with his father. He’s ten years old.” Her son, the buyer? Ten years old? The boat was 30 feet long, give or take a couple of feet. It turned out that the boy, since he was six years old, had been setting and hauling lobster traps from a small open skiff, by hand, without a winch; that he had been saving his money for the last three years; that yesterday he and his mother and his father had gone to the bank to arrange financing; that today he was the boat’s owner; and that as soon as he had rigged the boat the way he wanted it, he’d be working 300 traps. The next time someone tells you that they don’t make ’em like they used to, that half the country doesn’t want to work and the other half dogs it on the job, think about the ten-year-old lobsterman on his own boat, hauling his own traps. We’ve all seen them, those dead and dying boats lying around the boatyards and sitting lonely in the fields. We know they’ll never see the water again, so what use are they? (Our Esteemed Publisher once thought he had the answer. He suggested gathering a bunch together on an empty lot, erecting a sign saying “Last Harbor,” and renting them out to summer help as affordable housing.) Now comes Boat Busters of New England: “If you have any type of boat that you need to get rid of within 100 miles of 03275,” they write, “we can make the old Penn Yan do the Houdini. State and local removal requests are always welcome. We charge on a sliding scale that is craft/location specific. A boat of good quality that is still intact would cost much less to haul than one that was stripped and left to rot 20 years ago.” Boat Busters deconstructs the boats and makes furniture from the lumber and hardware. They also sell used parts to rebuilders/restorers. A few recent pieces of furniture: Egg Harbor bar, twisted keel coffee table, mailbox/curio-box, engine room hatch table, cockpit hatch end tables, and swim platform bench. See the furniture at www.boatbustersofnewengland.com; call them at 603-219-9263. Meanwhile, we’ve received this announcement from another organization helping to deal with the dead and the dying: “Graveyard of the Atlantic, on sheltered Bear River in Southwest Nova Scotia, offers a safe and affordable haven for interesting old wooden and heritage yachts, tugs, and vessels up to 300 tons. Experienced shipwrights and seafarers are available to offer guidance to individuals undertaking their own refit, rebuilding, or conversion. Graveyard of the Atlantic is operated by members of a society dedicated to the preservation of wooden and heritage vessels.” For more information: 888-453-5565; churchillmansion@eastlink.ca. Maine’s lobster industry has its knickers in a twist over a crustacean called a langostino, which some restaurants—mostly the fast-food type—are marketing as lobster. The Maine Lobster Promotion Council says a langostino is a type of crab, and anyone buying, say, a lobster roll made from it is actually getting “smushed-up crab meat.” Meanwhile, a lobster fisherman out of Sullivan Harbor landed a three-clawed lobster. The critter had two arms; the crusher claw on one of them had morphed into two. And a couple of oddly colored lobsters were caught by fishermen in Penobscot Bay—one lobster was pale blue, and half of the body of the other was bright orange, the rest dark red with orange speckles. In the interest of protecting whales from entanglement in lobstering gear, the federal government is in the process of drawing up regulations requiring lobster fishermen to use sinking rather than floating groundlines. As sinking line is more expensive than floating, the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation has received $2 million in federal funding to assist fishermen, through the Bottom Line Project, in making the switch. The Portland Fish Exchange, where fishermen and wholesalers meet daily to make deals, has fallen on hard times. Fish landings have been way down, and the exchange, which earns its keep on volume, is losing money. Landings in 2006 were roughly half what they were in 2004 and a fraction of the peak-year total in 1992. Over the bar: Ruth Ives, 59, founder, with her husband Bobby, of the Carpenter’s Boatshop in Pemaquid. Norman Tate, 91, the most famous—and joyous—sailor in Port Clyde. Ernestine Bayer, 97, founder of the first competitive rowing club in the U.S., founder of the Alden Ocean Shell Association, member of the National Rowing Hall of Fame. A few facts from the Fact Book 2006, published by Mainebiz magazine: Maine’s five fastest growing municipalities, by population: Dayton, Waterboro, Otisfield, Scarborough, Surry. Five most affluent municipalities, by median household income: Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth. Five municipalities with highest home sales prices, by median sales price: Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, York, Mount Desert, Falmouth. Five counties with highest personal income, per capita: Cumberland, Knox, York, Lincoln, Sagadahoc. Five counties with lowest personal income, per capita: Oxford, Franklin, Piscataquis, Washington, Somerset. Information about getting the whole enchilada, the Mainebiz Fact Book 2006: www.mainebiz.biz. In our Chronicles of Crime Department, Downeast Division, we have this from the police beat column in the Bar Harbor Times: “A woman on Woodbury Road was pounding on walls, yelling and swearing.” And this: “A Clark Point resident complained that vandals had hit her house with paint balls, rung her doorbell late at night, and thrown an avocado at her window.” And this: “There was a lobster trap in the middle of Route 3.” From the Ellsworth American, this: “A car went through a wall and two windows at the Deer Isle post office after its driver’s foot slipped off the brake.” And this: “A Trenton woman called police after she thought she saw a bear blocking her driveway. When the officer arrived, the woman advised the animal had been a moose, which had moved along.” And from the Camden Herald, regarding Lincolnville: “Police reported nothing this week.” Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Dept.: The school out on Penobscot Bay’s North Haven island decided to drop boys’ basketball after three players graduated and two transferred off the island. That left only two boys who wanted to shoot hoops. And the residents of Waldoboro have voted to eliminate town meetings, opting instead to govern themselves by secret ballot. Actually, the town meeting—a physical meeting where all the voters gather in one room—is probably eventually on its way out nearly everywhere. Hailed as pure democracy, the meeting depends on participation, but these days, for various reasons, few voters show up. The result is that packing the town meeting with voters who will advance your scheme—good, bad, or ugly—is as easy as licking a stamp. The national real estate slowdown has shown up in Maine as well. Units sold during the summer of 2006 declined in all but four counties compared with the summer of 2005; the biggest drop, 23.3%, was in York County. Median home prices during the same period fell in seven counties and were close to stagnant in three more; the biggest decline was in Piscataquis County, 19.8%. Hobson’s Wharf, on Commercial Street in Portland, behind Becky’s Diner, one of the few commercial wharves on the Portland waterfront, is for sale. Asking price is $4.95 million. An informal, unscientific perusal of real estate ads for coastal towns indicates that some of the most reasonable asking prices, Washington County excepted, are in Wiscasset. A bill passed by the Maine state legislature last year to protect certain shorebirds, such as plovers and sandpipers, has some owners of waterfront property hot under the collar. The normal setback for new waterfront construction is 75 feet, but the new law requires 250 feet for shoreline containing shorebird habitat. Lamest Excuse, Waterfront Real Estate Division: “I just got carried away”—uttered by the South Bristol homeowner to the town selectmen when asked why he cut down 46 trees located on a neighbor’s property that obscured his view of Christmas Cove. Regarding our question in the last installment of this column—Why do we say inboard engine and outboard motor? Why not inboard motor and outboard engine?—Duane Muzzy of St. Augustine, Florida, writes this: “Eons ago, I had a thermodynamics professor who was cogent about most things. He stated, without question or challenge, that ‘All motors are electric and all engines are internal combustion. And, if you expect to pass you had best not forget that.’ I still remember it.” And Frank Lawson, formerly of Maine and now of Bozeman, Montana, writes this: “It does occur to me that ‘I’ and ‘E’ are up near the sharp end of the alphabet, while ‘O’ and ‘M’ are more amidships ... ayuh?” First there was Bluenose, the legendary Nova Scotian racing-fishing schooner; it was wrecked on a reef off Haiti in 1946. Now there is Bluenose II, a reproduction built it 1963; it’s thought to be very near the end of its useful life. In the near future, there could be a Bluenose III, if the great-granddaughter of the original vessel’s designer, William Roué, has her way. A $15 million fundraising campaign is under way. In the last issue we reported that Bay Ferries, a private company, had announced plans to end ferry service between Saint John, New Brunswick, and Digby, Nova Scotia. Now comes word that the federal government of Canada will contribute $4 million and the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick $2 million each to keep the ferry running until January 31, 2009, while a long-term solution is hammered out. A high-tech wind turbine farm on a hill in the Aroostook County town of Mars Hill has begun to generate electricity. At peak power—that is, when the wind is strong and steady—the turbines are expected to be able to provide electricity to approximately 40,000 homes. Meanwhile, several companies are testing other potential wind-energy sites around the state, including Deer Isle on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills on the western side. The New York 30 Alera won the Thomas Benson Memorial trophy for the most-accurate and best-quality restoration at the 27th annual Classic Yacht Regatta sponsored by the Museum of Yachting in Newport, Rhode Island. The century-old yacht was restored by the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, which hopes to do the same for another NY30—Ibis, once owned by J.P. Morgan. www.boothbayharborshipyard.com. The Eastern Tire garage in Rockland has turned its waiting room into a fine art gallery. Patrons waiting for an oil change or for their front end to be aligned can now stare at prints and paintings instead of their feet. Speaking of staring at body parts, the Portland Phoenix, an alternative weekly, got into hot water with Shaw’s Supermarkets back in October. The Phoenix published photographs of Beat poets Allen Ginsburg and Peter Orlovsky in their birthday suits, and the management of Shaw’s, blushing, ordered that issue removed from their shelves. The Downeast Scenic Railroad, a volunteer arm of the Downeast Rail Preservation Trust, has acquired a 15-year lease on 29 miles of track between Brewer and Washington Junction. The railroad, which eventually will include a trackside museum, plans to run excursion trains as soon as they have upgraded the roadbed. Fundraising, as is usual for such projects, continues. Eighty-seven miles of the same railroad bed, running in the other direction between Ellsworth and Ayers Junction, is expected to be converted—that is, the rails will be removed—into the four-seasons, multi-use recreational Sunrise Trail. Boston College’s Weston Observatory, which records seismic activity in New England, reported that last fall there were several small earthquakes in Frenchman Bay east of Bar Harbor. Most were in the “microquake” category, but one came in at 4.2 on the Richter scale. Finally, a few newspaper headlines we like: From the Fishermen’s Voice, “Island Women Strip for Church Repair.” From the Mount Desert Islander: “Bait Shed Plan Raises Stink.” From Mainebiz: “Life After Toilet Paper.”