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View from the Porch - Issue 113

Issue 113

By Peter Bass
All illustrations by Ted Walsh
As I put pen to paper—figuratively, of course, in this digital age—Maine is recovering from a quick and powerful storm, which knocked out power to more than 60,000 Central Maine Power customers. It was unusual in that, after pelting Maine, it moved south and stalled, keeping the east coast from Maine to Cape Hatteras in a strong and chilly northerly flow for nearly a week before moving east and thus farther out to sea. Trees came down everywhere. In the intervening weeks between my writing and your reading, I’m sure that more quick and powerful winter gales will remind us of the periodic ferociousness of the weather on our coast. It can be awesome in winter on the “edge of the deep sea,” as I used to describe where we live and work to my children. Some time in the fall my siblings and I inevitably remind ourselves about how lightly built our cottage—home to the Porch—really is: the rafters are light and widely spaced over the rockers on the porch. The whole place sits on a dozen piles of rocks. It amazes us, as it has probably amazed all the others who have sat there since 1890, that there will be a cottage here in the spring. Let’s hope so. I would hate to have to change the title of this column to “View From the Pile of Detritus.” Boatbuilding way downeast One of the most interesting recent developments along the coast was the announcement in late October that Marlow Yachts, a company based in Tampa, Florida, with its manufacturing facility in China, was in negotiations with the city of Eastport to buy the Boat School and combine it with a Marlow yacht-building facility. We will follow this in the coming issues as it develops. David Marlow founded his company a decade ago and has built two Asian factories, one in Taiwan and the other in Xiamen, China, although the latter is the only featured facility on the company’s website. Their yachts are both high tech and visually appealing in a traditional motoryacht way. Capitalizing on the trend in yachting toward ocean-capable, long-range motoryachts, Marlow has built a large, sophisticated, and apparently successful company in a short period of time. Marlow, who owns a seasonal home in coastal Maine, hopes to bring his magic to Eastport by revitalizing the Husson University-run Boat School and building an adjacent manufacturing facility for his yacht lines, which now include the Prowler express-type boats, one of which is aimed at the same market as Hinckley’s Picnic Boat. As an inveterate dock walker, I have seen several Marlows from the outside, and they are exquisite. On the Porch we are looking forward to adding them to our Yacht Spotting list and promise Mr. Marlow that we will never confuse his creations with other makes of yacht if he carries through on his plan to build in Maine. The company’s website (marlowyachts.com) is a fascinating presentation of David Marlow’s product and philosophy. One can access other sites specific to their shipyard and boat lines from there. Welcome to Maine.
Biathlon
Firearms and skiing DO mix Winter is not a time to stay indoors by the fire; for some it is a time for getting out and firing rifles at targets during a cross-country ski race. We are talking biathlon, an Olympic event that my brothers and I find infinitely more interesting than figure skating, but don’t tell anyone. Which brings us to my point: Maine has world-class training and competition facilities for biathlon, and is hosting two World Cup events this winter in Fort Kent and Presque Isle, Aroostook County. Fort Kent has already hosted a World Cup Event in 2004. This is the first for Presque Isle. The races are in early February. We hope that someone among our readership will make the trip to the “Crown of Maine” to watch or help out. The races take the efforts of hundreds of volunteers from the County and beyond. Aroostook County is probably better known to many Europeans for biathlon than to those of us who live in the coastal counties, a reminder that Maine is world-famous for a lot more than the coast. Lobster News As The Magazine of the Coast, we recognize our obligation to mention lobsters in some form or other in every issue. Our story this time is a head-scratcher: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, under the Trade Adjustment for Farmers Act, has determined that Maine lobstermen have been injured by imported lobsters. That is, they have been financially injured, not injured because shifty foreigners have been using Chinese rubber bands on the claws. The last we knew, the only foreign country that sold our famous crustacean to us was Canada, which purchases from us much of the product that it sells to us. Does this mean we should not sell our catch to those conniving Canadians so they can’t then sell them back to us? We are confused by the math on this one. Plus it seems as if our esteemed Federal Government is offering to soothe the pain of being hoisted on one’s own petard. Blueberry growers were also offered relief from import injury. Clearly other countries are attacking our very way of life in Maine. Let’s hope they don’t target fiddleheads. And where is the help for struggling writers, who can’t put food on the table because Chinese writers are selling boat reviews in their government’s deliberately undervalued currency? Where is the justice? To cheese or not to cheese While we are admiring the Department of Agriculture, let’s turn to the New York Times article that identified efforts to both increase and decrease our consumption of cheese. We are interested in this on the Porch, because we eat a lot of cheese during peak cocktail hours and naturally wish to do our share to support what our government wants us to support. The USDA’s nutrition committee issued a new standard this summer recommending that Americans consume no more that seven percent of their 2,000-calorie-per-day needs in saturated fat. According to the New York Times (so it must be right), one of the tips was to order pizza with whole-wheat crust and half the cheese. Meanwhile, the dairy marketing assistance wing, Dairy Management, was paying for promotions at Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut to promote items that had even more cheese. Dairy Management has been very successful in getting us to eat more cheese. Americans’ saturated fat intake is nearly twice that recommended, and cheese is an increasing part of the total. In all fairness, Dairy Management does get most of its operating budget from the industry itself, although it is under the aegis of the USDA. Our solution? On the Porch for the 2011 season, we are going to eat two fewer bricks of cheddar a week, and more onion dip made, of course, with low-fat sour cream. Don’t forget the shrimp As passionate consumers of Maine cold-water shrimp, Pandalus borealis, we note that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Shrimp Committee has set a 136-day shrimp season beginning December 1, with a harvest target of 4,000 metric tons, which we all know is about 8,818,490.5 pounds. The Gulf of Maine harvest is a tiny sliver of the worldwide harvest, but the shrimp are highly prized due to their larger size and better flavor. Last winter 5,600 metric tons were harvested, and the original 180-day season was shortened. The ASMFC shrimp committee will meet in February to assess progress. In our house we eat Pandalus borealis in rolls and salads, in Thai soups and noodle dishes, and in pasta sauces. In season look for them from trucks on the roadside or in the markets. I have found them reliably available at Hannaford supermarkets, fresh when in season and available year round in an easy-to-use cooked, peeled, and frozen form packed by Cozy Harbor Seafood in Portland. So, as we told you last winter, buy ’em, eat ’em.
Sardine-O One Armed Bandit
Know when to hold ’em At long last, our brilliant electorate has decided that casinos are the way life should be in Maine. On the top of a rise known as Pigeon Hill in Oxford, Maine, a group of Maine business people plans to construct a casino resort and begin chipping away at the Maine brand. At this writing the thin vote margin is being recounted, and anti-casino groups are preparing lawsuits to challenge provisions in the referendum, in particular the provision that prevents competition within a certain number of miles for a certain period of time. My big problem with casinos is that they run counter to the Maine brand and it is that brand that ultimately will have a lot more to do with development in our state than will a few casinos themselves. Tying a casino to a particular industry in Maine, as Hollywood Slots Racino is to the Maine harness racing industry, was even dumber. Why not build a casino for every beleaguered industry in Maine, such as fishing (Codsino), or footwear (Moccasino), or textile manufacturing (Chinocino)? If casinos are OK in Oxford, let’s put them all over the state. I think Northeast Harbor would be a good spot. How about slots in the turnpike plazas? We could have a Pee ’n’ Play revenue stream. This referendum underscores the old adage about grocery shopping: don’t do it when you’re hungry or you will end up buying things you don’t want. This recession is about hunger for financial opportunity; if we were not so hungry we might make better choices. Yachts of the rich and infamous A yacht once owned by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and put on the market years ago under cloudy ownership has been awarded to Iraq by French courts, which determined that the true owner was still the country of Iraq. It has now been refurbished and is back on the market. The 269-foot motoryacht was built in Denmark in 1981 and never visited Iraq. Saddam kept it in Saudi Arabia as a backup, which was a good plan, since we blew up his other boat. Tastefully decorated in early murderous-dictator chic, Ocean BreezeM is now in Iraq and up for sale by some ministry or other to put money into the country’s coffers. Features of note to prospective buyers are secret submarine escape capabilities, a missile launcher that would probably be hard to get parts for at West Marine, and a bulletproof glassed-in atrium. The latter feature was to keep Saddam’s bullets inside the boat when he had to dispatch an unruly guest. Woodsman play that tree Yarmouth’s famous elm tree, Herbie, was cut down in January 2010 after succumbing to Dutch elm disease after a couple-hundred-year life. It now lives on in the form of furniture, clocks, jewelry boxes, and a stunning electric guitar made by Andrew Olson of Freeport. Many of these items were auctioned last November to benefit the Yarmouth Tree Trust, according to an AP story in the Bangor Daily News. The story of Herbie and its long-time protector, tree warden Frank Knight, now himself 102 years old, was reported nationally thanks to the Associated Press. I noted in an earlier issue the many references to the Herbie story sent to me by friends across the country. The story of the remarkable range of products crafted from Herbie’s 15 tons of wood seems to be getting the same treatment. A quick Google search on Herbie products turned up many instances of the story being picked up around the country. We will try to find out the auction results for later reporting, particularly the knockdown price for the guitar. See you at the show One of the pleasures of writing this column is looking ahead to this magazine’s publication date and anticipating the pleasures of that time (I am writing this in November 2010). This issue always makes me think of the upcoming Maine Boatbuilders Show in March—to be held on the 18th through the 20th this time—when I like to think we will have “broken the back of winter.” For two years now I have been imagining that the coming spring will see an end to this recession and of the silly notion that we shouldn’t spend too much money on the “frivolities” of boating. Perhaps this is the year that the era of impecuniousness will end and the boatshops will be full again. Regardless, the view from the Porch will be full of boats, fenders dragging and lines trailing. You’ve been warned: We’ll be watching. Feet up, binoculars at the ready.


Long-time MBH&H Contributing Editor, freelance writer, and raconteur Peter Bass is part-owner of Maine Cottage Furniture. Click here to read other articles by Peter Bass » To submit your comments... newsy tidbits, photos, illustrations, clippings, rants, and raves for possible use in this column, use the form below. Or mail to “View From the Porch,” P.O. Box 758, Camden, ME 04843 or fax to 207-236-0811. Items may be edited for length and clarity; materials become the property of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Inc.