View from the Porch - Issue 133
Friendship sloops, fast sailors, and safe towns
By Peter Bass
Illustrations by Ted Walsh As I wrote this in November, Maine received its first snowfall. Some places received quite a lot of the heavy and sticky variety (15-plus inches in the Midcoast), which put more than 100,000 Mainers out of power right before election day. The governor issued a proclamation to allow utility workers to vote remotely as they worked to restore power. Could that make them an electrified electorate? I recently worked at a boat show and struck up a conversation with a visitor to the booth. We introduced ourselves and he asked how it was that my name sounded familiar. I mentioned my greatest literary accomplishment, writing for Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, and voilà, I discovered I had a second reader. Actually, I have three; I gave my grandson a subscription and he claims to read this column, as well as looking at the boats.
Lasting Friendships If you doodled pictures of sailboats as a child in Maine, probably the Friendship sloop was one. It was a Maine coast icon. When I first summered in Boothbay Harbor there were a number about, the best-known being Roger Duncan’s Eastward, which he would thread through the back entrance to Newagen Harbor under sail, a tricky bit of handling in any boat. The family boat of one of my fellow wharf rats (and current porch regular) was a small Friendship named Content, which his family took to the town of Friendship for the annual Friendship Sloop Society get-together and races. Content was remarkably unsuccessful on the racecourse; as I recall, it sailed better on one tack than on the other. It was nice to learn of the publication of a new history of the boats, called Lasting Friendships, A Century of Friendship Sloops. Authored by the eminent boatbuilder Ralph Stanley, writer/illustrator T.B.R. Walsh, and members of the Friendship Sloop Society, it is both a history and a catalog of existing sloops, with photographs and line drawings. The hardcover is available from the society (fss.org) and the paperback from the usual suspects. By the way, Mr. Walsh, a.k.a. Ted, illustrates this column and is probably the real reason my grandson reads it; he wants to know the stories behind the illustrations. Safety first Yarmouth had the distinct honor to be included on the “safest places to live in Maine” list, according to a study widely reported around the state. The way I read the statistics, it looks like the town, which was my home from 1984 to 2011, is the safest place to live in the state. During my time in there, I belonged to the Yarmouth Lions Club, and had the pleasure of knowing Chief of Police Dick Perry, a real professional and fine guy all around. I, of course, give Dick all the credit for the safety ranking, although he has been retired for some time. The former weekly newspaper, the progressive The Maine Times, used to run an annual survey for the best of this and that in Maine. One of the questions concerned the most likely place to get a speeding ticket. Yarmouth nearly always won, and I can support that. I have gotten just one speeding ticket in nearly 50 years of driving and it was in Yarmouth. This is not to say I shouldn’t have gotten other tickets, but Chief Perry’s department took the honor. My payback came when my wife at the time and I shared a table with Dick and his wife at the Yarmouth Middle School Players’ murder mystery dinner, and I alone solved the whodunit. It was a Pyrrhic victory, given the speeding fine. Progressive weeklies One thing I like to do is read my local daily newspaper, the emphasis on “read” and “paper.” I grew up with the Lewiston Daily Sun, now the Sun Journal. When I lived downeast, it was the Bangor Daily News. Later the Portland Press Herald chronicled the news in my southern Maine years. But what really made life fun was the weeklies, many of which survive. The really fun ones were the progressive weeklies, in particular The Maine Times, which could be exhilarating or confounding, depending on your state in life and your current political views. I drop in on one of my previous weeklies, The (Falmouth) Forecaster, from time to time via non-paper media. One reason is to read Edgar Allen Beem, one of Maine’s great and enduring journalists and veteran of several alternative progressive weeklies including The Maine Times. Mr. Beem, who will soon celebrate a half-century in print, wrote a poignant column recently about the demise of alternative weeklies and print journalism in general. His column appeared in late October, and is worth trying to find. It begins, “When people ask me what I’m up to these days, I sometimes answer, only half facetiously, “I’m trying not to outlive print journalism, but it could happen.”
Illustration by Ted Walsh
Illustration by Ted Walsh
Winning weekly Speaking of good Maine weekly newspapers, the National Newspaper Association, at its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, named The Ellsworth American the second best weekly newspaper in the country. The Taos News (of New Mexico) won first place in the General Excellence division. Of The American, the judges wrote: “This paper screams local. Great job covering all facets of your community. We can’t help but think that readers must spend hours with this paper every week. It’s packed with news.” Lobster roundup What would this column be without news about lobsters? The fishing was good in the fall and the prices even better. From The Ellsworth American we learned that while the poundage total will probably be slightly lower than 2013, the wholesale price is over $4 per pound, up from a peak of around $3 last year. The anecdotal measurement of a good year is how many new trucks turn up at the end of the year; one lobsterman was quoted as saying there were “a lot.” Also from the American we learned that Frenchboro hopes to adopt an Island Limited Entry program aimed at attracting new lobstermen (or women) to live on the island. Such a program currently exists in the Cranberry Isles, as well as on Monhegan, Cliff, and Chebeague islands. Under the program, a fisherman living full-time on the island may be granted a new license sooner than others who are on the waiting list in the larger zone. Frenchboro built a number of affordable homes to lure new residents and kids to the school some years ago; this program builds on that effort. And finally, from an article in the Working Waterfront, a group known as the Maine Lobstering Union filed notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service over sinking-rope regulations in some offshore waters. The rules were adopted in an effort to prevent endangered right whales from becoming entangled in floating fishing lines. The year-old union, organized by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, argues the sinking lines are unsafe for fishermen and would like the regulations overturned. In opposition to their suit is the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, which contends that, should the current regulations be struck down, the industry could face even more stringent rules under the Endangered Species Act. I don’t know about you but I find it hard to put lobster fishing and union in the same phrase. Seems like a non sequitur. Set sail from MDI Last October, the Mount Desert Island Community Sailing Center high school team was the winner of the Salty Dog 420 Regatta hosted by SailMaine in Portland. These sailors may have been inspired by the recent success of one of their own, Will Welles, who won both the National and World J/24 titles this year. Welles and his dad, the late Ted Welles, were key players in establishing the MDI high school and community sailing programs. The younger Welles is a 1993 graduate of MDI High School and grew up in Southwest Harbor. He has worked for North Sails since graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 1997, and is an elite one-design racer who put together a top crew. The J/24 class always draws fine competitors from around the world and Welles can now add “World Champion” to his trophy case. Our thanks to Liz Graves of the MDI Islander and Ellsworth American for her reporting. Go community sailing! Lots of money Front Street Shipyard, already growing by leaps and bounds, got a big boost when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development awarded a $10 million loan to the Belfast, Maine, yard. Shipyard President JB Turner said the company got a number of smaller loans from investors when it started in 2011. “This basically replaces all of those with financing,” he said. The loan will put the yard in a better position to borrow money for pending projects such as the construction of Building 6, which would be the largest workshop on the shipyard’s 3.6-acre waterfront property. Since 2011, the company has transformed a formerly derelict sardine canning property into one of the largest boatbuilding and retrofit facilities on the East Coast, capable of working on boats up to 200 feet long. Smells like trouble Here is a good porch topic we will have to hold until next season. Thanks go to Christopher Cousins at Hashtag Maine, a Bangor Daily News blog. Evidently a recent study published in the American Journal of Political Science found that liberals and conservatives smell different, which subconsciously can lead you to one of similar bent for mating. I was most definitely not part of this study. And, as G. Gordon Liddy once said on his radio show, “It’s a lot more fun to date a liberal.” I looked for the press release for the report and found this tight little summary: “People find the smell of others with similar political opinions to be attractive.” I don’t know exactly how to play this at a cocktail party. Do you sniff around until you are drawn to someone and then engage them in a political conversation, or do you listen for someone with similar views and then ask them if they would like to give you a sniff? Mr. Cousins has great fun with the report and I urge you to find it on Hashtag Maine under his byline. Another fun thing to do is subscribe to the e-mail alert for Hashtag Maine at the Bangor Daily News. If you have trouble finding it just ask someone who is 20 years younger to help. It doesn’t matter what they smell like. Well, thanks for taking the time to get this far, and remember to enjoy winter in our great state. The Autumnal Equinox is long past and I assume you have adjusted your adult beverage supply according to Captain Pete’s rules. If you can’t remember them please write me for the unabridged edition, and include $19.95 for shipping and handling. There is nothing that seems colder Than a shuttered cottage No childrens’ voices in the air That grab and hold you hostage. It seems there is no life around But spring will show you wrong You’ll discover all’s not dead In winter all along. Deep in the walls those little mice With all the food found handy Are having little parties and Drinking rodent brandy. They’ll make their nests at will In crevices and walls And when you’re gone, run up and down Your family’s hallowed halls. Those buggers will be shown the door And for the summer banned You’ll be there, feet on the rail And binoculars in hand.
Illustration by Ted Walsh
Illustration by Ted Walsh
Contributing Editor Peter Bass is sniffing his way through the winter cocktail circuit. He may be in jail by the time you read this, though not for speeding. 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 566, Rockland, ME 04841 or fax to 207-593-0026. Items may be edited for length and clarity; materials become the property of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Inc.