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On the Town Dock — Issue 152

Safety at sea, lobsters, launchings

By Polly Saltonstall

Fishermen buckle up (in life jackets)Illustration by Ted Walsh

Port Clyde lobsterman Gerry Cushman fell overboard while putting his boat on the mooring after a day of fishing. His foul weather pants were taped to his rubber boots and as he sank they filled with water and pulled him down. 

Frantically undoing the tape, he was able to free one of the water-filled boots and pull himself to the surface by grabbing a line that was hanging down from his boat. He admits he’s really lucky to be alive, especially since he was not wearing a life jacket. But that was the last time he ever went out fishing without one. 

Cushman has become such a convert that he even wore a sleek neon-yellow life vest inside during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum last March—he estimates 150 fishermen there asked him about it. “If I can get someone else thinking about this, then I’ve done my job,” he said.

Over the past year, 181 commercial lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts participated in a project sponsored by the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety to promote the use of personal flotation devices.

Lobstermen who participated in the one-month trial were randomly assigned one of nine life jacket models. Their feedback is being used to improve life jacket designs for lobstermen.  

In commercial fishing, vessel disasters typically are the leading cause of death, but for lobstermen, it is falling overboard, explained Research Coordinator Rebecca Weil—17 New England lobstermen died this way between 2000-2016, out of 30 overall deaths reported. 

While fishermen are required to carry Coast Guard-certified life jackets on their boats, they don’t tend to wear them, she said. “Ideally everyone would be wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket that had every bell and whistle,” Weil explained. “However since most lobstermen do not wear the ones they have, we are looking to find what will best meet their working needs.”

The response from fishermen in the study was overwhelming. Many kept their new PFDs afterward. In the surveys, they indicated that a life jacket should be comfortable, flat/not bulky, without straps or buckles to snag, easy to clean, easy to use, bright in color, and, for many, integrated into something already worn. 

The next step is to send two mobile units along the coast in the two states next spring with samples of different life jackets for more fishermen to try on, and, potentially, buy. In the meantime, manufacturers have received design feedback and have indicated they are already changing designs in response.

Maine’s newest land crop? Salmon

Americans consume more than $2 billion of Atlantic salmon every year. While virtually all of it is farmed, more than 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon consumed here is imported. So it’s no surprise that two different companies have announced plans for massive land-based salmon farms in Maine.

A Maine company calling itself Whole Oceans announced plans late last winter for a state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system at the site of the former Verso paper mill in Bucksport. Earlier last winter, the Norwegian-based company Nordic Aquafarms agreed to buy 40 acres on the outskirts of Belfast, where it will build what it called one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms.

Whole Oceans’ CEO Rob Piasio said his company plans to invest more than $250 million, eventually producing 50,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon per year. Whole Oceans, which already has pre-sold 100 percent of its total production for the next 10 years, plans to break ground in Bucksport in 2018. 

Nordic Aquafarms, a major international developer of land-based aquaculture, announced that it planned to construct a land-based salmon operation in Belfast with a 33,000-ton annual production capacity, in several phases. The end-to-end operation will include hatcheries and fish processing.

Both projects must overcome regulatory hurdles before getting off the ground.

Colonial-era ship rises again 

Winter storms usually are notable for the damage they cause. But high winds and seas from one of last winter’s nor’easters exposed a treasure of sorts in York: the skeleton of a ship that is believed to be more than 160 years old. The shipwreck is revealed every so often after large storms, and usually town officials bury it again to protect it, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald.

The 51' hull is believed to be from a late Colonial or early post-Colonial sloop, which means it would date from 1750 to 1850, according to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

There are 1,595 known shipwrecks along Maine’s coast, including 66 in York and its coastal waters, the Press Herald story explained.

How many legs on a lobster?

Eight, according to most people (plus two claws). But when a new emoji featuring the Maine lobster was unveiled last winter it only had six legs and two claws. (For those of you in the dark about emojis, they are the colorful small symbols your children use when they send you texts and emails.)

When the Unicode Consortium released proposed images of 157 new emojis to be made available this year, Maine residents took umbrage at the inaccurate number of legs in the tiny red symbol. Emojipedia Chief Emoji Officer Jeremy Burge told the Portland Press Herald that the consortium had heard people’s complaints and planned to update the design, which was expected to be available later this year.

Lobster landings down

While a new Internet symbol may lead to lots more lobsters showing up in emails and texts, the real critter has seen a decline at the dock. While lobster remains Maine’s most important fishery, lobstermen landed 110.8 million pounds of lobster in 2017, which was 22 million pounds fewer than the previous year. The overall value of the catch also declined by 16 percent, due to a drop in the per-pound price as well as the drop in landings, according to data released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Despite the decline, the annual landings value of $433.8 million remained the fourth highest value ever for Maine’s iconic fishery. 

“The past year has underscored what I’ve been saying for years now—that change is inevitable and we must be prepared,” said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “This year’s decline in lobster landings is by no means a signal that the sky is falling. But it does highlight the need to make sure our management measures adapt to change. This is true for all fisheries. It is the best way to ensure resilience of our marine resources and opportunity for future generations.”

Overall in 2017, Maine commercial fishermen once again landed more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of marine resources. At $569 million, the total value stands as the fourth highest ever and marks only the sixth time that Maine harvesters have surpassed $500 million.

Herring, the primary bait source for the lobster industry, again represented the state’s second most valuable commercial fishery in 2017 at $17.9 million. Despite a drop of nearly 4 million pounds landed and a dip of $3.8 million in value, Maine’s softshell clam industry remained the third most valuable commercial fishery at $12.4 million. 

Maine elver harvesters enjoyed another season in which their fishery was by far the most valuable on a per-pound basis. Harvesters landed 9,343 pounds. At $1,303 a pound, the elver fishery was valued at $12.2 million.

Maine scallop harvesters landed the most scallops since 1997, bringing ashore 793,544 meat pounds, a nearly 45 percent jump from 2016. At $9.3 million, scallop landings had the highest overall value since 1993. 

Looking for a lift? Try some mud

Inspired by the natural resources of his island home, Vinalhaven’s Willie Drury has launched a line of skin-care products he’s calling Maine Magic Mud, according to the Island Institute’s Working Waterfront newspaper.

Drury, 25, had used local mud two years ago as a healing agent for the skin on his hands, chapped during winter lobstering. The mud worked wonders, removing dead skin and helping to heal wounds. He started by researching the minerals in local mud, also testing it to make sure it was safe for use on skin. He gathers his mud away from polluted, high-traffic areas, and, as an extra precaution, he bakes it at 500 degrees before manufacturing his products, according to the article. 

Maine Magic Mud currently produces five products: Turmeric Scrub, Peppermint Scrub, Exfoliant, and Tea Tree and Maine Kelp Shampoo and Conditioner. 

Seacoast Mission on the move

The Maine Seacoast Mission will move its headquarters to a multistory building planned for construction in Northeast Harbor, according to the Mount Desert Islander newspaper. 

Plans call for the mission to occupy part of a building that will be constructed on land owned by Mount Desert 365, a nonprofit created to promote economic revitalization in Northeast Harbor. The mission’s current headquarters are in a 1902 mansion with more than 40 rooms in Bar Harbor, that was donated to the organization in 1972. That property has been listed for sale with a price tag of $6.3 million. 

Also, in March, Mission President Scott Planting announced plans to retire “late this fall.” A search is under way for the Seacoast Mission’s next leader, led by its board of directors.

C.W. Hood’s new daysailer

Designed by Stephens Waring Yacht Design in Belfast, the new Hood 24 is classic in appearance, but up-to-date in design and construction. Features include a large self-bailing cockpit that seats eight, a zero-emission electric drive option available for delicate environments, and modern, efficient sails and rig.

“This boat just takes your breath away. And as beautiful as she looks, she is even more beautiful to sail. She will win hearts—and races,” said Chris Hood, founder of C. W. Hood Yachts. “We picked the firm of Stephens Waring to bring their world-class luxury design sensibility to the small-boat category. The durability, easy handling, and graceful simplicity of this boat make her a unique daysailer and the perfect companion to our successful sistership, the Hood 32.”

The Hood 24 will be built in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Hood said.

Two new Hinckley models

The Hinckley Company has added two new high-performance models to its lineup of luxury yachts: the Sport Boat and Sport Boat Center Cabin. Both boats are 42'7" long with a beam of 12'5". Three Mercury Verado 300-hp four-stroke outboards allow the boats to reach top-end speeds of more than 60 mph. 

The Sport Boat line is built of infused epoxy with an integrated primary bond between hull and stringers for a stiffer, stronger and more durable hull. An inner layer of carbon fiber is laid bow to stern with a companion outer layer of Kevlar for bulletproof puncture resistance. 

The underbody is just off the drawing board of the legendary Ray Hunt Design studio and is a modern update on the deep-V hull renowned for fast and safe performance. The first Sport Boat is expected to launch in July 2018.

New ferry to be built in Maine

Washburn & Doughty Associates in East Boothbay has won the contract to build a new $8.8 million Maine State Ferry Service vessel, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.

The new 154-foot vehicle and passenger ferry was designed to be able to serve any of the MSFS island communities other than Matinicus. It will have three lanes on the main deck, with a capacity of 23 cars or a mix of cars and trucks, as well as 250 passengers. 

Current plans call for the ferry to serve Swan’s Island in the summer and Vinalhaven in the off-season, according to Maine DOT spokesman Ted Talbot. 

Washburn & Doughty specializes in the construction of steel and aluminum commercial vessels. In 1992-1993, the yard built three vessels that are still in service for the Maine State Ferry Service.

The Maine State Ferry Service serves the island communities of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Swan’s Island, Frenchboro, and Matinicus. 

Talbot said the Maine DOT does not currently have specific plans for additional new ferries. “But we do have in our work plan almost $25 million in capital improvements planned that include the construction of the new boat and mid-life extensions for four of the ferries,” he said.

New ferry—yes; fare hike—not yet

Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Transportation has delayed a decision on a controversial new rate structure for the ferry fares until later this spring. A new structure proposing across-the-board hikes as well to charge non-residents more than residents met with resistance from many islanders at public hearings last spring. The current pricing is based on where the tickets are purchased, with mainland prices being higher than prices on the islands. 

The new rate structure had been scheduled to take effect at the end of March, said Maine DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “However, due to the considerable input received at both the public meetings on the islands, as well as during the written comment period that followed, I am going to take more time to review the record and the rate proposals before making a final decision on how to move forward.”

State law requires that Maine DOT collect at least 50 percent of the MSFS operating costs through user fees. The projected 2020 MSFS operating budget of $11 million shows an estimated $700,000 user fee portion shortfall.

“While raising the necessary revenue to cover half of the operating expenses is our first priority, creating a new rate structure that allows for greater efficiencies and the use of advanced technologies is imperative for the future of the MSFS,” said Ferry Service Manager Mark Higgins.

New director for maritime museum

Penobscot Marine Museum, a history and arts museum with nationally recognized collections, has hired Karen E. Smith, Ph.D., as its new executive director. Smith will join the museum from the Cedar Falls, Iowa, Historical Society, where she served as executive director for six years. Prior to joining the historical society, she worked at the Iowa Governor’s Residence as a curatorial research assistant, and at the Old Capitol Museum and the Obermann Center, also in Iowa. She previously was a college instructor in writing and rhetoric. Smith has a doctorate in American Studies from the University of Iowa and a B.A. in English from Earlham College in Indiana. She grew up in Marion, Massachusetts, and has family in Maine and New England.

Based in Searsport, the Penobscot Marine Museum tells the story of Maine and the sea. Its collection includes 12 historic buildings, including a furnished ship captain’s home, paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, textiles, historic boats, a fisheries exhibit, more than 200,000 historic photographs, and a research library. This summer’s exhibit will focus on ship models and their uses. 

Over the bar

Maine’s waterfront communities lost a good friend last winter with the death of Anne Bray of Brooklin. After fighting and overcoming a series of life-threatening illnesses stretching back more than 25 years, Anne died peacefully only a few days after her 81st birthday. She is survived by a son and two daughters, two grandsons, and her husband, Maynard Bray, to whom she was married for almost 62 years. Born in Rockland, Maine, she lived for years in the Mystic/Noank, Connecticut, area, but called Brooklin, Maine, her home for more than half her life, serving as WoodenBoat magazine’s Research Director for 30 years. After retiring, the Brooklin Keeping Society, of which she was curator, became her passion and she also was a loyal volunteer at the Penobscot Marine Museum. Donations in her name can be made to the Brooklin Keeping Society or the Penobscot Marine Museum.

In addition, Giffy Full and Bill Page have established a memorial fund to be held in trust by the Penobscot Marine Museum that will support the enrollment of a deserving young person, between the ages of 16 and 21, in one of the WoodenBoat School’s one-week on-the-water courses. This year’s selection is Elements of Sailing, which runs from July 1-7. The winning applicant will be selected at least a month beforehand. Donations may be mailed to The Anne Bray Memorial Sailing Fund, Penobscot Marine Museum, PO Box 498, Searsport, ME 04974. Please make checks payable to “Penobscot Marine Museum, Anne Bray Fund.” Interested applicants should contact Giffy Full, 99 Naskeag Pt. Rd., Brooklin, ME 04616. He may also be reached at 207-749-0208.  


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