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On the Town Dock — Issue 153

Boats, sheds & great balls of stuff

By Polly Saltonstall

A “Dock Boy” with Patina

Courtesy Amy Armstrong

Boaters arriving at Hodgdon Yacht Services in Southport, Maine, might be surprised by the appearance of the “dock boy” who helps them secure their lines. Even though he’s just as spry, he’s a lot older than the teenagers usually running around on the docks. In fact, Peter Coon turned 80 this June, according to Dockmaster Amy Armstrong.

A former U.S. Marine who subsequently ran a yacht charter service, Coon was looking for something to enliven his retirement when he started working for the yard about eight years ago. At first he worked painting boat bottoms, but quickly moved up to boat handling.

“He works here because, as he says, ‘I get paid for doing exactly what I love to do: messing about on boats,’” Armstrong said. “He jumps around like a teenager and works very hard. Whenever I get worried about how active he is and that he might get hurt, he always says to me, ‘Don’t worry Amy, I’m a Marine.’”

Coon doesn’t like to say how old he really is. “So last summer he started saying he was going to be 70/10, instead of 80,” Armstrong explained. “Now he says he’s going to be 50/30. He’s so cute. We believe he must be the oldest dock boy in Maine, and maybe the country or world.”

In addition to his boat talents, Coon is a skilled painter whose preferred subject matter is yachts.

“All the customers and his fellow employees love him very much,” said Armstrong. She also said that Coon did not know about this magazine tribute, which was to be a birthday surprise.

Happy Birthday Peter! Here’s to many more.

Ready, set, race!

Staying with the birthday theme, the Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Co. turns 40 this summer, and among the planned celebrations is the third annual Camden Classics Cup, which will take place July 26-28. Proceeds from the two-day regatta go to LifeFlight of Maine. CRF, Spirit of Tradition, and PHRF racing on Friday and Saturday will be followed with celebrations, including a dance party at the Camden Yacht Club. A new addition to the fleet this year is a Small Boat Division for sailing yachts with a waterline length of 24 feet and under. Alec Brainerd of Artisan Boatworks, one of the event sponsors, said he hopes to include Dark Harbor 20s, Dark Harbor 17s, and Camden HAJ boats.

For sailors aged 12-17, the Camden Classics Cup Youth Regatta will be held Friday, July 27 in 420s—48 racers aboard 24 boats are expected. To learn more:

Meanwhile, the 19th annual Castine Classic Yacht Race to Camden will take place August 2, followed over the next two days by the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta races. The evening of August 1, race organizers will celebrate Maine’s world-class boatbuilders with an exhibit and a symposium in Castine moderated by Gary Jobson. 


Free online boating safety course

You can learn about boating safety from the comfort of your home. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife will offer a free online BoatUS Foundation boating safety course to Maine residents.

The course includes interactive animations, videos, and photos to show important safety devices such as visual distress signals, how to get help in an emergency, how to prevent fires aboard your boat, and the best way to fit a child’s life jacket. The course meets the state’s education requirements for personal watercraft operators and is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

For more about Maine boating education requirements and other courses: safety-courses/boating-safety.html

Grant will help right whale research

The Maine Department of Marine Resources has been awarded a $714,245 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve the data used to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. The three-year project begins this summer. With 17 right whale deaths last year, there is growing interest in improving the data about fishing gear, said Erin Summers, project lead and director of DMR’s Division of Biological Monitoring. “Right whale habitat use has changed in recent years,” said Summers. “Understanding how and where fishing gear is used throughout the Gulf of Maine region will be crucial to the development of regulations that address the relative risk of entanglement in specific areas. If new regulations are required, we want to have the information necessary to maximize the conservation benefit to right whales.” 

The project will solicit documentation by harvesters from Maine to Connecticut on how vertical lines are rigged and fished. It also will include a study on the breaking strength of vertical lines currently in use. This analysis will help determine whether reducing the strength of vertical lines might help reduce entanglements. 

Soon after this grant was announced, word came that at least two right whales had been spotted just off York, Maine. People who spot whales are asked to send photos to the New England Aquarium at and/or report the sighting immediately by marine VHF via channel 16 to the Coast Guard, or to the National Marine Fisheries Service hotline at 866-755-6622. But boaters should be sure to keep their distance; right whales are federally protected.

Back Cove introduces new model

Recognizing the increasing popularity of outboard propulsion, the Back Cove Design team has produced the Back Cove 34O, the first-ever Back Cove with standard Yamaha 300-hp outboards. 

In recent years, outboard motors have become increasingly reliable and quiet and they can provide good fuel economy, said Bentley Collins, vice president of sales and marketing for Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts. The new hull, fitted with a standard bow thruster and designed specifically for outboard propulsion, offers cruise and top-end speeds approximately 10 knots faster than the traditional single diesel engine Back Cove.

The 34O offers an island berth below, a separate head and shower, and a full galley. The cockpit and helm deck are meant for entertaining, with an aft-facing seat that converts into a U-shaped helm deck, dinette, or second berth.

Sea trials will take place in August, with full production and boat show appearances beginning in September 2018. For additional information see

Gulf of Maine is hot; that’s not good

Canadian scientists have measured record-breaking temperatures in the deep water flowing into the principal oceanographic entrance to the Gulf of Maine, prompting concerns about effects on marine life, according to a recent article in the Portland Press Herald.

The deep current that enters the gulf via the Northeast Channel—between Georges and Browns banks—normally consists of very cold water, which contributes to Maine’s unusually productive ocean waters. But last May, researchers recorded temperatures exceeding 57 degrees at depths of 150 to 450 feet—nearly 11 degrees above normal and the highest recorded in 15 years, the Press Herald noted.

David Townsend, an oceanographer at the University of Maine’s School for Ocean Sciences, said the warming appears to have started late last summer or early in the fall. 

Since the event doesn’t involve surface waters, it isn’t connected to local air temperatures, he said, but rather to global warming-driven changes to ocean currents. 

Unusual ocean warming in 2012 caused lobsters to shed six weeks ahead of their usual schedule and led to a population explosion for invasive green crabs that destroyed clam beds and sea grass. It remains unclear exactly what the effects will be of this new deep-water warming.

Big new building for Front Street

Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine, has finalized the financing to begin construction of a new 22,500-square-foot building adjacent to its existing yard on the Belfast waterfront. The shipyard completed the purchase of a city-owned parking lot and secured a loan last spring to build the new structure. The new facility will accommodate large yacht refits and commercial vessel construction projects, and add approximately 40 more full-time jobs at the shipyard.

Construction of the new building, known as Building 6, was expected to begin in late spring. The contractor is Maine Coast Construction of Camden, Gartley & Dorsky of Camden is the engineering firm, and John Hansen of South Thomaston is the architect.

The new facility, which is expected to be complete this fall, will be tall enough to allow the 485-ton mobile hoist—the largest in northern New England—to drive boats inside, maximizing space and reducing the need for additional support equipment. 

Great balls of fishing gear

You’ve heard about the plastic gyre in the Pacific Ocean. Now comes news of a two-ton ball of old fishing lines and gear off the Maine coast. The decades-old ball of underwater marine debris, measuring 15 feet in diameter, was pulled from Dyer Cove off Cape Elizabeth last May. It is the biggest example of derelict fishing gear recovered from the Gulf of Maine in at least a decade, according to the lobster industry group that removed it.  

The Portland Press Herald reported that a group of divers, lobstermen, and environmentalists spent hours lifting the tangled knot of ropes, nets, and traps from 35 feet of water. They hauled it to Merrill’s Wharf in Portland, where they cut it into small enough pieces to lift ashore and break down for recycling.

The Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation has been ridding local waters of so-called “ghost gear” for a decade, retrieving more than 5,000 traps. But that work is usually done trap-by-trap, said Executive Director Erin Pelletier. This ball likely topped out at between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds, the newspaper reported.

Ghost gear poses a threat to marine life, fishermen, and boaters, said Elizabeth Hogan, manager of World Animal Protection’s U.S. ghost gear initiative, which is why the group has agreed to pay for the recovery effort. Her group estimates lobstermen lose about 175,000 traps a year in New England waters. According to studies cited by the foundation, ghost traps cost Maine’s lobster industry $16 million every year.

This debris ball was big, but an even bigger ball lurks in 25 feet of water about 300 feet away, according to one of the divers who worked on the project. He told the newspaper that the larger ball stretched about 45 feet across. It is next on the recovery team’s list.

Partnership for Island Conservation

Capt. Bruce White of Sea Tow Portland/ Midcoast and his co-owner, Captain Matt Wilder, have partnered with the Maine Island Trail Association, for the sixth straight year, to support the nonprofit’s efforts to preserve undeveloped islands.

Co-founded by Dave Getchell, Sr., in 1988, MITA, which is charged with caring for the Maine islands to ensure the integrity of their wilderness character, has more than 6,000 active members and is heading into its 30th year. 

Sea Tow Portland/Midcoast will provide free Sea Tow memberships to each of MITA’s nine boats, which are often operated by seasoned volunteers. Should any of its vessels break down during the course of its duties, White and his crew will provide a jump-start, fuel delivery, or tow free of charge.

Ferry ticket imbroglio

The Maine Department of Transportation implemented a new flat rate ticket pricing structure at the Maine State Ferry Service, standardizing ferry prices across the entire system. But the new plan, which more than doubled the cost of a ticket to and from Islesboro, was met with resistance from residents of that island who have sued over the process.

The announcement about the new ticket pricing came after more than a year of public input on how to raise the revenue needed to cover the ferry service’s projected 2020 operating budget of $11 million. State law requires that the MSFS collect at least 50% of its operating cost from user fees—the rest comes from the Highway Fund Budget.

The ferry service had first proposed a rate structure that would have charged Maine residents less than out-of-staters. But islanders complained that would unfairly penalize long-time island summer residents. The current system discounts the rate for tickets purchased on the islands and the rates differ depending on the island and the distance of the ferry run.

Under the new plan the ticket prices will be the same for all the islands served by the MSFS, no matter where the tickets are bought. Trucking/freight rates were also reduced by more than 10 percent.

The new rates will lower the price of mainland-bought tickets to Swan’s, North Haven, Matinicus, and Vinalhaven islands, but steeply increase the price for Islesboro. Islesboro’s ferry run takes about 20 minutes and is the shortest route in the system.

The MSFS serves the island communities of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Swan’s Island, Frenchboro, and Matinicus. 

NYC high-rise gets the Maine touch

Maine builders are so talented that they are being recruited to do work down there in the big city. Hewes & Company of Blue Hill, Maine, is building wooden cladding for steel pedestrian bridges that will connect three luxury sky-rise buildings in Manhattan, according to the Ellsworth American.

“The first bridge is already installed,” said Gardner Pickering, who leads the marine division at Hewes & Company.

“They wanted the bridge to look like a strip-plank canoe,” Pickering said of the New York building. “It is very much like one of my boat projects.”

Pickering said a crew of 16 has been crafting each piece of hard maple cladding and forming it together.

“The wood cladding will be varnished, crated up, and shipped to the building in early fall,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hewes will start construction this month on a spiral staircase for the 88-foot bridge. 

Tides & weather in one place, an online tool for tides, weather, and local knowledge about harbors around the country, was recently awarded a Seed Grant from the Maine Technology Institute. This grant will allow US Harbors to expand its platform to new channels. More than four million users rely on the site for accurate, highly usable tide charts covering more than  1,200 unique harbors. The site also supports local businesses and organizations by providing an affordable hyper-local marketing channel, to easily promote products and services to people interested in marine-related activities. 

In the interest of full disclosure, US Harbors is a coastal and marine information website, owned and operated by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Inc., based in Rockland, Maine—that would be the same people who publish this magazine.

Third time’s a charm

Brooklin Boat Yard has launched a third boat named Sonny for the same owner, who is now 94. Sonny III is a 91-foot custom cold-molded sloop designed by Bruce Johnson and the BBY design office. It is a larger replacement for the owner’s current 70-foot yacht, also built by Brooklin Boat Yard in 2013. The owner uses a cane and sometimes a wheelchair and wanted a yacht with more accessibility, said Brooklin Boat Yard Owner Steve White. Sonny III features chair lifts at each companionway, a power reclining chair in the master cabin, a side-boarding ladder, and a transom-boarding platform. 

“As he said, he doesn’t need another boat. He needed a project, something to keep him going,” said White, explaining why the owner ordered the new boat. “He’s sailing it right now. We delivered it to Newport last week and he spent Friday and Saturday out sailing.”

Sonny III  has a flush deck, an aggressively raked bow, and reverse transom. Her twin-cockpit configuration keeps guests safe in the center cockpit while all sail handling is in the aft working cockpit. Due to the tight build schedule and other construction commitments, BBY subcontracted the hull and deck construction to Rockport Marine of Rockport, Maine. 

Sonny III’s specs are as follows: 91' 4" LOA, 74' 5" LWL, 19' beam, 10' draft, 140,000 pounds displacement, and a sail area of 3,500 square feet. 



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