A Transformed Pontoon Boat
Photos by Brian Robbins
“The last new boat launched in this cove was back in 1816,” Bob Brown told me, sweeping his arm the breadth of Salt Marsh Cove on the Edgecomb, Maine, shore of the Damariscotta River. “One of my grandfathers built a sailboat to carry lumber and launched it right here. Since then, all the boats in the family have been used ones, until now.”
That’s 207 years of family history Brown’s talking about. He’s been around for 86 of them. The recently launched new boat he’s talking about is the Dianne Marie, a one-of-a-kind lobsterboat Brown put together with the help of some talented friends, for fishing in his beloved river.
There were two inspirations behind Brown’s wish to build a new outboard-powered boat for lobstering in the river.
One was the need for a shoal-draft hull. “There used to be three feet of water up in there at low tide,” he said, pointing to the head of the cove where he picked me up. “Now I need two-and-a-half to three hours of incoming tide just to float my skiff—that’s how much it’s filled in over the years.”
He also wanted something with as much room as possible, especially for loading on traps, that would be stable, as well.
“I could pile 12 lobster traps on my old 19' wooden boat,” he said. “And you had to be careful, at that.”
He found what looked to him to be a potential Damariscotta River boat in Tampa, Florida, of all places.
“I was at a boat show down there last winter and I saw a booth where they were selling these saltwater pontoon boats—heavy-duty ones for crab fishermen to use,” he said.
“‘Now, why wouldn’t that work?’ I thought. I talked to the salespeople, who said, ‘Well, we don’t know anything about lobstering.’ I told them, ‘That’s no problem; if we can get one of these up to Maine, we’ll take care of turning it into a lobsterboat.’”
The hull—a ruggedly-built 22' x 8'6" twin-pontoon design built by Fiesta Marine Products in Hudson, Florida, and sold by Advance Marine Sales in Holiday, Florida—was basically just a platform, ready to be transformed when it arrived in Maine earlier this year.
“Rugged” and “practical” are the two words that first come to mind when you step aboard the Dianne Marie, and “stable,” as well: The 22-footer cared not where I stepped as I moved around, whether it was at idle or at speed.
The Dianne Marie’s custom-built wooden house provides shelter (and shade) for both Brown and his sternman, while a railing and sideboards around the deck keep everything where it’s supposed to be. The neatly-handwritten list of thanks that Brown handed me includes his friend Nicholas Gustafson (transportation and carpentry) and Mid-Maine Millwork (oak for the project) as well as Hamilton Marine, Midcoast Marine, and Ames Supply, who all supplied various hardware.
Forward of the house sits a small gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic pump for the trap hauler, which came from Marine Hydraulics Engineering Co., Inc. Sprague Metal built the Dianne Marie’s davit.
Brown set me out on one of the floats he has moored in the cove (the floats get loaded on the high tide with traps to be set, allowing access to them at any time) and made a couple of passes by for the camera. The 22-footer skimmed along with little fuss, her 115-hp Honda outboard from D&M Marine super-smooth and quiet.
Then it was back to shore for me: Brown had lobster traps to load on—another 17 singles to bait and set in the Damariscotta River that afternoon.
He nosed the Dianne Marie gently up against a little knoll on the shoreline and I stepped off, as neatly as you please, thanking Brown for the visit.
A saltwater pontoon boat hauling lobster gear might be an unusual sight, but it’s allowing Bob Brown to keep on doing what he loves, and that’s what matters.
A former offshore lobsterman, Brian Robbins is senior contributing editor for Commercial Fisheries News.
DIANNE MARIE Specifications
Pontoons: 24" diameter; aluminum
Platform: Non-skid/gelcoated fiberglass
Power: 115-hp Honda Outboard
Pontoon Boat Dealer:
Fiesta Marine ProduCTs
11016 SR 52, Hudson, FL