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In The Lee of the Boathouse - Issue 100

Issue 100

By Peter H. Spectre

This being the beginning of the serious sailing season along the coast of Maine, a few words on the joy of it all are in order. Here is perhaps the all-time finest exposition on the subject by John Masefield, a hand aboard a sailing ship in the South Atlantic Ocean off the River Plate: “The wind had been slowly freshening for twenty-four hours, and for one whole day we had whitened the sea like a battleship....The wind roared up aloft and boomed in the shrouds, and the sails bellied out as stiff as iron. We tore through the sea in great jumps—there is no other word for it. She seemed to leap clear from one green roaring ridge to come smashing down upon the next. I have been in a fast steamer—a very fast turbine steamer—doing more than twenty knots, but she gave me no sense of great speed. In this old sailing ship the joy of the hurry was such that we laughed and cried aloud. The noise of the wind booming, and the clack, clack, clack of the sheet-blocks, and the ridged seas roaring past us, and the groaning and whining of every block and plank, were like tunes for a dance. “We seemed to be tearing through it at ninety miles an hour. Our wake whitened and broadened, and rushed away aft in a creamy fury. We were running here, and hurrying there, taking a small pull of this, and getting another inch of that, till we were weary. But as we hauled we sang and shouted. We were possessed of the spirits of the wind. We could have danced and killed each other. We were in an ecstasy. We were possessed. We half believed that the ship would leap from the waters and hurl herself into the heavens, like a winged god. “Over her bows came the sprays in showers of sparkles. Her foresail was wet to the yard. Her scuppers were brooks. Her swing-ports spouted like cataracts. Recollect, too, that it was a day to make your heart glad. It was a clear day, a sunny day, a day of brightness and splendour. The sun was glorious in the sky. The sky was of a blue unspeakable. We were tearing along across a splendour of sea that made you sing. “Far as one could see there was the water—shining and shaking. Blue it was, and green it was, and of a dazzling brilliance in the sun. It rose up in hills and in ridges. It smashed into a foam and roared. It towered up again and toppled. It mounted and shook in a rhythm, in a tune, in a music. One could have flung one’s body to it as a sacrifice. One longed to be in it, to be a part of it, to be beaten and banged by it. It was a wonder and a glory and a terror. It was a triumph, it was royal, to see that beauty.” Who knew there would be such a thing as a Worldwide Mustard Competition and that it would be held annually in Napa Valley, California? Evidently there is, and this year Raye’s Mustard of Eastport, Maine, took the gold medal in the Classic American Yellow Mustard category for their Down East Schooner brand. That makes five golds for the company at the worlds in recent years—1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, and 2007. Another Maine coast institution is up for an award. Bagaduce Lunch, a seasonal seafood shack in Brooksville that we reviewed in our March 2007 issue, MBH&H #93, made the finals of the America’s Classics Division of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards. Who knows, maybe by the time you read this they will have taken the gold medal.
Illustration by Caroline Magerl
The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard has asked Congress to officially designate Rockland a Coast Guard City. Basically an honorarium, the designation means that Rockland has been good to the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard has been good to Rockland. A sizeable amount of the coast centered on the Sheepscot, Cross, and Back Rivers—parts of Edgecomb, Wiscasset, Boothbay, Southport, Georgetown—has been closed to shell fishing by the Department of Marine Resources, not because the beds were found to be polluted but because nobody checked to see if they were. The Food and Drug Administration requires a shoreline survey every 12 years, but the DMR evidently didn’t have the staffing to do the job. Due to the lack of volunteers and rising costs, the licensed rescue service on Monhegan Island came to an end recently. According to an article in the Working Waterfront/Inter-Island News, islanders now must rely on the Coast Guard and the helicopters of LifeFlight of Maine for emergency services, and the mainland-based St. George ambulance if that service can arrange waterborne transportation out to the island. The first phase of the city of Portland’s Ocean Gateway has been completed. The $21 million harbor terminal is home base for the CAT ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and other vessels, as well as offices and facilities for U.S. Customs. Second-phase construction, that of a mega-berth to handle some of the largest cruise ships afloat, has yet to begin. Visiting Deer Isle by automobile? Be advised that the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge is being redecked. Only one lane will be open through July 3, 2008. Over the bar: Jane Stevens, 87, of Phippsburg, author of the classic One Man’s World: Popham Beach, Maine, subject of the profile titled “One Woman’s World” by Robert Lloyd Webb in our June/July 2006 issue. In our Chronicles of Crime Department, Downeast Division, we have this from the Ellsworth American: “A woman called police after waking from a night of drinking to find a strange man sleeping in her apartment who refused to leave. Officer Chris Smith spoke with the man, who said he thought he was in his own apartment and agreed to leave.” And in our Wild Beast Subsection we have reports in the Mount Desert Islander from the Bar Harbor police about a boar’s head in a driveway, a deer leg in a road, and a real live bear in the finished basement of a seasonal home. The bear, not surprisingly, ripped the place apart. Meanwhile, holding up banks seems to be out, stealing metal is in. With the price of commodities so high, especially that for certain metals, footpads have been brazenly ripping copper pipes out of houses, copper flashing off roofs, and copper wires wherever they can find them. They even go after the catalytic converters in cars (the devices contain titanium). It’s hard work, though. Crawling under a car or mucking around in a cold cellar with a hacksaw is a lot more strenuous than walking into a 7-Eleven wearing a ski mask. A feud may not be a crime but the consequences can be as disastrous. Access to the back of the Thirsty Whale Tavern in Bar Harbor has been historically gained through the next-door neighbor’s property. But when the owners of the tavern took on a remodeling project that the next-door neighbor didn’t like, the neighbor blocked access to the tavern. Angry words were passed. Mayhem was suggested. Finally, the owners of the tavern tore their building down so it could be rebuilt in such a way that access to the back could be gained without crossing the neighbor’s property. One of the more fascinating museum projects we’ve heard of in a long time is the free Mousetrap Car Workshop that was held as part of the Owls Head Transportation Museum’s 2008 Winter Education Program. Model cars were built with a few sticks of wood, a few fastenings, a few dabs of glue, some string, four CDs for wheels, and a common spring mousetrap for power. One of the more fascinating ongoing newspaper projects is the Maritime History section in the Maine Coastal News. Jon Johansen, the editor, picks a couple of months in the past, searches local newspapers during that period for marine-related events, and publishes the results. Here’s an example from 1877: “On 5 November, a gale raged off the coast of Maine. The schooner Allie Oakes, on a passage from New York for Bangor with a cargo of corn, went up on the ledges off Hay Island Ledge. She was able to get off two days later, but did suffer damage and her crew was pumping 1,000 strokes an hour. She was towed into Seal Harbor, then to Rockland, and finally to Bangor by the steamer Firefly so she could unload her cargo. She then returned to Rockland for repairs. The same day the sloop Comet, Captain Sawyer, went down between Dyers and Hurricane Island. She was raised two days later.” And then there is this from the “100 Years Ago” subsection of the “Looking Back” column in the Ellsworth American: “The extent to which it is possible dangers from the power transmission line have been magnified by the discussion and agitation of the subject is shown by the absurd belief seriously expressed by some that if, on a rainy day, a drop of rain from one of the power lines should fall on a person passing beneath, it would be fatal.” Arundel’s Landing School, which teaches boatbuilding, both modern and traditional, as well as yacht design, has finished its $2 million expansion. A new two-story, 21,000-square-foot building contains administrative offices, a library, and classrooms and facilities for the school’s Composites and Marine Systems program. Meanwhile, the school received the 2007 Dennis Snow Award from the American Boat Builders and Repairers Association for its good works. Maine Maritime Academy’s schooner Bowdoin is sailing to the Arctic this summer. A 12-week course at sea for academy students will visit Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador, and will venture as far north as Jacobshaven, Greenland. Restoration of the Whitehead Island lightkeeper’s house, now owned by the Pine Island Camp, has been completed and is available for rent by the week during part of the summer. During the non-rental weeks, five-day courses will be held at the site, among them “Cooking With Daisy,” “Mindfulness Stress Reduction,” and “Painting With Spirit.” In our Trick We’d Like to See Repeated Department, we have this photo caption from the “Waldo County Outdoors” column in the Belfast Republication Journal: “Tom displays two shiny brook trout, fresh from the sea.” Lobster fishermen, of course, have been suffering from the high cost of fuel—and bait, insurance, and everything else—and now there are fears that the summer lobsterboat races may suffer as a consequence. Fuel for running a race isn’t really the problem; it’s getting to the race that has the organizers worried. The cost of diesel fuel being what it is, many midcoast fishermen, for example, will think twice about making the run to Jonesport for the Moosabec races. “On my boat, it’s a hundred gallons up and back,” Clive Farrin was quoted as saying in the Ellsworth American. “That’s a $1,000 weekend.” The price of gas is so high that the Mount Desert Islander is publishing a daily list of prices in various gas stations in the vicinity of Acadia National Park on its web site, www.mdislander.com . All that snow this last winter—record-setting in many Maine towns—has caused severe dysfunction in road budgets due to much more plowing and sanding required than expected. Couple that with huge increases in the price of salt, sand, and fuel, and most towns will be struggling to keep pace. Real estate taxes will no doubt be going up faster than usual. Speaking of real estate, the latest statistics we have at the time of writing is for February 2008. During that month, the number of sales in the state was down 20% over the same period in 2007; the median sales price, $190,000, was down 2.04%. Piscataquis County had the largest decrease in the number of sales, 47.27%; Waldo County had the largest increase, 20.97%. Washington County had the largest decrease in the median sales price, 41.75%; Somerset County had the largest increase, 22.54%. Development has slowed down all around the state, but there still are plenty of projects afoot. With so much emphasis on “green” this and “green” that a group in the early stages of promoting a project on 3,300 acres on Schoodic Point abutting Acadia National Park is suggesting theirs will be an “Eco-resort Community.” FInally, a headline we like, from the Ellsworth American: “Sedgwick Voters Flush $20K Town House Toilet Proposal.” Passing the Baton: Peter Spectre has written a column similar to this one for some 30 years almost without a break—first in WoodenBoat, then in these pages—and has decided that it’s time for a change. Long-time MBH&H Contributing Editor Peter Bass will take over this column as of next issue. Peter Spectre will continue as this magazine’s editor.

Information Welcome: We look forward to your notes, tips, tirades, clippings, press releases, rants, and raves for possible inclusion in this column. Send to P.O. Box 758, Camden, ME 04843; fax 207- 236-0811; editor@maineboats.com.

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and other articles by Peter H. Spectre >>