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In The Lee of the Boathouse - Issue 99

Issue 99

By Peter H. Spectre

Once upon a time—fairly recently, actually—the open topside platform on a powerboat was called a flying bridge—a noble, evocative, blow-your-hair-back term with roots in the Navy’s old torpedoboat destroyers. Then someone, for reasons known only to him or her, started calling it a flybridge, and the editors of the national boating slicks down in the big city picked up the term and went with it. “What is this?” one of my correspondents once asked. “A bridge for flies?” The word saloon has morphed in the same way. For generations the saloon was the principal common space on a yacht, comparable to the living room in a house. Then along came an ad writer who didn’t know the difference between Stormy Weather and intermittent showers, and we got that degeneracy, salon. For the record, a salon is a place where women and those troubled men who have forgotten the hallowed heritage of the barbershop get their hair styled. It is also a place where people with literary and intellectual pretensions meet in the afternoon for tea. It is not the place where cocktails are served after the yacht has rounded the last buoy, the harbor furl is in, and the sun has passed over the yardarm. Most businesses and institutions leave their clients with calling cards and brochures, perhaps even a commemorative key chain or an electric-blue windshield scraper, but Eastport’s Boat School has topped them all. On visits to conferences and trade shows, representatives from the school, which teaches boatbuilding and other marine trades and is now affiliated with Husson College, leave behind jars of “Boat Builder’s Composite Mustard,” a custom composite made for them by Raye’s Mustard of Eastport. Speaking of composites, Wilbur Yachts of Southwest Harbor has plans to expand, particularly in the area of composite technology, now that it has been certified as a Pine Tree Development Zone by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. Pine Tree Zones are subject to reduced taxation in the interest of encouraging business investment. The marina at the Point East Maritime Village development on the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset is due to open this summer. While plans call for 239 slips eventually, this initial phase will have 20 to 25. The Brooklin Boat Yard and boatbuilder Donald Tofias are joining forces to continue building the justifiably famous peapods built by the late Jim Steele. (For more information about Steele and his peapods, see “Remembering Jimmy Steele” by Bill Mayher in MBH&H #98, February/March 2008). Boatbuilder and modelmaker Dynamite Payson of South Thomaston, who lived with his young family on Metinic Island for several years back in the 1950s while he fished for lobsters (see “Metinic On My Mind,” by Dynamite’s wife Amy in MBH&H #81), remembers the old island outhouse: “The passage of time or some other unknown cause recently did what no storm was able to do before, during, or since the Hurricane of 1938,” Dynamite writes. “It finally leveled the tall and skinny outhouse that stood so proudly all those years on the northern end of Metinic. I’m sure its demise would have saddened the outhouse’s unknown builder, who put so much of himself into the construction, including thoughtfully providing a door that swung inward. Apparently caught up in the beauty of his creation, he was moved to poetry and inscribed the following on the inside wall of his pride and joy: This little house is all I own I aim to keep it neat. Please be kind with your behind And don’t s**t on the seat.”

Last year Portland saw a 55% increase over 2006 in cruise ship passengers landing in the city. A total of 48,768 passengers disembarked in 2007, leaving behind a considerable amount of cash before reembarking. Bar Harbor had a large increase as well, so much so that, due to periodic severe congestion, the Bar Harbor Town Council voted to restrict the number of cruise-ship passengers who will be allowed to land in the town at any one time. Beginning in the summer of 2010, 3,500 passengers will be allowed ashore at once during July and August; from May 1 to June 30, and September 1 to October 31, the allowed number will be 5,500. Times are tough in the real estate biz, but the toughness is mixed in the state of Maine according to statistics released by the Maine Real Estate Information Service. During 2007, the number of properties sold decreased a little more than 10% from the year before, but the median sales price went up, albeit slightly (.77%). The picture for the last month of 2007, however, wasn’t so good. The number of properties sold decreased 23.27% from December 2006, and the median sales price decreased 4.62%. The wild blueberry business, however, was on a roll during 2007. According to preliminary statistics, the harvest came in at 76.9 million pounds, 3% more than the year before. The value of the crop was $72.1 million, a 20% increase over 2006. Maine’s lobster industry is having problems. According to preliminary statistics, the 2007 lobster harvest was 23% lower than the year before, the greatest decline in almost 50 years—73 million pounds in 2006; 56 million pounds in 2007. Revenue was down 16%, from $297 million in 2006 to $249 million in 2007. With declining revenue and increasing fuel and bait costs, many lobstermen—especially those with large boat-loan payments—are feeling squeezed. Meanwhile, the Zone C Lobster Management Council has voted not to limit the entry of new fishermen into the zone. Zone C, which includes much of Penobscot and Blue Hill bays, including the major territories around Deer Isle, Matinicus, the Fox Islands, and Isle au Haut, is the only one of Maine’s seven zones that does not limit entry. WE have the Around Alone, the Vendée Globe, the Route de Rhum, the Transat, the Transpac, and for all we know, the Six-Pac, so why should we be surprised when we learn that some nut case has come up with the Around in Ten—“A Circumnavigation Race in Ten-Foot Boats,” a.k.a. “The Biggest Challenge in the Smallest Boats”? And no, this isn’t a circumnavigation of Staten Island; this is an encirclement of the whole enchilada, the Big Blue Marble. Moving on to the subject of oxymoronic derangement—or is it senile dementia?—no matter—we have a news release from Sparkman & Stephens, the yacht design firm, announcing with a straight face that they have a commission from a client who wants a “green” 129-foot motor yacht with all the bells and whistles in a configuration that will “reduce the vessel’s larger impact on the environment.” Evidently, the owner “is trying to be socially responsible in everything he does.” In our Chronicles of Crime Department, Downeast Division, we have this about Southwest Harbor from the Mount Desert Islander: “Something was fishy at the Upper Town Dock. A driver reported that he returned to his vehicle to find a dead fish on the windshield held in place by a windshield wiper.” And this from the Bar Harbor Times: “A Tremont man went to his ex-girlfriend’s house to return some of her belongings; he allegedly would not leave initially, and the woman called the police. A sheriff started to go to the home and learned that the man could not get any traction in the icy driveway of his home with his 1991 Mercury sedan; he kept spinning the tires until they caught fire—and then the entire car went up in flames. While the man was not hurt, the car was destroyed.” And this, also from the Bar Harbor Time s: “A trailer had been left with a sign saying it held free items on Old County Road. Somebody took the sign a bit too literally, though, and took the trailer as well.” And then there was the call one night to the Bar Harbor police that there was a disturbance at a local saloon. The drinking was reportedly out of hand. When the officers arrived, instead of intoxicated customers—the usual case—they found the bar’s staff to be stumble-down drunk. Over the bar: Samuel Pennington, III, 78, in Damariscotta, publisher of the influential Maine Antiques Digest, founded by him and his wife on their kitchen table in 1973. Maine poet Sylvester Pollet, 68, in Ellsworth, about whom Contributing Editor Carl Little has a few words: Sylvester Pollet (1939-2007) was that most wondrous of breeds: the poet-sailor. He and his wife, artist MaJo Keleshian, moved to Maine from New York City in 1971, but only began sailing in the early 1980s, first with friends and then in a 14' daysailer they purchased. “Sylvester pledged to have a sloop he could cruise in when he to got to be 50—whether he had the money or not,” Keleshian recalled recently. “Sure enough,” she wrote, “in the spring before his fiftieth birthday we found a boat in Massachusetts and sailed her to Maine.” The sloop was a 26' Seafarer designed by Philip Rhodes, and its name was Echo. The couple made Castine their port for excursions among the islands of Penobscot Bay from June to mid-October. “Whether Sylvester was working in the boatyard or tinkering with a stalled engine, he never complained,” Keleshian remembered. ‘It’s all sailing,’ he liked to say.” Sailing worked its way into a number of Pollet’s poems; at times, the open sea competed with the open page. The poem “Mooring Stone” is a particularly fine example of his chiseled verse—thoughts of a Maine sailor in winter, dreaming of the return to that special mooring stone in Castine Harbor. The Mooring Stone by Sylvester Pollet (1939-2007) I. On the woodstove a pea soup simmers and thickens around the neckbones of a lamb. With the killing frosts come the rootcrops carrots, onions, potatoes; the rattle of dried peas hitting the white enamel pan— sleet on a windowpane. Wax your boots. Wear wool. As a rule of thumb, For every cord of wood lay by a liter of dark rum. II. The mast is under the house now, anchor-rode and halyards in the attic with the sailbag. The mooring stone settles in the salt-mud off Castine; the mooring ball, though, still bobs in the rip like a tethered shag but fluorescent pink perfect in its roundness against that cold black water bright and vibrant as a mermaid’s breast, or a child’s drawn icon of the sun, and III. in the rising tide of the season of teapots and words it still finds place to bob in mind, and now as then it marks the mooring stone— the place we round up into the teeth of the wind to hook the pennant chock it cleat it lash it down, relieved and disappointed to be again safe home. A postcard mailed from the East Sumner, Maine, post office, and postmarked August 14, 1957, was finally delivered in January 2008 to the Stratford, Connecticut, Town Hall. Signed by a woman named Alice, it was addressed to former town manager Harry Flood, who has been dead for almost 40 years. Nobody knows who Alice was, and nobody can figure out why the postcard took so long to get to its destination. The town library in Southwest Harbor has more than 5,000 photographs in their historical collection. The images date from 1890 to 1958 and show people and places primarily on Mount Desert Island, though there are many showing much of the rest of the Maine coast. Library volunteers have undertaken to scan all the photos and plan to eventually post them on the library’s web site. In the meantime, they are trying to identify the people and places in the photos. The library kicked off the search for information in February with a show called “Is this your grandmother? Is this your grandmother’s house?” With the sale of the Carina House on Monhegan Island, there was concern about the future of the Carina House Residency, which enables selected artists to spend time on Monhegan with a place to live and a place to work. The Monhegan Artists Residency Corporation, which administers the program, has found a solution—living quarters at the Hitchcock House and a studio in the Black Duck fish house—and the residency lives on. Finally, a couple of newspaper headlines we like, the second of which is easily the above-the-fold front-page newspaper headline of the decade, if not the century: From the Bar Harbor Time s: “Hangout for Underaged Clams Closed.” And from the Knox County Times: “Middle School Issues Ban on Intentional Flatulence.”

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;

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