Lee of the Boathouse - Issue 92
By Peter H. Spectre
There’s all sorts of slang for nonnative Mainers by Mainers, most of it pejorative—everything from “jughead from away” to “summer complaint,” with “transplant” and “straphanger” in between—and Captain Perry Wrinkle ran through a number of his favorites in his column in the September 2006 edition of the Fishermen’s Voice (“If your great grandparents were not born in Maine it meant that you were from away. If you were from away you were a Picked Ear. Like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. An alien from some other world.”). Being a Picked Ear myself, I wasn’t that fond of the pejoration, but I did enjoy Capt. Wrinkle’s definition of a real Mainer: “A real Mainiac has a whole pocketbook full of Maine licenses,” he wrote. “Four or five for hunting, two or three for fishing, boat trailer, on and on and on. To qualify for Mainiac status you must spend most of your money on licenses and the rest on taxes. You must be part red neck, part ridge runner, and tougher than a bag of nails. You have to work 10 hours a day and seven days a week. No vacations, no sick days, no paid holidays and only a few liquid lunches. If you can do this until you are 65 you can retire on seven or eight hundred a month. This is why there are very few Mainiacs left, most have starved to death.” Gizmo lovers—that is, fans of Ben Ellison’s regular column in this magazine, “Gunkholing with Gizmo”—got up and cheered when they learned that even though someone stole Gizmo, trailer and all, from Ellison’s Camden lot, Waldoboro police wasted no time in getting it back. The 14-foot catamaran was located right out in the open, sitting on its trailer by the Waldoboro town landing on the Medomak River. No serious damage to the boat; only a few scratch marks where the perp scratched off Gizmo’s name. And “Awanadjo Almanack” lovers now have more reading than they usually get in Rob McCall’s column in each issue of this magazine. McCall’s book, Small Misty Mountain: The Awanadjo Almanack was recently published by Pushcart Press and should be available at local bookstores. If they don’t have it, make them get it. Being devotées of the fine art of classified-ad writing, especially for boats, we were especially taken by this one in the Village Soup Times: “1954 16 ft. Corson V-Haul with 1988 70-hp Johnson. Boat goes good.” At a time when the federal government is having trouble finding enough money to pay for a crew to pick up trash by the side of the road in Acadia National Park, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust recently announced that it had surpassed its capital campaign goal and raised more than $100 million for land and coastline preservation. So far, the Trust’s Campaign for the Coast has protected more than 14,000 acres, including 125 miles of Maine shoreline, 750 acres of farmland along the coast, and 56 islands. Speaking of the search for money, the town of Poland, Maine, has been looking in coat pockets and under seat cushions for all the spare change it can get since an audit showed that it owed the Poland Spring Water Company $2.7 million. Tax payments that should have been refunded to the company under a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) agreement were mistakenly put in the general fund and then spent. Things looked grim last summer for the Marine Technology Center, a.k.a. Boat School, at the Washington County Community College in Eastport when the legislature failed to provide adequate funding. At the last minute Governor Baldacci came up with $210,000 from a contingency account to keep the program afloat. The school teaches boatbuilding and other marine trades. Okay, this magazine has the Boatyard Dog®, but can that hold a candle to the New England Aquarium’s Whale Stool Canine? It seems that scientists at the aquarium’s research station in Lubec use Fargo, a Rottweiler, to sniff out whale dung on the waters so it can be scooped up and studied. DNA from the stools helps the scientists identify individual whales, and the presence of certain hormones can tell them whether female whales are pregnant or nursing. And this magazine might have the annual World Championship Boatyard Dog® Trials (see page 6), but can that event compare to Boothbay Harbor’s International Rock-Skipping Championships? Top prize at this year’s third annual event went to Alex “Skip Masta” Mackay of Palo Alto, California, for 26 skips with one throw. Mutant Lobsters in the News: An orange lobster (precooked) with yellow legs, caught off the coast of Washington County, and a yellow one looking as if it were plated with gold, caught off Great Cranberry Island. The decline of the party boat business on the coast of Maine, whereby geezers in swordfishermen’s hats take geezers in Red Sox baseball caps out to the inshore fishing grounds after cod, haddock, and the like, has paralleled the decline of the inshore fishery. But every once in awhile we hear about someone hauling in a big lunker, such as the 27-pound cod, nearly four feet long, caught last summer from a party boat out of Boothbay Harbor. The person who caught the cod got to keep it, but catching a salmon is another matter. Even though the state opened up the Penobscot River for a month this fall to fishing for wild Atlantic salmon, such fish are so scarce (less than 2,000 adults return to Maine rivers each year) that to preserve the stock the rules were fly fishing only, barbless hooks, catch and release. Scarce fish mean high prices. Here are a few average wholesale per-pound prices at the Portland Fish Exchange at the end of the summer: Cod, large, $2.33. Dabs, large, $2.43. Grey sole, large, $4.13. Haddock, large, $1.66. Halibut, $6.25. Retail prices, of course, were significantly higher. In further news in the seafood biz, the State of Maine, following the lead of Florida with its oranges and Georgia with its peaches, has begun a lobster-branding program. A lobster caught in Maine waters and enrolled in the program will sport a tag identifying it as a “Certified Maine Lobster,” with the implication that it is better than a lobster caught somewhere else. Need we point out what gastronomes in, say, Atlanta would select, given a choice between a Certified Maine Lobster and a no-name caught in, say, New Hampshire? Need we also point out that lobstermen and dealers outside Maine are not—how should we say?—fond of that selection? Here’s a question we’d like a cogent answer to: Why do we say inboard engine and outboard motor? Why not inboard motor and outboard engine? In our Chronicles of Crime, Downeast Division, we have this from the police beat column in the Mount Desert Islander regarding Southwest Harbor: “Police early Sunday assisted a resident in finding a safer place to sleep.” From the Ellsworth American: “Two girls were ‘mooning’ vehicles passing them on State Street.” And from the Bar Harbor Times: “A man who had a bicycle in the public restroom at the town pier while he was washing and hanging laundry was told to move along.” Speaking of Bar Harbor, according to town officials, real estate values there have risen nearly 70 percent over the last three years. Be that as it may, at the moment it’s a buyer’s market in Bar Harbor, as it is just about everywhere else on the Maine coast. A location on the coast of Maine that begs for a 25-foot flashing neon sign saying Don’t Even THINK About Parking Here, though somebody undoubtedly will: The sandbar between the town of Bar Harbor and Bar Island. Every year at least one automobile, usually more—and usually a SUV, because they reputedly can go anywhere (nudge, nudge; wink wink)—is parked on the bar at low tide and is found underwater at high. The biggest headaches for a local police force these days are customers pumping gas and driving off without paying (why? the high price of gas) and thieves ripping copper wire and pipes out of buildings and selling it to scrap dealers (why? to steal a phrase from Willy Sutton, that’s where the money is). The largest single copper heist in Maine as of last midsummer actually involved new wire, $30,000 worth stolen from the Maine Eastern Railroad depot in Rockland. Over the bar: Charles Eliot Winslow of Southport, age 97, Sheepscot River pilot and founder of Winslow Marine, one of the largest tugboat companies on the coast of Maine. David Merriman Stainton of Cranberry Isles, age 72, architect, town selectman, owner of the Cranberry Island Boat Yard, best known for the Western Way 19. Dave Piszcz of Belfast, age 54, local journalist and radio commentator, an iconoclast with always a perceptive point to make. Here is a short excerpt from a recent opinion column in the Belfast Republican Journal headlined “Shop Till You Drop”: “I maintain,” Piszcz wrote, “that we already have more shopping opportunities and more merchandise than we can possibly handle. I cite the rise of the self-storage industry, one of the fastest-growing economic sectors of the day, as proof of this. The merchandise we impulsively purchase on our shopping adventures already crowds us out of hearth and home, so we need to rent housing for our ubiquitous stuff and go visit it once in a while, like it is a relative in jail or at the nursing home.” Good ferry news and bad ferry news from north of the border. The bad news first. Bay Ferries, a private company, announced plans to end ferry service between Saint John, New Brunswick, and Digby, Nova Scotia. In fact, unless the government takes over the service or provides operating subsidies, the Princess of Acadia won’t be running when you read this. And the good news. The transportation department of the province of New Brunswick has announced that it will be building a new ferry to serve Grand Manan Island. Bigger and better, it will be able to carry as many as 100 cars, versus the 25-car capacity of the current vessel. Congratulations to the Firehouse Gallery in Damariscotta, which did something few art galleries do these days—mounted an exhibition with a majority of paintings showing the present working waterfront, rather than the long-gone scene of 100 years and more ago. Less of fishermen rowing dories and schooners under full sail on the banks, and more of lobsterboats and tugboats at work, and modern ships in somewhat industrial-like settings. [Insert canoe photo here] Students from Nokomis Regional High School launched what they claimed to be the longest canoe in the world on Sebasticook Lake in Newport last July. Built of 18 sections bolted together and paddled by a crew of 36, it was 149' 1" long and 34" wide until it broke in half a few minutes after making its maiden voyage. If you haven’t heard much if anything about Oceana, you will soon. An ocean engineering company, it has filed applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the feasibility of energy generation using the power of tidal currents—i.e., by placing underwater turbines in especially strong tidal streams, such as the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers near their outlets. State registration figures indicate that the average size of boats being used on Maine’s inland waterways has been increasing. That could be because more and more cabin cruisers are showing up on the lakes, and given the high price of shorefront property, many are being used as summer cottages. Here’s something to contemplate: According to tourism statistics recently released by the state government, out-of-staters made 9.7 million overnight trips to Maine and 34.7 million day trips. Two new newspapers that continue the current trend toward slicing and dicing the readership: Downeast Dog News, for dog lovers (info at www.downeastdognews.com), and Edible Coastal Maine, for foodies (info at www.ediblecoastalmaine.com). Speaking of food, you have to wonder who’s eating—or better stated, how they’re eating—at Mr. C’s Fish Barn in Boothbay Harbor. Specialties of the house are 8-, 12-, and 16-ounce hamburgers—that’s 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-pounders, the latter being “The Big One”—and on one day in early September they offered up the “Two-Pounder” (shouldn’t that be “The Really Big One”?) to all takers. Finally, two newspaper headlines we particularly like: “Driver Loses Load of Joint Compound,” from the Ellsworth American. “Septic Question Raises Small Stink,” from the Rockland Courier-Gazette.