Long-time columnist and Contributing Editor Peter Bass, whose witty musings on Maine news and events have been featured in this spot for several years (“The View from the Porch”), has moved on to bluer and warmer waters. He still will write for MBH&H on occasion, but not necessarily from his porch rocker. We will, of course, continue to bring you Maine news via this new column, and we welcome your input regarding topics of interest. —The Editors
Let’s start with some goods news and bad from way downeast, Eastport way. Efforts to build a memorial in that city to fishermen lost at sea got a boost from the boatbuilders at Millennium Marine USA, which recently opened a plant in Eastport. Company president Cory Guimond had promised to donate a portion of the proceeds from his company’s boat sales in Charlotte County, New Brunswick and Washington, County, Maine, toward the effort. In December 2014 he made good on that pledge and contributed $6,000. The Memorial Park will feature a sculpture in the form of a wave by Maine sculptor Jesse Salisbury. The names of lost fishermen from both sides of the border will be inscribed on the wave.
Those Eastport fishermen who are still working took a hit when a large section of the city’s 400-foot-long, rock-filled breakwater collapsed early in the morning Dec. 4., sinking one boat, damaging others, and knocking a pickup truck into the harbor. The city was just getting ready to start a long-planned-for $11 million project to replace deteriorated portions of the aging structure, but according to the Quoddy Tides
newspaper, bids came in $5.5 million higher than expected. As this issue of MBH&H
went to press, the Eastport Port Authority was trying to figure out how to scale back the project or find more money to pay for it. In the meantime, more than 40 vessels have been displaced by the collapse and have had to moor elsewhere.
More than 235 years ago, the French frigate L’Hermione
embarked for the colonies with the Marquis de Lafayette aboard to bring word of French military support. A 20-year project to build a replica in France will culminate in a repeat of that historic voyage this spring. The 216-foot, three-masted replica’s American ports of call will include Castine, Maine. Plans are under way in Castine for a five-day celebration July 11-15, including the opening of an exhibit on the Revolution, at the Castine Historical Society. A parade of boats will accompany L’Hermione
through Penobscot Bay and into port on July 14.
In 1780, the original L’Hermione
stopped in Boston and then headed north to Maine, at that time part of Massachusetts, on a reconnaissance mission to assess the British forces occupying the strategic town of Penobscot, later Castine. The replica L’Hermione
will visit Yorktown, Virginia, then head up the Potomac River to Mount Vernon and Alexandria. She will continue to Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, and to Philadelphia’s Fort Mifflin, New York City, Greenport, New York, Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, before setting sail for Castine, her final North American port of call. For more information, visit www.castinehistoricalsocietyhermione.org
Now that dams have been removed from the Penobscot River, a formerly still stretch of river has become whitewater, just perfect for canoe racing. In honor of the newly free river, the Penobscot Nation will host this year’s Whitewater Open Canoe National Championships on July 22-26. Races will start in Old Town and end in Eddington or before, depending on the category, according to race organizers. The Penobscot Nation was a participant in the Penobscot River Restoration, which involved removing two dams in a collaborative effort to improve access to 1,000 miles of river habitat for 11 species of migratory fish.
The Penobscot flows through the heart of the Penobscot’s ancestral territory and culture, and this section of the river holds particular historical significance to the tribe. In 1604, Chief Bashabez, the first Penobscot leader documented by the Europeans, canoed from Indian Island to Brewer where he met with Frenchman Samuel de Champlain. Later in the 19th century, the river between Indian Island and Brewer was an important travel corridor linking Indian Island, the Nation’s principal village, and Brewer.
Who hasn’t dreamed of owning an island in Maine? Thanks to a marketing promotion by a Chicago-based game company, that dream has now (sort of) come true for 250,000 lucky people. They now share rights to a 6-acre Maine island. As part of a marketing stunt, the creators of the game “Cards Against Humanity” bought uninhabited 6-acre Birch Island, located in Liberty’s Lake St. George, for about $200,000. They renamed it Hawaii 2, then sold $15 “mystery packages” that contained special licenses. Each mystery package purchaser may now lay claim to one square foot of the island, and may plant a flag, supplied by the company, on it. One dollar from every $15 purchase went to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which promotes openness and transparency in government. Property owners on Hawaii 2 can do “whatever they wish” with the land, according to a story in the Portland Press Herald
, but must follow local and state laws. “You may name your square foot of land. You may use the entire private island for passive, non-commercial, non-motorized recreational activities,” the certificate reads. Also, “You may tell people at parties that you own part of a private island.” In the letter to participants, Cards Against Humanity said their reasons for purchasing the island were: “1) Because it was funny, and 2) so we could give you a small piece of it. Also, 3) we’re preserving a pristine bit of American wilderness.”
Colonel Joe Fessenden, who began his career in the Maine Marine Patrol in 1975, retired in January after 40 years enforcing Maine’s marine resources laws. His replacement is Major Jon Cornish, a 30-year veteran of the Marine Patrol who has served as Deputy Chief since 2013.
The Nova Star ferry, which offered service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, last summer, will return this year. The Portland Press Herald
reported that Nova Star is receiving $13 million (Canadian) from Nova Scotia’s provincial government, provided Maine comes through with its own $5 million line of credit. If all goes as planned, the ferry’s second season will run from June 1 to Oct. 14. Nova Scotia spent a total of $28.5 million (Canadian) on Nova Star for its first year, $21 million of which was originally supposed to be disbursed over a seven-year period, according to the Press Herald
Stricter oversight of bottled propane transport has upset ferry operators along the coast and some island businesses, according to Mainebiz
. In November, U.S. Coast Guard officials ordered vessels in the Maine State Ferry Service to stop transporting passengers or cars at the same time as propane. Instead, the Coast Guard said that propane carried in bulk would have to be transported separately, either on a private vessel or by privately contracting with the ferry to run at off-hours. Island residents rely on propane as fuel to run stoves, furnaces, and water heaters. North Haven and Swan’s Island officials asked Maine’s congressional delegation for help. In the meantime the Coast Guard granted a temporary partial solution, maintaining a buffer zone around propane trucks on ferries and limiting passengers to the number of seats available in the cabin.
Anew geographical and historical interpretation of Maine from the end of the last Ice Age to the year 2000 culminates a 15-year scholarly project led by University of Maine researchers.
The Historical Atlas of Maine
, edited by UMaine Historian Richard Judd and UMaine geographer Stephen Hornsby with cartography by Michael Hermann, was published by University of Maine Press. The 208-page, coffee-table sized atlas features 76 two-page plates with a rich array of original maps, charts and other images—historical maps, paintings, and photos—in addition to its text. The result is a unique interpretation of Maine, a gorgeously rich visual record of the state’s history, and a major achievement in humanities research.
Speaking of good new books, MBH&H
Contributing Editor Nancy Harmon Jenkins of Camden, Maine, and Cortona, Italy, has written one about olive oil. The respected author and historian spent years researching her topic, even harvesting her own olives. The result, Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil
, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 2015), includes great recipes as well as history and tips, such as what to look for in good oil.
Undeterred by this winter’s snow and frigid temperatures, NOAA’s research vessel the Ferdinand R. Hassler
has been pinging away off the southern Maine coast with multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonar gathering data to update local nautical charts. It’s the first time many of these areas have been so thoroughly mapped, and the Hassler
’s sonar has found previously uncharted rocks and other features on the ocean bottom. NOAA plans to conduct a similar survey in the western part of Penobscot Bay in 2016, and in 2017 will survey the western portion of Casco Bay, which includes the shipping lanes into Portland.
A New York-based artist has become an unlikely source of revenue for a lot of Maine lobstermen, according to a report on Maine Public Radio. Internationally renowned sculptor Orly Genger makes massive works of art using rope. Her latest project is a monumental sculpture to be installed in South Korea next year, utilizing more than 3 million feet of rope. She sent an agent to Maine and the rest of New England last fall to buy 200,000 pounds of rope, at 50 cents a pound. That was thrilling news to lobster fishermen, who are delighted to be paid for outdated and worn out trap lines. Genger has been working with lobster rope for a few years now. This sculpture is her biggest ever.
The 156-foot Massachusetts-based schooner the Ernestina-Morrissey
is coming to Maine’s Boothbay Harbor Shipyard for a $6 million rebuild. The work will allow the 120-year-old schooner, a National Historic Landmark and Massachusetts’ official tall ship, to sail for the first time since 2004. The Ernestina was built at the James & Tarr shipyard in Essex, Massachusetts, in 1894.
, the massive hi-tech ocean racer built last year by Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay, headed Down Under last fall to make its debut in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Despite a strong start, Comanche
was second across the finish line behind Wild Oats XI. The maxi-racer, which belongs to Internet entrepreneur Jim Clark and his wife, Kristy Hinze, was headed off at press time to the Caribbean to compete in Les Voiles de St. Barth.
This past winter has been cold and snowy. How cold? How snowy? By February’s end, Bangor had received more than 117 inches of snow since the first storm in November—64 inches of that fell in just 31 days, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News
. Meanwhile, the average temperature for February in Bangor was 6.1 degrees. The cold has meant ice—a lot of it. At one point in February, Rockport Harbor froze hard enough for a man to walk out and check on his lobsterboat, which was taking on water. According to an article on the Penbscot Bay Pilot
website, fisherman Danny Dodge and his sternman Tyler Philbrook walked across the ice, while sliding a small skiff in case they went through, to pump out his ice-bound boat, LaBoat
, and install a new battery in the bilge pump.
Yet despite the cold, and the back-to-back storms, Penobscot Bay had not frozen over, which happened fairly often in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1918, Albert Gray of Harborside was the first person ever to drive across the ice when he traveled from Harborside to Belfast in his Ford Pathfinder, according to a report at the time in the BDN
“After finding 10 to 14 inches of good ice, we opened her up and let her go for Turtle Head Islesboro, and then to the Belfast Bay,” Gray said. “We did a little more scouting and found the ice six inches thick. Then it was ‘plain sailing and no dust’ to Belfast. There were no traffic cops and no speed limit, and it was one joy ride in.”
Later that winter, Gray was not so lucky. While driving off the eastern shore of Islesboro, his car fell through the ice and sank in about 20 feet of water. Luckily, according to a contemporary article, the car sank so slowly that he was able to attach a tow line to it, and recover it the next day.
The last time the bay froze over, according to the BDN
, was 1971 when Coast Guard vessels were summoned to free coastal tankers, tugboats and fishing boats trapped in the ice.
And finally, did you—like us—have trouble finding kale seeds last spring? Apparently Mainers, like the rest of the country, are going crazy for kale. Newly released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census noted an 87 percent increase in Maine farm acreage devoted to growing kale since 2007. According to a report in The Quoddy Tides
, 85 farms are now growing the “It” vegetable on a total of 16 acres. The census also recorded 977 new farms since 2002, bringing the state’s total to 8,174. The number of farmers under 35 years old increased by 40 percent. Maine leads New England with 1.4 million acres of land in farming.