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On The Town Dock - Issue 136

Rowing shells, ties to the Arctic, a Whaler Rendezvous and more

Illustration by Ted Walsh
More than a shell game The playing fields at Waynflete School were filled with long skinny rowing shells on May 24, as 150 high school rowers from around the state converged on the site next to the Fore River in Portland for the seventh annual Maine Youth Rowing Championships, hosted by Waynflete. It was especially wonderful to see all the teenagers milling around their boats before and after the races with nary a cell phone in sight. Competing in fours and eights, the teams battled a howling headwind up the 1,500-meter course as hundreds of spectators lined the shore screaming encouragement into the wind. Rowing, whether in sturdy gigs on the harbor or in shells on rivers and lakes, has been growing in popularity. A group of midcoast rowers started Megunticook Rowing just six years ago in Camden and this was the team's first time at the youth rowing event. The club's five young rowers competed twice, winning both the B1 and B2 (varsity and jr. varsity) fours races; a four is a boat with four rowers and a coxswain. In southern Maine, Berwick Academy, which started its rowing program just three years ago, has seen the number of participants triple to as many as 60 youngsters this year. The Berwick girls won the G2, G3, and G4 fours races. Yarmouth Rowing, a club similar to Megunticook in that it draws rowers from several different schools, has been around for about a decade. The club posted a win in the girls varsity four. From small beginnings, big things come. Two graduates of these Maine junior rowing teams are now students at Bates College in Lewiston and row on the college's second varsity boat, which won its race at the NCAA national finals on May 30, helping Bates win the division III women's national rowing championship, the college's first national championship ever-in any sport. Helping propel the eight-woman second varsity boat were Emma Conover of Camden, who started rowing with the Megunticook Club, and Olivia Stockly of Cumberland, who rowed with Waynflete, and whose mother, C.C. Stockly is the head coach of that school's team. New owner for Camden yard Just as this issue was headed to the printer, we learned that Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Company had purchased Wayfarer Marine in Camden. Both yards have a rich, long history in their respective communities; Lyman-Morse in Thomaston and Wayfarer in Camden. The closing took place June 30. "With this purchase, Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer Marine will now have the advantage of the infrastructure, expertise, reputation, and culture of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding," Lyman Morse President Drew Lyman said. This is great news for Camden, where some had wondered in recent years if Wayfarer's prime waterfront was destined for condos instead of boatbuilding. Lyman-Morse was started by Cabot and Heidi Lyman in 1978 in the historic 100-year-old Morse Boatbuilding Yard. The company, which is now run by their son Drew, has a track record of innovation and high-quality work. Wayfarer's customers will benefit from access to Lyman-Morse's depth of expertise and resources including the company's fabrication and new technology divisions. Lyman-Morse and its customers will benefit from access to Camden Harbor, a top yachting destination. Boatbuilding has taken place on the Wayfarer Marine site since 1796. Wayfarer has 37 slips, 846 feet of dockage, and 47 moorings. The service yard is equipped with a 110-ton Travelift, 80-ton Brownell trailer, and nine climate-controlled work and paint bays. On to the Arctic Maine is positioning itself as a player in Arctic politics, which could increase opportunities for climate researchers and for businesses in the advanced materials, construction, marine transportation, green power, and logistics sectors. The Maine International Trade Center announced last month that Portland will host the Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials meeting Oct. 4-6, 2016. It's the first time a state in the contiguous United States has hosted a conference like this. The event is part of a high-level intergovernmental forum for promoting interaction among the Arctic states, Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, according to MITC. This is a really big deal for Maine. The Arctic group's members include Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States. There are also several observer nations, including China, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Portland was chosen after advocacy efforts by U.S. Senator Angus King, who recently partnered with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to form a caucus focusing on policy issues that impact the Arctic. King traveled a year ago to Barrow, Alaska, and sailed aboard a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine in the Arctic Ocean. As Arctic ice continues to melt because of climate change, far northern shipping lanes, including the Northwest Passage-a sea route along the northern coast of North America-may become more viable. Maine's geographic position at the northeast corner of the nation means ships that pass through the Arctic reach Maine ports first. Maine's interest in the Arctic was enhanced two years ago when the Icelandic shipping company, Eimskip, moved to Portland. Also, Maine Maritime Academy is now partnering with the University of Alaska at Anchorage to develop maritime ice navigation and first responder courses for application in the Arctic Ocean. Maine fishermen in the 1800s traveled to the Arctic to hunt whales and seals. Explorer Robert Peary, a graduate of Bowdoin College, claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909. In 1920, Hodgdon Brothers in East Boothbay built the Bowdoin, the only American schooner constructed specifically for Arctic exploration. Cars and people, yes; blood, no A late-April ruling by the Maine State Ferry Service meant ferry crews and captains could no longer transport blood samples drawn in island health care clinics. Apparently for some time island health clinics have been sending vials of blood drawn from island patients to the mainland in small coolers that were handed to ferry workers on the island side and then handed off to couriers on the mainland. Ferry Service Manager John Anders put a stop to the practice as soon as he learned about it last spring. Some captains and crew were uncomfortable with the practice, he told MBH&H. "Our crew members are not a courier service," he said. "They don't accept prescriptions, drugs, groceries, blood, or anything else. We transport people and vehicles. And passengers are responsible for transporting their own cargo." Health care workers on some of the islands were upset with the ferry service decision, saying the former transportation process was a great service for islanders whose health required frequent blood tests. The ferry service has agreed to investigate future options, but Anders was not optimistic about changing the regulations. In the meantime, the ferry service has offered free passage on ferries for couriers who are transporting blood, as a way to help the process along, he said. Bring back the sailing cargo carrier Back in the good old days, Maine island farmers shipped produce to big cities like Boston via water. Hoping to find a way to revive this productive ocean byway, a group of grassroots organizers calling themselves The Greenhorns has started an initiative called Maine Sail Freight. Maine Sail Freight hopes to launch an annual sail freight voyage engaging food producing partners, cargo delivery partners, educational organizations, and the public. The goal is to hold a series of educational events this summer and then to send a wind-powered boat from Portland to Boston carrying a cargo of Maine-grown and -processed food and fibers. The culmination of Sail Freight will be a design charette to solicit business plans to establish regular sail freight routes either within the state or to parts south. To learn more, visit Learning by doing There's nothing quite like building a small boat to teach some pretty complex science lessons. Students at Searsport District High School spent 18 weeks last winter and spring building two shellback dinghies with master boatbuilder Greg Rössel as part of a special class. The shellback dinghy is a small sailboat designed by Joel White. The students explored marine physics and engineering concepts, Newton's laws of motion, traditional and modern woodworking, chemical reactions, and navigation. Now in its fourth year, the program is a collaboration between the Penobscot Marine Museum and the high school and is held at the museum's Hamilton Learning Center. The finished boats are sold and the proceeds used to fund the next year's class. Rössel, who has been teaching boatbuilding at the WoodenBoat School for more than 20 years, had help from a number of volunteers, including Wayne Hamilton, the owner of Hamilton Marine, who taught the students navigation. The students traveled to Camden to work with sailmaker Grant Gambell. Other business backers of the program included Epifanes, Maine Coast Lumber, WoodenBoat Store, Chesapeake Light Craft, and George Kirby Jr. Paint Co. Small sailing ambassadors Back in 1780 when the French frigate L'Hermione first sailed across the Atlantic, she was carrying the Marquis de Lafayette and much-needed military assistance for America's fight for independence. When the replica L'Hermione started across the ocean this past spring, her cargo included a small, unmanned sailboat, which was launched off the Canary Islands. That small boat is part of a fleet organized by Maine-based Educational Passages, which has now launched 54 of these small craft. Self-steering and propelled by a small fixed sail, each of these 58-inch-long vessels carries a GPS unit that allows it to be tracked, as well as a small watertight compartment that contains mementos and instructions for finders. Educational Passages arranges for its boats to be adopted by schools whose students then track their progress. Some of the boats have travelled as far as 22,000 sea miles. In addition to the launch on the way over to this side of the ocean, L'Hermione's crew plans to launch another on the way back. We are proud to say that boat will include a copy of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine and an offer of a free subscription for whoever finds it first! So, sailors at sea, keep your eyes open for the prize.
Illustration by Ted Walsh
First a boatbuilder, now a movie star Long-time boatbuilder Ralph Stanley of Southwest Harbor, Maine, has been named a national treasure and been the subject of more than one book, but his most recent title is Movie Star. Maine filmmaker Jeff Dobbs has made Ralph Stanley: An Eye for Wood, a documentary film about the extraordinary life of the world-renowned Maine master boatbuilder. Stanley, the son of a lobsterman, grew up on Mt. Desert Island and began building wooden boats in the early 1950s. He has built more than 70 wooden boats including working lobsterboats, Friendship sloops, yachts, and rowboats. He is also known as a master storyteller, genealogist, and musician-in recent years he has built several fiddles for himself and for clients. We invited a friend several years ago to hear Ralph play his fiddle at the Penobscot Marine Museum. She was really exited to see such a famous musician play in such a small venue, which confused us since Ralph is more famous for his boats than his tunes. Turns out he shares a name with a well-known banjo-playing bluegrass star. We wonder: do people go to that Ralph's concerts expecting him to build boats? Mystery boat launching A few days short of the summer solstice, close to midnight on a moonless night at an unnamed harbor in an undisclosed location somewhere in downeast Maine, a 74-foot-long, state-of-the art, cold-molded sailboat was launched before a small crowd of anonymous well-wishers at a well-known boatyard. After she had settled on her lines on the quiet waters, a tall, bespectacled man, who was believed to be the owner, said a few complimentary words about the skill and dedication of the crew of shipwrights who had built the vessel, which is an example of workmanship at the very highest level. The above information is all we knew until we received our copy of the Ellsworth American and learned the rest of the story from reporter Stephen Rappaport who was at the launching. According to Rappaport, naval architect German Frere designed the hull and rig of the boat. California-based architect Frank Gehry, who is known for his curvy, metal-wrapped buildings, designed the boat's interior, along with other elements including intricate deadlights and skylights, according to the American. The newspaper also reported that the new yacht will eventually make its way to the west coast and Marina Del Ray in Santa Monica, California, where Gehry himself will have the chance to take it out sailing. The boat was built at Brooklin Boat Yard. Yard owner Steve White declined to discuss the project, which was kept hush-hush for its two-year duration. Who caught that fish on your plate? The Maine Coast Fishermen's Association in Port Clyde has won a $175,000 federal grant to develop a program that would let consumers know more about the fish they are about to purchase. The Fishermen's Association will work with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Hannaford Supermarkets to develop a system that tracks seafood from the boat, through the supply chain, and all the way to the grocery store. The goal is to eventually allow consumers to scan a tag at the store and see where and when the fish was caught, and maybe even learn the name of the person who caught it. Calling all Whalers We hear stories all the time from readers about the fun they had in their Boston Whaler when they were young. These tough versatile boats have been the ticket to ride for generations of teenagers and adults. So it's fitting that this summer, a Boston Whaler could be your ticket to the 13th annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show in Rockland, August 14-16. Among the new events at the show will be a three-day Boston Whaler Rendezvous. Enthusiasts and dealers from around the region are invited to trailer in their iconic boats, show them off, share their stories, and then celebrate at a special party on Saturday evening. Owners can display their Whaler (of any vintage) on show grounds during the weekend in exchange for weekend admission for up to four people and a free one-year subscription to this magazine. Also this year the show will include a special refit dock, featuring old yachts expertly made new again. Several iconic Maine vessels will visit during the show, including Maine Maritime Academy's historic schooner, Bowdoin, and the Maine Sea Coast Mission's vessel, Sunbeam V. Food trucks from around the region will gather for a food truck rally. The Hurricane Island Foundation Center For Science and Leadership has organized hands-on marine science activities for kids, and as always, the World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials will take place Sunday morning. For more information about the show, to sign up for the Whaler Rendezvous, or to purchase show tickets, visit

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