Jonathan Nunan’s new Calvin 42 BELLA MARIE during sea trials off South Bristol.

SOUTH BRISTOL – There are not many occasions when two family members are having a boat built at the same time. Last summer when doing boat yard news at Farrin’s Boat Shop in Walpole, I learned that a father and son from Cape Porpoise would each be having a lobster boat built by them over the winter. As the winter progressed so did these two boats with the plan of launching them both at the same time. Unfortunately that did not happen as the first hit the water at Gamage’s Shipyard in South Bristol on 1 May and the other on 9 May.

        The first over was Jonathan Nunan’s Calvin Beal 42. This is not the first time that Jonathan has come to Farrin’s for a boat. When he started fishing in high school he came to them for a Rough Water 18. When the skiff got too small he came down and talked with Bruce Farrin, Sr. about used boats and Bruce knew that there was a Holland 32 owned by Sheldon Burnham available in Boothbay. He used this boat for a while and then obtained a Federal Permit and now he needed something bigger as he was now going quite a distance offshore. It was back to the Farrin’s and they steered him to a Calvin Beal 36 out on Vinalhaven. Bruce Farrin, Jr. and he went out to Vinalhaven and looked the boat over and Jonathan bought it. This time he wanted to go new with a Calvin Beal 38 and he said, “Well, I kind of just fell into the 42. I was supposed to have a 38 and something happened in the planning and they didn’t get the 38 made in time. I already had the spot in the shop and it just so happened a 42 was coming out of the mould a week later, so I talked to Bruce and figured out how much extra it might be to get the 42. It was a once in a lifetime upgrade. So, yeah I lucked into this boat.”

        Jonathan did want some upgrades to make life a little easier and a little safer. He added, “When I first bought the 36, I started to fish offshore at a good distance so I put a trap rack on. That allowed me to shift gear in rougher weather. I didn’t have a split wheelhouse, I just had a winter back so for comfort I knew I wanted a split wheelhouse. I wanted under deck tanks put in to settle me down when it is rough and carry an overflow of lobsters. Then just pretty much beefed up, you know everything times ten bigger. I wanted bigger hauler, more power, stronger davit. The one on the 36 I had bent and had to have it straightened out and welded a couple of times. I had all these ideas, and I sat up here with Bruce Sr., wrote it all out and then they built it.”

        Down below there is a V-berth and an inverter. Another addition is a reflex stove down forward. Jonathan explained, “We don’t have any place to tie up for shore power and the boat is raw water so I wanted to keep it warm, so it didn’t freeze up or have to pickle it all the time.”

        Up in the shelter there is a small galley for the coffee maker and microwave.

        This boat is powered with a D13 700-hp Volvo. He was going to go with a Caterpillar, but it was too tall for the boat, which meant that it was going to have a large engine hatch. He said, “That is one thing that I had on the 36 was a massive engine box I had to step over or walk around and I knew that was one thing I didn’t want.”

        After a brief launching ceremony and the smashing of the bottle on the bow BELLA MARIE hit the water. Once everything was checked out she left the dock and sea trials were run. With that completed and everything working fine, Jonathan was given the okay by the engine company and the Farrin’s to head home and off for Cape Porpoise he sailed.

        When asked how she performed he explained, “I put Humphrey interceptor trim tabs on, as a lot of guys have been raving about them, especially if you have a load of traps on, as you can get that boat to plane right. So I have been messing with them a little bit, I just had it on auto so cruising out without any load, no traps or anything I was getting, cruising at 65% load at 17 knots. I put a stack of traps on, not a huge load but 40 traps, five drums of baits, and the tank was full of water and trimmed her out and I was doing 55% load at 16 knots. Motor was not running as hard and I am still at the same cruise speed, so that made a huge difference. I was very pleased with that. I was burning 19 gallons an hour which is not too bad.”

        For a top speed Jonathan said he can go 24.5 in the corner. Before his father’s boat hit the water a bet was placed as to who would have the faster boat.

        Eight days later it was back to Gamage’s Shipyard in South Bristol and the launch of Richard “Yogi” Nunan’s new lobster boat, which is a Calvin Beal 38, named PRINCESS AND ANGEL.

        Yogi said, “My last three boats were Beal boats and I just stayed with the family.      I have had 32 Mitchell Cove and a 35 Mitchell Cove, which were designed by Calvin Beal so then I went with this 38.   Just like the look of it and I wanted something a little bit bigger.”

        The only real difference between the two boats is the four feet in length. PRINCESS AND ANGEL also has a split wheelhouse, powered with the same Volvo engine and sports the same trim tabs.

        After another brief launching ceremony and the smashing of the bottle on the bow PRINCESS AND ANGEL was lowered into the water. There was a small leak around the port trim tab, but that was soon rectified. Once everything else was checked out it was out to get the sea trials done. While on the first run the serpentine belt let go (probably a faulty belt) and it was back to the dock. Fortunately there was another one over in New Harbor and PRINCESS AND ANGEL was back up and running in about an hour. After the sea trials it was learned her best speed was 24, so it looked like Jonathan was going to win the bet. However, after a little tinkering she was later clocked at 25.3 knots.

        No matter who wins the bet they both were more than pleased with their new boats and the crew at Farrin’s which finished them off.

        For those that know a little bit of their commercial fishing history they have probably heard of the Nunan fleet out of Cape Porpoise. They go back four generations from Yogi and began their fishing career with the information I have out of Rockport, MA. When fish began getting scarce they moved their operation to Cape Porpoise to be close to them.

        Charles is the first of the family, who came over from Ireland. One of his sons was Capt. Richard Nunan and that is who Yogi is named for. One of Richard’s sons was George, who also had a son named George.

        Yogi’s grandfather was George Washington Nunan, who started as a schooner fisherman and retired lobstering. The switch from grounding fish to lobster occurred during the depression when groundfishing was not profitable enough to survive on. In 1953 he would open the family restaurant in Cape Porpoise. He began this by selling lobsters, which then evolved into adding a cooker. Over the years they would bring in buildings to add the needed room and in the end they had cobbled together six buildings to create the restaurant.

        Yogi’s father was Clayton, who was also a lobsterman. He fished out of a Novi boat and when his father passed away the restaurant was turned over to him and his wife. Yogi added, “It is a necessary evil, but it works well with catching your own lobsters and marketing your own stuff.”

        When his parents passed the restaurant went to him and his brother Keith, who have operated it ever since.

The Nunan Fleet

        The schooner CARRIE E. NUNAN (#5727; 30 tons) was listed as homeported at Cape Porpoise in the MVUS (List of Merchant Vessels of the United States) from 1870 to 1878.

        The schooner ELIZABETH E. NUNAN was built by Hodgdon Brothers of East Boothbay in 1908. Capt. Herbert Thompson was her master in 1921. On 2 January 1923 she arrived with 18,000 pounds mixed fish.

        The schooner ESTELLE S. NUNAN (#135622; 34.89 tons; 58.5 x 17.5 x 6.4) was built by Caleb and J. P. Hodgdon of East Boothbay in 1882. She was sailed out of Rockport, MA between the years 1885 to 1900.

        The schooner MILDRED V. NUNAN was built by Hodgdon Brothers of East Boothbay in 1903. She was lost 26 February in 1912. Keith Nunan, Yogi’s younger brother told the story, saying, “They were coming back from Boston and they were putting into the Cape and I guess the Captain went into his bunk and to take a nap, saying ‘wake me up when you see the Goat Island Light and then we will swing in,’ well they wanted the Captain to have a night’s sleep, bring her in and wake him up. Well, what they thought was Goat Island Light was a house on Ocean Avenue, now that is why it’s called Mildred’s Cove.”

        The schooner RICHARD J. NUNAN was built by Hodgdon Brothers of East Boothbay in 1904. There are several references to her catches over the years: one is 12,000 pounds, 28 December 1922. She was under command of Capt. Fred Bickford who was forced to leave Caches and run for it. He lost seven tubs of trawl valued at $16 apiece. Fortunately his next trip broke all records for a day’s set when he came in with 35,000 pounds of ground fish. This meant NUNAN stocked $1,175 and each member of the crew shared $47 for his day’s work. Over the years she had several owners. Unfortunately in February 1953 her stern opened up and she went down 15 miles east of the Isles of Shoals. Capt. Paul J. Aiello and Salvatore Loiacano were able to get into a dory and they rowed for six hours landing on Appledore Island.

        The schooner SADIE M. NUNAN was built by C. F. and W. A. Hodgdon of East Boothbay in 1901. Her first master was Capt. Frank Nunan and on her maiden voyage arrived with 70,000 pounds at T-Wharf in Boston. In 1903 she grounded entering Cape Porpoise and nearly became a total loss. Twenty year old Burleigh Hutchings, of Cape Porpoise, went astray from schooner SADIE M. NUNAN off Boon Island 6 February 1904 and was lost. She had a very successful career groundfishing and swordfishing. In 1908 Capt. Nunan left to take command of the new schooner ELIZABETH E. NUNAN. On her way from Boston to Gloucester she grounded on Norman’s Woe, but was easily floated off on the next high tide. In 1918 she was sold to Capt. Fred Bickford and under his command became a very successful swordfisher. Philip Manta purchased her in 1921. In 1938 she was sold to a person that planned to sail her on a world cruise, changed her name to EXPEDITION, but he went missing just before he was supposed to sail her away. A local lobster dealer took care of her for several years, but her cost was becoming too much to handle. In 1952 the sheriff sold her to the Gloucester Museum Corp., who wanted to make her into a museum. Unfortunate there was little interest in saving the vessel. When fire consumed the Gloucester Yacht Yard she was badly damaged and another group made an effort to save her, but again there was little interest in saving her and she was burned in 1958. Capt. Frank Nunan passed away on 8 February 1945 at the age of 73.

        The schooner SYLVIA M. NUNAN was built by Caleb and J. P. Hodgdon of East Boothbay in 1893. Her master was Capt. Richard J. Nunan when she was launched.

        Other vessels sailed by the Nunan family include the schooner HELEN F. TREDICK (#95514, 59.7 x 17.6 x 6.5), which was built at Portsmouth, NH in 1878. She began sailing out of Portsmouth, but later hailed from Cape Porpoise.

        In 1898 sailing out of Kennebunk was IRA KILBURN (49.3 x 16.6 x 5.9) built at Boothbay in 1864, master Fred W. Nunan; and THOMAS W. KNIGHT (73.4 x 21.3 x 7.6) built at Essex, MA in 1881, master G. W. Nunan. In 1903 IRA KILBURN was not registered at this port, but there were several Nunans as master of vessels hailing from Kennebunkport. Richard J. was in command of the auxiliary schooner boat DORCAS (53.4 x 18.0 x 6.6); Howard E., MILDRED V. NUNAN; Frank A., SADIE M. NUNAN; Richard J. SYLVIA M. NUNAN; and G. W., THOMAS W. KNIGHT. It is interesting to note that the following year the skippers remained the same, but Robert H. Wilde was the master of RICHARD J. NUNAN, which just arrived on the scene. In 1908 fishing out of Kennebunkport was Richard J. on DORCAS; Frank A., ELIZABETH W. NUNAN; Charles F. HIGHLAND BELLE; Howard E., MILDRED V. NUNAN; Frank A., SADIE M. NUNAN; and Richard J., SYLVIA M. NUNAN.

        Now one of the best stories I could find on the family occurred in Boston harbor on 9 January 1924. The schooner HORTENSE, owned by O’Hara Brothers of Boston with Capt. George Nunan as master, grounded on the Graves on her return from the fishing grounds. The blame for the grounding was placed on the lookout who failed to tell Capt. Nunan when he sighted Graves light. He hit the deck just before she struck the ledge, which she rode up on and rolled on her side. With water well over the rail they all felt the schooner was doomed. The keeper of the light gave the men shelter and provisions for the night. In the morning Capt. Nunan went to survey the wreck and found nothing there. When he looked out to sea there she was floating well off the island. The captain with three of his best men took to the dory and headed for the vessel realizing her salvage value if someone else got to her first. When they cleared the whistling buoy of Graves he noted that two tugs from the Boston Towboat Company were also on their way to the wayward schooner at top speed and now the race was on. The men rowed for all they were worth and the smoked poured from the tugs as they both neared the schooner. Just as the tug NEPTUNE neared the schooner Capt. Nunan jumped on board as the tug was backing to put a man and a line on her. He had won the race by a mere 50 feet. HORTENSE was towed to the fish pier in South Boston where she unloaded 10,000 pounds of fresh ground fish and was then taken to Simpson’s dry dock in East Boston where it was found she had suffered severe damage to her bottom.

        There was also a reference in “Atlantic Fisherman” for 1931 saying that Arthur W. Nunan operated one of the oldest chandleries in the State of Maine.

        What an incredible family history, but a lot more needs to be researched and documented to make sure we have as complete a history as possible.

Richard Nunan’s new Calvin 38 PRINCESS AND ANGEL during sea trials off South Bristol.

The schooner RICHARD J. NUNAN built by Hodgdon Brothers in 1904. Photo: Penobscot Marine Museum

Capt. Frank Nunan. Photo: Penobscot Marine Museum