BERNARD – At the end of the lobstering season you pull up your gear and put it on the hard. Then you haul your boat and put it in the shop to make some minor repairs and a give her a coat of paint so she is already for the next season. Well, the couple of weeks job did not go as planned. Just ask Wayne Rich who put his wooden 38-footer in David Schlaefer’s shop in Bernard and three months later she is just starting to go back together.
Wayne added, “About five or six years ago I noticed my wash rails were coming apart. They are cedar on oak and were nailed and of course the nails were letting go and the oak underneath was getting tired so everything was coming apart. I took some 3/8-inch bronze rods, threaded both sides and drilled through the coaming and the guard rail and squeeze everything back together and said, “Oh that will get me by.” It did for five or six years and then I noticed up by the bulkhead forward it was starting to come apart. You would hit a good wave and see it coming through. I have been working for everybody else, putting your own stuff off, but I knew this was the year.”
This is Wayne’s bread and butter boat and one he truly loves. Wayne added, “She was built for Nick Hyora in Chatham, Massachusetts. He was the original owner and I bought it from him. I am not sure if it started out for him, it may have been for Ray Noyes or Bob Griffin. This boat originally was named WILD WOOD. Chummy (Robert Rich) built it. Bobby (Chummy’s father) died in June of ’81 and this was launched in May of ’82. This was one of the first projects Chummy did on his own. Just after Colyn was born in 2001, we went and got it. Dad (Walter), Chum and I went, I think it was the day after Thanksgiving or the week after, because it was the 1st of December when we landed here so it would have been the last day. We drove down, spent the night got up five in the morning, wind howling and the owner was going to go with us to Portland but that morning he said, “I am not going.” He had us follow another fisherman out of Chatham harbor and he said just stay behind him and you will be all set and then just turn left. Once we got up past Provincetown it got really rough and by the time we got home, we knew we had a good boat.”
Once in the shop he removed the guard and toe rails, coamings and then began chasing the rotten wood. “I had to replace the wood behind the coamings,” continued Wayne, “Then I had to replace some more cedar on the wash rails, the main transom frame, both sides as the top corners were rotten. I had to cut that out and splice some new pieces in. Then I got the jack knife out and it got worse up by the port bulkhead so out came the whole side of the house. The water would come to this corner and run down the side. I have been into that about every five or six years and of course that was all gone. I said, “Well we have gone this far so I got the saw out and cut her right off at the windshield and took it to the dump. It weighed 625 pounds. What I have put back is going to be about the same amount of weight. Everything is glass panels. The roof is inch foam, glassed both sides and what I thought was just going to be a really good paint job has turned into quite a project. And thanks to David Schlaefer and Jon Thurston for their help doing some of the glass work.”
The washrails, upper corners of the transom, windshield and shelter are all done and now and Wayne is waiting for the windows. The only difference in appearance will be the window frames used to be wood and now they will have black frames. Wayne figures she will be good to go until he decides to retire as now the entire deck and shelter are glassed over.
Wayne, like most fishermen started in an outboard boat. However first he joined the Navy and worked on F14 Tom Cats. He said, “I was plane captain and metal smith, but I spent more time flight line and plane captain. Of the four years in the service I spent just 27 days at sea on four carriers: FORRESTAL, CORAL SEA, EISENHOWER and AMERICA. I was in VF-101 in Oceana, Virginia and they were a training squadron. We would just go out there and do touch and goes and that was it. We were out there to make sure nothing broke and do the inspections. When they were done you were out there watching the fish jump.
“I really enjoyed it. I really like the people I met and worked with. They will be lifelong friends. I have got two guys that I keep in touch with quite a lot, one especially. You don’t forget that. To me it was more like a job because I did not live on base, I had a townhouse that we rented so it was more like a job so I wasn’t overseas or anything like that. What they said out of school was you guys all should go to sea first and because usually if you go to shore base first, they say you don’t re-enlist and that was the case. I was in a huge squadron and I felt like I was a number. When it was time to re-enlist no one came knocking on my door to say hey, so I came home.”
When Wayne got home, he fished with his father and got seasick every day. He added, “Chummy was in the boat shop and dad was fishing. Dad was scalloping and lobstering and doing home boat repair, house carpenter and stuff when he wasn’t fishing. He built MY SHARE, which was a 37 Repco, and left the shop in ’81. When I came home, I worked with dad some and then I got a job for about a year and a half up to the Trenton Airport. Then Chum asked me to come to work with him doing boat transportation so I went and got my CDL license and drove a truck from ’92 to ’96 moving a lot of boats and working in the shop. In ’96 I got married and said I am not going to drive truck and be gone all the time so I bought a 36 Stanley from Wayne Davis. She was the MARGARET E. and then it became JACKIE’S DIAMOND and now she is over to Stonington. I think she is now CRAZY TRAIN. I went scalloping dragging with her for three or four years, but there weren’t enough scallops, you could not make a go of it. Then I worked for Chummy wintertime for many years. I have also worked for a local fuel company for two or three winters and David Gott’s & Sons driving truck for a couple of winters.
When asked about some of the old fishermen he remembered that fished out of Bass Harbor, Wayne said he was into sports and did not hang around the shops much. He remembered George Sawyer saying, “He had a wooden boat built in Stonington. Billings Diesel I believe built it. Chummy built him a 36 Newman fiberglass that his son now owns. George has now passed away. Some of the other guys I know would be Stan Wass and he had a Ronald Rich boat and then went to a South Shore 30 that was stretched to a 31 or 32 by David Schlaefer of Mitchell Cove Boats. Arthur Colbath had a 37 Repco; Earl Thurlow and he’s pushing 90 has a 35 Duffy. GAIL & DAVID. Ned Lawson, who I think just retired, had a 36 Stanley. Russell Lawson, who must be 88 or 89, has a 34-foot wooden boat Bobby Rich built in ’75.
Now many people along the coast know Wayne from lobster boat racing. When asked how he got into racing he explained, “I can remember as a kid taken a speed boat ride with mom and dad to Corea and having a picnic with the Young Brothers. My grandfather Bobby and the Young Brothers had things in common. I remember going to Winter Harbor and watching the races and seeing the CAMEL, and VOOP race. I remember watching the SILVER DOLLAR in Winter Harbor thinking, look at the at boat go, just sliding through the water as easy as it did it. We would always go to Winter Harbor or Stonington to watch the races and then the first time I went was Winter Harbor with that 36 Stanley in ’97. It was a 471 Detroit race and I was hooked after that!”
Most would remember when he first came with RICH RETURNS, which had a 315 Cummins and did 20 1/2 knots. Wayne said, “For many years Thurman Alley (MELANIE JEAN, a Willis Beal 38) handed me a handful and it was all I could do to see his transom at the end of the race. It was meeting guys like Stevie Carver, Stevie Johnson, Sid Eaton, my cousin Glen Crawford, just being with these guys, is so much fun. I am in David Schlaefer’s shop and he had CAPTAIN JACK. What I really like about it is the camaraderie of the people you meet from all up and down the coast. You meet some really good people, some really fun characters. I just enjoy it.”
Wayne still races RICH RETURNS at the Bass Harbor event, but his real race boat is WIDE OPEN, which has dominated Gasoline Class B since 2013. This 26-footer was built by Robert Rich in 1953 and is now powered with a 350 Chevrolet. The first year they owned her they put in sister ribs, which really meant rebuilding the hull. They then changed out her six cylinder after two years of racing and put in the 350. Wayne added, “The first time I saw it, Josh Lawson, right here in Bernard had it and that was the first boat he fished in. He sold it to Chummy and then Chummy was going to fix it up for his grandson, but he never went fishing. A local guy just used it for a pleasure boat. He used it for a while, but then things were coming apart and it sat on shore for a year or so. I said, “What are you going to do with that? I think I can make a race boat out of that so I bought it and put a slant 6 Chrysler in and raced it. The slant six Chrysler was forward of the bulkhead and she was nose heavy. So, I tore the engine out and when I was taking the engine out, I went to cut off one of the bolts and it looked like the beds were a little wobbly. I just reached down and pulled them out because they weren’t fastened to anything, they were all rusted and gone. Gravity was holding it in place. The 350 we put in aft of the bulkhead and I had to make steel hangers that are bolted into one of the stringers. I knew I wanted the weight back because I knew one of the ones that Chummy had built, built similar, that if you get going fast the torque would roll her on her side. I put a small spray rail, right at the bottom of the boot stripe, the whole length and we put her in and test drove her and I am still smiling!”
A few years ago, Wayne discovered that the top was rotten so he cut it off and put on a sprayhood. She looked like the classic lobster boat from the ‘40s and ‘50s, but on the trip down to Jonesport he and his son Colyn almost froze to death. The following year they got the trunk cabin and the windshield on, but no house. Again, they had some miserable runs to some of the races.
WIDE OPEN will take little time to get ready for this racing season. He thought using the wire brush on the starter and then just putting her over.
With his love of racing Wayne decided to start the Bass Harbor Lobster Boat Races in 2011. He decided not to charge an entry fee, no prizes for first, second and third (all the prizes go into a hat drawing) and have breakfast and lunch right at the town dock and it has been extremely successful. This year Wayne is stepping back and Colyn will be taking over with help from several others in town. Last year there were 77 boats that came to race and given a good day weather-wise they could easily best that.
As we head towards spring Wayne still has a lot to do to get RICH RETURNS ready for the water. He figures another month and a half and she will be ready for the water with the race boat to follow later in the spring. So if you are running by Bass Harbor by boat look for the black hull of RICH RETURNS and then if you came to the races you can watch the black hull of WIDE OPEN leading the rest of the gas boats to the finish line.