BELFAST – Those who have wandered around the Belfast waterfront will see tied to a float in the harbor this off-green coloured lobster boat. For those that have followed lobster boat racing for a lot of years will remember way, way back TWIGGINS, which is a Holland 32 powered with a big Ford engine. Some might even remember how well she did on the racing circuit in the 1980s and ‘90s. Others might remember that this owner was once the lay-up person for Holland Boat Shop in Belfast and gained the reputation as one of the top fiberglass people in the state. Of course, this person is Wayne Canning of Belfast.
Wayne grew up on a farm on the east side of Swan Lake in Swanville. With the farm right on the shore of the lake, they had a small boat and that was Wayne’s first introduction to boating. She was a fiberglass runabout, which he believes was built by Ken-Way. He added, “I dabbled with that. I got it so I could use it. I would go fishing and stuff with it. Later my brother Greg and I got one of them hydroplanes. It did not take much power to get that to go around the Lake. That was kind of fun. Could not use it for much of anything else though.”
After graduating from Belfast High School in 1965 Wayne headed off to college. First, he attended the University of Maine at Orono. “I wanted to be an automotive engineer,” said Wayne. “Well, money and I was trying to commute and I was trying to work a job so that became difficult after a year. It was too much of struggle so then I transferred what credits I could to Beal College.”
At Beal College he studied computer programming and business management.
Wayne was introduced to lobster fishing when he was still in high school going out with his father who occasionally went fishing with Vern Gray. Wayne added, “Vern Gray was out of Searsport, but he came from the same neighborhood. So my father used to go with him and dig clams. They asked me if I wanted to go digging clams so I went and I went out lobstering fishing with Vern some, not much.”
Vern’s boat was GOLDEN FALCON, which was a big pleasure boat. Wayne said, “You steered it from mid-ships, twin steering stations. It was kind of a different critter but he had it rigged up for scallops too. Actually, Vernon’s profession was a welder, real good welder, but you know how people don’t always stay with a job that they can do the best sometimes. I don’t know what the boat was, it was a big ark and oh geez, it was awful rolly. Then I met up with David Black. I worked in the garage in Belfast while I was going to college and David lived right there just below the hospital. He was lobster fishing out of a 12-foot aluminum boat, hauling by hand and he wanted to know if I wanted to go with him. A few weeks later, I had my license and then I went and got me an 18 or 19-foot plywood boat and there I was out there hauling by hand.”
Wayne’s father would go with him when he could. Wayne said, “At the time he was driving a school bus for Belfast and he had the farm going. He had enough going on, but took a liking to it. Then a Novi boat came along. Bill Polk down in Rockland had it all rigged up, it was 33-foot Cape Island. So, Dave Black and I went down and looked at it. The guy had it in his door yard, and he was stripping all the paint off it. He re-painted her and it was looking pretty dang good. Had a winch, scallop drags and I said, ‘Jeezum, that is a lot of friggin’ money,’ because you know, here I am, a young fella with no money or very much, but I was able to go to the bank and they would finance half of it for me. I came up with the other half somehow and I said, man this is quite a risk but I knew where there were scallops out here that year. Dave Black was working for Central Maine Power doing some research around Sears Island. I used to go with them once in a while so I knew there was some scallops there. I got through the end of the season and that boat was all mine.”
A couple of years later Wayne was back there scalloping. He explained, “I had to start trying to find another spot to hit them to get a day’s paycheck.” What he hit was a massive amount of large razor clam shells that instantly filled his drag. It is thought that this could have been a shell heap left by the Indians. Unfortunately the bigger boats from the west’ard come up and cleaned up the scallops and Wayne decided to stop scalloping.
Wayne continued lobster fishing with just a handful of other fishermen out of Belfast. He would fish all the way down to Lincolnville on both sides of West Penobscot Bay. He also went down the eastern side of Islesboro. He started with 300 traps, but over the years would increase to the now 800 trap limit. Now he has dropped back some. He said, “I decided the way I was fishing, 800 put me in a too long of a day if I could even get it done. You get some bad weather days in the fall and your traps are sitting there with no bait, no good. You might as well leave some traps in the door yard with no bait and take good care of the ones you have got fishing. That is what works the best. Sometimes it takes a while to figure this stuff out. Some guys go out there and they just pile the gear but they never move it to any other place hardly. That is not fishing, to me it is not. I like moving the gear when it is necessary.”
“I had trouble over on Islesboro,” said Wayne. “They got me for 25 traps one time. I even had trouble over in Stockton. I was spreading out, building traps and going. We had some discussions, more than once. They finally figured out that I was going to be alright and left me alone, but it took a little while.”
People who work around a farm are very good at fixing things and Wayne was no exception. He worked at Doug & Ray’s Sunoco in Belfast when he was in high school and going to college. This evolved into car racing. “I did oval track for a while, Unity and Wiscasset,” said Wayne. “We were quite young and that was when it was good. That is the time to do it. Wayne Hamilton dragged cars. He had a Nova. I had Mopar, I had a 340 Duster that I dragged with. I liked drag racing better. Wayne Paul, his father Harrison owned the Chrysler dealership, a Dodge dealership, C. A. Paul’s they called it. Wayne Paul, Wayne Hamilton and I are all the same age. Wayne Paul was racing a Barracuda. They helped me out a lot there. Used to race for Chrysler Corporation so I used to go all over the place, they showed me a lot let me tell you. That probably went on for 5 or 6 years. You go on to other endeavors and the next thing you know there isn’t time or money to do racing.”
In the early 1980s Wayne had Holland Boat Shop lay him up a Holland 32 and then he finished it off. He said, “I worked down there with Glenn. I helped layup some of them small projects, maybe even on a 32. I wanted to build a building to build boats. I enjoy doing it and that is all I thought I was going to end up doing. So, I built the front part of this building first in 1985. That is when Glenn said I am having a plug built for a 38, do you think you could fair that plug up and everything? She was a bare shell with some core which was good and the keel was done in plywood. It sat right out here for about 10 friggin’ months. By the time we got that faired out and glassed, whoa get both sides the same, that was a lot of work. Out there is where that 38 (Holland) mould lived for a long time, 85 hulls out of there. Out here I did the deck units and the 32 (Holland) hull mould was on that side. I did some Otis 42s out here and I did some Jim Beal 31s. I enjoyed it. I miss it.”
His boatbuilding career was cut short due to heart issues in 1999. He added, “Am but not as bad as it was. I have lost some weight. I try to walk more, eat a little different. You have to learn to like apples. I think about doing it again every day.”
If you hung around the Hollands, and racing was already in your blood, you might just try lobster boat racing and Wayne did. “I was still dabbling with cars for other people, said Wayne. “I went to the lobster boat races and watched them. My first race was Stonington. Matter of fact, the sawdust was still right around the engine box, and I won the race. I won the World’s Fastest in ’84 with the same boat, not with the same engine exactly, it was a 460.”
This was his first 32, which was a solid glass hull with a 460 Ford engine in her. He sold her to get the money to build the boat shop. So, for a few years he was without a boat and was not even lobstering, which he did not like. In 1988 he built another 32, which is the boat Wayne still uses today. Here is a boat that is 32 years old and still in remarkable shape. Wayne keeps her looking almost new. She is in the back bay of his building with the engine out and getting a going over in Bangor. Wayne is cleaning her up and doing a little painting where needed. He is hoping to be over soon, but has not heard if the engine is done.
Wayne also serves on the Zone D Lobster Council for the state. “Twelve years,” said Wayne. “I am on my 12th year and probably due for re-vote. I spend a lot of time on that. I go to Augusta when it is needed. I might spend the day over there talking with Sarah or the Commissioner or both or Meredith.”
When asked how the lobster fishery was doing he responded, “I don’t think it is going too bad. I think we could be a little more conservative for the future. I am always concerned about the future whether it is the fishing or anything. Personally, I would like to see less effort, you can catch the same amount of poundage with fewer traps and leave more product on the bottom. It is going to take a while for that to happen though. We have had three gauge increases since I started and every time I said, “Here I go, I am going to be out of business.” I mean I was right there with the rest of them and half panicked. That is another reason why I decided to do the boats, because the fisheries may not be there forever. I am concerned about the fisheries to some degree. If we have got global warming which I think we do it could affect the lobster industry. I think we ought to pay attention to how the Canadians are operating. We aren’t giving the lobsters any break.”