SEARSPORT – Being a lover of classic wooden lobster boats, especially those built on Beals Island, no one was surprised when I purchased one. Most boaters love the wooden boat, but they would never own one. They point to the fact that they need a lot more regular maintenance than a fiberglass boat would.
There are a number of people from Beals Island and Jonesport who remember the lobster boat CINDY JEN and her second owner Reggie Alley. CINDY JEN was built by Clinton Beal of Beals Island in 1964. Those who worked on her while she was under construction were Clinton Beal, Willis Beal, Lessie Merchant and Enos Wright. She was built for Phil Alley of Jonesport and was originally named BERNADETTE & GERALDINE. She spent the first part of her life at Isle au Haut until she was purchased by Reggie in the late 70s or early 80s. Reggie fished her out of Jonesport until the late 90s when she was sold to Cameron Crawford, who was just starting his lobstering career while in high school. He outgrew the boat and she was donated to a non-profit, who sold her to an owner from Boothbay. He had her rebuilt from the bulkhead back, used her a couple of years and then donated her back to the non-profit, from whom I purchased her.
This spring, I quarantined at Royal River Boat Yard in Yarmouth getting her ready for the water. Sanded the topsides and gave them a new coat of paint; painted the bottom, touched up the beige around the cockpit and put on the zincs. While there I met a few of the other boat owners and had some interesting conversations.
When I picked up the boat in Boothbay in 2018 her first cruise was to Harpswell and it was a perfect two-hour run with no problems. However not long after she developed an issue that would cause her engine to quit. If you waited a few minutes she would fire back up. On a trip from Portland to Kittery she probably shut down about five times. Over the three years several people looked at and found various issues, but the problem always resurfaced.
Just before the Rockland races this year I brought her up from Harpswell to Rockland and only had a slight problem off Owl’s Head. Refueled her, did a short sea trial, and the problem seemed to by gone. Following the races I headed for Searsport and just above Camden she shut down three times and I had a hard time re-firing her the last time. Fortunately, Travis Otis on FIRST TEAM was following me and took her in tow. Over the course of a couple of weeks he and his father Keith rebuilt the carburetor, added a new fuel pump, changed the fuel filters and part of the fuel line. We would take her out on trial runs and there was no question she was running a lot smoother, but at times she still would shut down. However, she always refired and each time she would go longer without having an issue. The final consensus they made was that she had not been used much the past two years and the gas was a problem. Fortunately, Winterport has ethanol free gasoline and that seems to have solved the problem. So, with just three days before the Friendship races one more sea trial at high speed. No problem with her shutting down, but we noticed that her bilge pump was coming on frequently. Up came the hatches in the platform and there was a good leak under one of the floor timbers right over the propeller. Fortunately, the tide was up and we grounded her on the Searsport Town ramp and waited for the tide to go out. About 2200 Travis and I was under the boat putting caulking into a seam. At high tide he found that the leak was gone so he moved her to the dock. We later grounded her out again and added a copper patch over the re-caulked section since it was right over the propeller. We did not want any surprises.
When I got up Saturday morning in hopes of making the run to Friendship it did not look promising as there was plenty of fog up-river and that could only mean that there was a lot more out on Penobscot Bay. I made it to the Town dock in Searsport and the fog was lifted around the dock, but the Bay was still thick and the thought was that it would not lift. Without radar the decision was made not to go. With a little time we decided to do another sea trial. She started right up and off we went across the harbor and made several runs from Mack’s Point over to Moose Point and back. After 40 minutes, she died. I waited a couple of minutes and she started right up. I headed her for the dock and on the 15-minute run she ran fine. Once docked Travis checked the big fuel filter and found that it had picked up a small amount of debris as did the fuel filter going into the carburetor. When putting the filter back into the carburetor Travis found that the threads were stripped. This was not good. It was Saturday afternoon and only a few possibilities to rectify this problem. We tried calling anyone we thought who might have or know someone that would have a new carburetor, but no luck. Travis tried several things to see if he could get the fitting to hold in place, but none worked so the last option was JB Weld and after waiting for it to set up we turned the key and the problem was solved. Now it was Friendship or bust Sunday morning.
Needing to be in Friendship at 0800 for sign-ups I drove down and Ed Upham brought the boat down for me. He said that she only sputtered once, but otherwise no problem. Following the races Ann and I jumped in and off we went for Searsport. She died a couple of times in the islands before Port Clyde, but after that she ran perfectly all the way to Searsport.
Maybe I am in the minority, but I enjoy working on great old wooden boats like CINDY JEN, despite the issues. I think the more she is used the less problems I will have. She is now 56 years old and I am hoping she can go another 56 years.