By Sheila Dassatt
As I pondered over what to write about, it occurred to me that 1972 was Fifty years ago! My goodness, some of you that are reading this weren’t even born yet, but there are some of us that think that 1972 was just yesterday! Let’s see what we can do with this era and tie it into a nautical theme as well.
Well, going over website research, in my own family, the boat shop was established in that year, 1972. My brother, Glenn and my Dad, Corliss decided to finish a Repco hull in a temporary building on the folk’s front lawn. This was project number one, and it went to Dickie Carver of Owl’s Head, Maine. Glenn was just finishing up his duty in the Coast Guard on Manana Island, off Monhegan as one of the last of the light house keepers. He and Cathy were newlyweds at this time and had all of this to figure out in life. Again, the wonder years, “I wonder if this is going to work?” Planning their future.
I was just starting my senior year of high school and wasn’t all that interested in boat building at that time. I just wanted to get in that last year of high school and figure out my future, which included a 1968 Camaro Convertible at the time! I tell my grandchildren that I was “cool” once! Of course this all included bell bottom jeans as well. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the big group of the day and everyone was in love with the Carpenters, “We’ve Only Just Begun” which was the theme for many class odes.
The Vietnam war was still going on and the country was also in a fuel crunch at the time. There was still a draft and most of the young men graduating high school weren’t quite sure what their future was going to entail. The future for the young folks was exactly that, “I wonder where I will be ending up when I’m out of school?” Much different times.
In 1972, most of the lobster boats were sleek, wooden boats mostly powered with automobile engines. A lot of these boats were no longer than 35 feet at the most and powered with Mopar engines or Oldsmobile and Lincoln gas engines. There were very few diesel engines during the day. Most of the diesel engines were in the very large fishing boats or lobster smack boats. I can remember seeing a lot of spray hood boats too, meaning the trunk of the boat was made with heavy canvas and painted to weatherproof it. It was mostly just to keep you out of the weather and a little added protection.
The traps were also made of wood and the ballast for the traps involved bricks and a soaking time for the wood. A large gang of traps was probably 200 to 400 at the most. Bait was more available, due to the fact that we still had sardine factories along the coast. A lot of fishermen, us included, got our bait at the factories and just needed to pay for the salt. What a concept!
This was also the transition of wooden boats to fiberglass boats, which was a big change for most of the local wooden boat building shops. I was told that my Dad said to Philo Dyer, an acclaimed boat builder on Vinalhaven: “You’re building that boat all wrong! You’re supposed to paint it first! You see, with a wooden boat, they are built from the inside out and you paint them last. With a fiberglass boat, you build them from the outside in and paint them first!” Of course, he wouldn’t say anything to get him wound up, but it worked!
As time went on, Glenn got together with Royal Lowell and designed a new hull, which started out as a 30 foot hull with a wooden built deck and top units. This all worked well until the shop that was laying up the hulls burned to the ground. This included the mold for the hull as well as the loss for the shop. Dad and Glenn tried to have a decent outlook about it and brought them sticks and marshmallows! No point in crying and time to start over again. So from that point on, the 32 foot hull and deck unit was created in 1978. The lamination was now done in Belfast at the shop. Thus, from there, the Red Baron was born!
This was also the beginning of the Boat Racing Heyday, with the Red Baron being named after the German flying ace Manfred von Richtofen and the Young Brother’s vessel, the Sopwith Camel, named for a British World War I biplane. This was all created with the Charles Schultz cartoon, Snoopy and the Red Baron theme.
So let the fun begin, and it was probably the best times of our lives…my Mom and “us girls” would pack up the food and the kids and meet them wherever the race was scheduled to be. Usually, the first race was always Jonesport, for the 4th of July and racing also against Benny Beal with Benny’s Bitch. Merle Beal and the Silver Dollar was also a well known contender. I can’t leave out Andy Gove and the Love Boat at that time, then years later it was Uncle’s UFO. Sid Eaton with Li’l Jan and Wes Shute with Daydreamer also were part of the Heyday.
Moving forward in time, still in they Heyday, this was one of our favorite stories:
Dad was in his race with my husband, Mike as his sternman. They were getting near the finish line when they crossed the wake of a boat crossing over the finish line to go into Conary’s Dock. This sent the Baron into a spin…..”Mike dove for the kill switch to avoid hitting a scow and landed on my father” according to Glenn. “The first thing Dad said to Mike was “Get off my lap!” Mike asked him, “Did you get hurt?” and Dad said “Don’t worry about that, did we win the race?” We did, but we went over the finish line on the side of the boat, said Glenn. Anyone that was there that year remembers it well.
Some of you may have heard some of these stories before, but with the Lobster Boat Racing season coming up, it gives a good foundation for a good season. These particular boats are long retired, but the memories and the stories live on. I just hope that this season makes as many happy memories for the racers of this day, 2022! Good luck and stay safe!