LONG ISLAND: The early forecast for the weekend for the last two lobster boat races of the year was a wet Friday with clearing for Saturday and Sunday. There was fog that only shut in around Owl’s Head Friday morning, but then opened up as we passed into the Mussel Ridges. Once we cleared the Mussel Ridge Channel the wind began to pick up as did the waves. We docked at Johnson’s Boat Yard on Long Island just after 1600 and headed for the ferry dock where there was quite a gathering for T-shirts and hoodies and a cookout.

In the morning we were back at the ferry dock for signups. Some of the racers that came from the east’ard that morning still found the wind and waves a factor. Randy Durkee of AUDREY MAY [Holland 32; 425-hp Cummins] said it was wild and added that he did his best to get in behind Jeff Eaton’s LA BELLA VITA [Northern Bay 38; 815-hp FPT] for a smoother ride and that helped a bit. Matt Shepard of ALEXSA ROSE [Morgan Bay 43; 750-hp John Deere] had a great post on Facebook showing what he went through to get there. When registration was closed, we had 41 racers entered. There were plenty of racers in the Work Boat (skiffs) Classes, but just three boats in two of the five Gasoline Classes and no entrants in four Diesel Classes so I combined several races to make it more interesting.

There was still a good breeze blowing from the sou’west and that was a small factor in the skiff races. Even though a few went airborne, fortunately, everyone stayed on their bottom. In the first races of the day, Work Boats Class A, Cameron Murphy’s NUGGET [Holland 14; 30-hp Honda] with J. P. Thornton at the helm got the win with a speed of 22.8 mph. Work Boat Class B had nine boats on the line and it was going to be a great battle between the top three, since they all can do about 40 mph. As they came up, they were bouncing, some even coming right out of the water. The real battle was between Andy Correa’s Boston Whaler 15 [90-hp Yamaha] and Mason Vintinner’s SCREEN TIME [Corson 16; 90-hp Mercury] and it was Andy Correa at the line by maybe a boat length. Third went to Jacob Noyes’ ZIPPIN’ TOO [Corson 15; 90-hp Nissan]. The early favourite in Work Boat Class C was Dave Johnston’s CASCO MISS [Eastern 22, 250-hp Honda], but there was an unknown, David Noyes’ ZIPPAH [Corson 17; 150-hp Evinrude]. As they neared the finish it was ZIPPAH in the lead with CASCO MISS back a couple of boat lengths.

For the first time this year, Jon Johansen’s CINDY JEN [34’ Clinton Beal, 1964; 292 Chevrolet], skippered by Al Strout, had competition, Tim Day’s ALL DAY LONG [Johnson 28; V-6 Gas]. There was no real competition as ALL DAY LONG jumped right into the lead and never looked back. However, all the eyes were on Steve Johnson’s LYNN MARIE [Sisu 26; 632 Chevrolet] in Gasoline Class E. She was way out in front and when Steve hit the throttle near the finish line she roared, but was breaking up, the timing being off slightly. Unfortunately, Steve did not have much fuel and only competed in this race.

It was now onto the Diesel Classes. There were no entrants in Classes A, C and D and the one entered in B, Josh Kimball’s DAUNTLESS [34’ Arno Day, 1970, 100-hp 453 Detroit], did not show for the start. Class E had three boats on the line and of course AUDREY MAY was the favourite and he did not disappoint. The unknown was Trisha Sawyer’s WILBUR [Holland 32; 425-hp Cummins], which held her own with AUDREY MAY, but was back a couple of boat lengths in second at the finish. Third went to Jake Dugas’ GUILTY PLEASURE [Mitchell Cove 32; 380-hp Cummins]. What I failed to notice was that WILBUR should have been disqualified as there was someone standing on the rail during the race. The rule is that everyone on the boat must be inside the cockpit. There were three boats on the line for Class F and it was Josh Audet’s KARAMEL [Crowley 34; 410-hp Hyundai] leading the way to the finish line with Craig Stewart’s CARL & CO [Wayne Beal 36; 405-hp Cummins] in second and Cameron Murphy’s BLUE DOLPHIN II [Crowley 36; 402-hp 3406 Caterpillar] in third. There was just one entrant, Travis Otis’ FIRST TEAM [Northern Bay 36; 410-hp Sisu 645] in Class H, so he ran down with the two racers in Class G. The favourite had to be Tucker Johnson’s RIJO [Mussel Ridge 28; 550-hp Cummins], even though he developed an engine issue after Winter Harbor. He was running against an unknown, Ari Meehan’s SEMPER FI [Wayne Beal 28; 500-hp Cummins], which has raced in the past and done well. As they made their way to the finish RIJO was leading by two boats lengths and that is how they finished. There were no entrants in Class I and Classes J, K and L were combined as one had two entrants and two and one entrant. As the four boats headed for the finish Jeremy Beal’s MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II [Wayne Beal 32; 1,000-hp Isotta] was well out in front with LA BELLA VITA back several boat lengths. MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II got the win in Class L and LA BELLA VITA the win in Class K. Sean Clemons’ MEAN KATHLEEN [Wayne Beal 36; 700-hp Scania] led Alan Dugas’ DELUSIONAL [38’ John’s Bay Boat, 600-hp Cummins] to the finish for the win in Class J. Three boats were on the line for Class M(A) and Chris Pope’s OLD SCHOOL [Holland 41; 380-hp Cummins] slid over for the win. The real battle was for second between Justin Papkee’s PULL N’ PRAY [Wayne Beal 40; 500-hp Hyundai] and Alan Knowlton’s SEA URCHIN [Young Brothers 45, 425-hp John Deere], which went to PULL N’ PRAY. The last two diesel classes, M(B) and N, were combined. This created a great battle between the two top boats in each class, Matt Shepard’s ALEXSA ROSE [Morgan Bay 43; 750-hp John Deere] in M(B) and Marshall Spear’s JACALWA [Wesmac 46; 1000-hp Caterpillar] in Class N. They came up the course bow to bow and as they neared the finish JACALWA surged into the lead to cross first. Both got the win in their respective classes. Second in Class N went to Tom Clemons’ 4 LADIES [Wesmac SW46; 1,000-hp Caterpillar].

There was only one wooden boat in Wooden Boat A and two in Wooden Boat B so they all ran down together. The two boats in Wooden Boat B were DELUSIONAL and Jon and Ann Johansen’s SARI ANN I [40’ Johns Bay Boat, 375-hp 3208 Caterpillar], skippered by Travis Otis. DELUSIONAL led the three with SARI ANN I back a few boat lengths for a one two finish. CINDY JEN was the only entrant in Wooden Boat A and she was back a ways when the other two had finished.

Two boats were on the line for the Johnson Boat Yard Race and the easy winner was CASCO MISS followed by PULL N’ PRAY.

Next came the Royal River Boat Yard Race with seven boats on the line. First went to JACALWA, followed by CARL & CO and then SHADY LADY. There was a great battle in this race between Rusty Parmenter’s PATRICIA ANN [42’ Novi] and BIG DIPPER for last place. BIG DIPPER slipped over first, but there was a big prize for last.

The only gasoline boat to show for the Gasoline Free-for-All and that was CINDY JEN.

There were seven boats on the line for the Diesel Free-for-All. Unless there was a major engine issue we all knew that MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II would be the winner and she was. The big question was who would be next? It was close, but at the line it was LA BELLA VITA with third going to MEAN KATHLEEN.

In the final race of the day, Fastest Lobster Boat, the top three came down the course with the exact same finish.

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PORTLAND: Sunday morning we headed out to the committee boat for the Portland races off the Eastern Promenade from Long Island. The committee boat was PATIENCE, owned by Tom and Katie Werner, Katie being the head of the Portland race committee, and together they also own and operate The Lobster Company on Peak’s Island. I had done a majority of the signups when I signed up the racers at Long Island, but there were several new entries and when done I had 41 boats entered. It should be noted that this race is a fund raiser for scholarships for fishermen’s children, which is also the main fundraiser of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in March.

The skiffs were challenged again as it was a bumpy ride for them down the course. There were no entrants in Work Boat Class A and many realized that there would be a real battle in Work Boat B, being a rematch of the day before between Andy Correa’s Boston Whaler and Mason Vintinner’s SCREEN TIME. With the drop of the flag these two jumped into the lead, bow to bow up the course and at times in the air. As they closed in on the finish Andy Correa had the lead with SCREEN TIME right on his transom. Third went to Jacob Noyes’ ZIPPIN’ TOO. The next race, Work Boat Class C, was another rematch between Dave Johnston’s CASCO MISS and David Noyes’ ZIPPAH. Right from the start ZIPPAH had the lead with CASCO MISS right behind and they finished one-two. Third went to Ron Pottle’s 4 WINNS [4 Winns; 115-hp].

There were only three boats signed up in the five Gasoline Classes so they were combined into one race, each would win their respective class. The winner of Class A was CINDY JEN, skippered by Al Strout; Class C Jim Koehling’s BROWN EYED GIRL [Duffy 26; 454-hp Chevrolet]; and Class E Steve Johnson’s LYNN MARIE.

In the Diesel Classes there were no entrants in Class C, D, I and O and there were a few classes with just one entrant so we did some combining. The first race was a combination of Class A and B as there was just one boat in each. The winner of Class A was Scott Dyer’s RELENTLESS [BHM 28; 200-hp Yanmar]; and in Class B it was Curt Brown’s LIL’ MORE TAIL [Calvin Beal 33; 225-hp John Deere]. Class E was another rematch from the day before between AUDREY MAY and WILBUR. AUDREY MAY jumped right into the lead and held that lead all the way to the finish line. WILBUR came over three boat lengths back with Jake Dugas’ GUILTY PLEASURE just behind her. Josh Audet’s KARAMEL was the only entrant in Class F so she came down with the three boats in Class G. Leading the way was Tucker Johnson’s RIJO, which easily took first in Class G with a speed of 43.3 mph. Second in Class G was Ari Meehan’s SEMPER FI followed by Kris Koerbert’s IVA JEAN [Mitchell Cove 32; 500-hp John Deere]. Of course, the winner of Class F was KARAMEL. In Class H Nick Martinez’s PRETTY WOMAN [Calvin Beal 36; 510-hp Caterpillar] took the top spot with Travis Otis’ FIRST TEAM in second. Two boats were on the line for Class J and the winner was Sean Clemons’ MEAN KATHLEEN, who continued his domination of this class with a speed of 36.4 mph. Second over the line was Alan Dugas’ DELUSIONAL. There were two racers in Class K and one in Class L, so they came down together. It was no surprise to see Jeremy Beal’s MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II leading the others and getting the win in Class L. Just behind him was Jeff Eaton’s LA BELLA VITA who got the win in Class K with second going to Zack Donnell’s REGENCY [Calvin Beal 38; 800-hp Scania]. Three boats came to the line in Class M(A) and they all came up together until about halfway and Chris Pope gave OLD SCHOOL a little more throttle and took the lead. However, the real battle was for second again between Justin Papkee’s PULL N’ PRAY and Alan Knowlton’s SEA URCHIN. They had battled the day before at Long Island with PULL N’ PRAY just getting by SEA URCHIN for second. Today it was SEA URCHIN slipping by for second and PULL N’ PRAY third. Four boats came to the line in Diesel Class M(B) and the winner was Matt Shepard’s ALEXSA ROSE. Second went to Wayne Clemons’ TEMPTATION [Young Brothers 40; 730-hp MAN] and third was Alan Dugas’ ROLLING STONE [John’s Bay Boat 44; 700-hp Lugger]. The final diesel race was Class N and Andy Johnson’s WHISTLIN’ DIXIE [Holland 40; 1,000-hp Caterpillar] showed she still had what it takes to win. Tom Clemons’ 4 LADIES was the second place finisher.

Portland is one of the only places left that has tugboat races and once they are out and ready to run we stop the lobster boat races and let them come down the course. Unfortunately, earlier this summer David Winslow, owner of the Winslow tugs, passed away and these tugs did not participate. Still, it was an impressive sight to see the four McAllister tugs make two runs down the course.

Next up was the wooden boat races, CINDY JEN was the only boat in A and there were three in B so they all came down together. Two of the three in Class B were close as they made their way to the finish line. Just before crossing Scott Dugas’ SAND DOLLARS III [41’Johns Bay Boat; 700-hp Caterpillar] slipped into the lead and got the win with DELUSIONAL second, followed by ROLLING STONE.

Three boats were on the line for the Gasoline Free-for-All and one of them was LYNN MARIE. Steve Johnson had enough fuel for another race and was going to open her up and see just how fast she would go. Before they dropped the flag they were not lined up quite right and a false start was called. They lined up again and this time the flag dropped and their engines screamed as they headed up the course. LYNN MARIE had the lead and got the win with BROWN EYED GIRL taking second. A very distant third was CINDY JEN.

Seven boats were ready for the Diesel Free-for-All and again it was no surprise to see MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II out in front for the win with LA BELLA VITA just behind her in second. Third went to WHISTLIN’ DIXIE.

Three boats from the Diesel Free-for-All decided not enter the Fastest Lobster Boat Race as did any of the gasoline boats. With the drop of the flag the last race of the day and year was on its way to the finish line. As they made their way to the finish it was obvious that the finish would be the same as in the Diesel Free-for-All. The real story here was that MARIA’S NIGHTMARE II had a great run at 63 mph according to their GPS.

With the final race in the books that concluded the 2023 Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association’s season. It was a good year, but Mother Nature could have been kinder and not made it so wet and foggy. Still, we had about the same number of participants as last year, less six. The Association is already gearing up for next year: the calendar has tentatively been created and we are looking at the classes to see if they need to be tweaked. Now, get ready for the Annual Meeting and Banquet at Robinson’s Wharf on Southport Island 14 October.