Usually, there is a little free time with the conclusion of lobster boat racing, but that did not happen this year. I got involved with a big project, which cost me a number of days, but that was my own doing. Then the weekend after Labor Day was spent trying to get the new issue finished a day early so I could hit the road for Portsmouth, NH on my way to Newport for the Newport International Boat Show. But before I could hit the road that Tuesday, I needed to be at WERU to do Boat Talk, which was at 1600 hrs. So, it was a late run down I-95 to Portsmouth to stay the night and then onto Niantic in the morning so I could be at the used bookstore when it opened at 1100 hrs. I need more books!
I never mind doing the Newport boat show as I see people there that I do not usually see any other time during the year. Still, it was four days nailed down in a booth for Maine Built Boats. This year the weather was a major issue as Hurricane Lee made her way up the East Coast. Fortunately, the storm veered off and we hardly had any real effects from it, a little bit of rain and some gusty wind. The show this year seemed a little different. I thought there were less exhibitors and less attendees. I could not tell if it was due to the hurricane or a telltale sign that the economy was dipping. I am going to lean towards the hurricane. The first two days I talked with a number of people about building or repairing a boat in Maine. The last two days there were not as many serious inquiries, but one never knows who the real buyers are. Despite the slight downturn the last two days I still think it is beneficial to be there representing Maine Built Boats and I am already signed up at the hotel for next year.
Newport has changed a lot in the 43 years I have been going there. My first trip to Newport was for the America’s Cup, first as a spectator in 1980 and then as a writer for the Bangor Daily News (BDN) in 1982-3 when The Cup was lost to the Australians. I had been reading a lot of the history of The Cup and wanted to see it firsthand. I did a number of articles on the America’s Cup for the BDN during my five years writing for them. I also covered some of the other major sailing events at Newport during that time. When I broke out and began publishing my own paper covering the coast of Maine I continued going to Newport as it was the sailing centre of New England, if not the entire East Coast. The first time I met Walter Greene of Yarmouth was just after he finished an OSTAR race across the Atlantic in a catamaran he had built at the dock on Goat Island. The information you could learn by walking the docks and talking to the sailors was incredible. I would run down and write on many of the major yachting events and it shaped my early career especially towards the singlehanded races around the world.
Not only have the people of the waterfront of Newport changed, but so has the town. The boat show used to comprise several acres of the waterfront, but that has shrunk over the last couple of decades. In fact, where tent A was located it is now a huge hotel. Where Newport Shipyard was down Thames Street there are now condos and a hotel. Goat Island has been developed and the bar there hardly sees any sailors from all over the world. However, even though there have been a lot of changes some sections have remained basically the same. My time there is between the show, dinner out and then back to the hotel. But for those not familiar with Newport, it is a place to visit. There are great places to stay and dine at. Just touring the mansions alone is a must.
The following weekend after the Newport boat show Ann had me go to a play at the Ogunquit Playhouse. I do not mind going as she is dragged to a number of events that I am involved in without a complaint. The play was the Da Vinci Code and I was impressed by the actors and actresses, but the ending of the story left a little to be desired for me.
The following weekend it was a trip to Massachusetts as I had promised my sister that I would take her to her school reunion. It was interesting.
Right now, I am enjoying a weekend home having only driven four miles in two days. I have been putting this issue together and inputting ships into the database. I have the custom house records entered (~26,700) for New York City and before they can be dumped into the database, I am going back through them to make sure that everything is correct. As they are being corrected, I am back entering the vessels listed in the List of Merchant Vessels for 1960. There are only 48,000+ vessels in this volume and I have only 30,000 to go! Almost every one of these will be a new entry into the database.
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I have been wondering if the new generation of boaters appreciate those notable people and what they did who came before them? If I mentioned Edward Burgess, W. Starling Burgess, Francis Chichester, Uffa Fox, Will Frost, Nathaneal G. Herreshoff, George Lawley, Wes Lash, Royal Lowell, Wilbur Morse, Ralph Stanley, or Jushua Slocum would I just get a blank stare? History is supposed to teach us about the past so we do not repeat our mistakes, but what about learning an appreciation for what people did? I am constantly reminded that many of the techniques developed decades and decades ago have been lost. However, there are classic boats built in the mid-1900s that were once the epitome of an era and now they are suffering from neglect due to a lack of appreciation. If you ask a new boater the first thing that will turn them off is that it was built of wood. I love nothing more than working on my wooden boats. I do not care if it is grinding the many coats of paint off her bottom or refinishing her brightwork. The history of boats is an interesting topic, one that has not been adequately documented and probably cannot since much if it is lost. It is sad to see some of our classic boats head to Europe because they appreciate them more than we do. In some cases, I understand, it takes a lot of money to keep some of these classics in Bristol condition. There is still a strong love for wooden boats, both new and classic, commercial or yachts on our coast and that should keep the knowledge of wooden boats alive for the foreseeable future.