Welcome back to Rockport Maine. In yesterday's article we took a brief look at the area, today we will meet a few more people around the harbor.
Rockport is built on the side of a steep hill - the geography makes for a great harbor that exceeds fifty feet of depth in a small area. This is an ideal combination - deep calm waters right by the shore. It was ideal for ship-building.
Rockport is definitely a working harbor - here you can see a few of the many small boats that fishermen and others use to go back and forth to their larger craft moored at anchorages out in the harbor.
And the fog - yes, we have seen how common it is here. Here is a large channel marker with a bell.
You can see the round "hammers" midway up the marker - the bell swings back and forth with the waves and hits them, alerting sailors in the fog to their position. These days with GPS this is all but obsolete.
Andre the seal is a legend here - books have been written and a movie made about this guy.
In 1961, a local tree cutter who sidelined as a scuba diver named Harry Goodridge had a seal pup that took to diving with him. It turned out the pup had no mother, so he adopted it. He figured it would return to the wild soon enough.
Andre swam with them, slid down the snowy slopes with the children when they were sled-riding, rode about town in the back of the station wagon and watched shows on television in their living room. Andre would swim off during the day, but reappear each evening expecting to be carried up to the house.
As he got older, Andre didn't warm everyone's hearts - he would splash the fishermen for fun as they headed out to their boats, he would climb aboard their boats and make himself at home. When he would disappear each winter for five months some would hope for his return and some hoped he would stay in the wild.
Andre learned a number of tricks, and would entertain visitors with his antics. After a year or so the idea of wintering him at an aquarium caught traction. So Harry would load him in the station wagon and take him down the highway to the aquarium, and then release him a few months later. A few days later Andre would swim his way back up to Rockport.
This went on for 25 years, and the attraction brought so many stories in major magazines that Harry couldn't put a stop to it. So, up until his death in 1986 he was one of Maine's biggest attractions.
There is a drydock here - Rockport may not be quite as big as the neighboring harbors but a lot of work gets done. I thought I was cute in the picture above - using the mast to block the R in Marine.
Along the harbor I met Ken Wright.
He and his traveling companion Suzanne spent a year and a half converting this old truck into a camper.
They have a seasonal loop they travel - between Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Oregon. They have family in each place, and are setting up jobs in each location. Ken works as a forester here. They are perfectly content with the idea of spending the rest of their lives traveling and working odd jobs in their creation. Ken had to get to work so I didn't get a chance to photograph the interior - and sorry Suzanne, that was the best shot I had of you.
Its early morning, but some of these lobstermen have been out working most of the night. A couple of beers and some idle conversation marks the early morning.
Another fellow walked by carrying a new alternator down to his boat. They asked him how much he had paid, and he said $48. They were quick to inform him that the $48 alternator was the one that didn't last - he would be replacing it again in a few days.
They had heard about a fellow who lived on the border of Massachusetts and Maine. Seems his property got surveyed, and the surveyor informed him that he was not in Maine like he always thought, his property actually lay in Mass. "Well, thats all right" said the fellow. "I was sick of the Maine winters anyway."
The town starts 'em young here - the children are building their own small sailboats at a young age, and there is a sailing school for children that is real active.
Andre is long gone, but there are plenty of dogs that love the water.
Supposedly there is still a law on the books here that men are required to carry a shotgun to church to ward off potential Indian attacks. And you can be fined if you don't have your Christmas decorations down by January 14th.
There are a number of pleasure sailboats in the harbor - perhaps not as many as in neighboring Camden but there are plenty.
There is one sailboat that stands out in the harbor, and that is the Heron.
Photo from Heron's website
You can check out her website by Clicking Here.
Meet Bonnie, Alissa and Twig Bower. Missing from the photo is daughter Rachel. The story behind the Bowers is one of those compelling tales of making dreams come true through ingenuity and well planned effort.
Twig moved to Rockport to do a two year ship-building apprenticeship after five years of general engineering college in England. He met Bonnie here and they married and started a family. But the sea called to them both, so in 2001 they cleared some land on the back side of their property, built a barn and started building a boat.
They already had two young daughters - plenty of reason to say that a life on the sea was not possible for them. But they had an idea that they could put together a boat that would both support the family and allow the family to live on the sea. They wanted a sailboat big enough to do paid charters during the tourist season and accommodate the family the rest of the year.
In the United States, any boat that is licensed to carry passengers has to be built in the United States. It also has to be inspected and approved by the Coast Guard at various stages of construction. So Twig and Bonnie imported over 1000 board feet of highly rot resistant hardwoods from South America and started laying the keel.
Photo taken from the Heron's website
The basic plans were adapted from a boat designer's blueprints that were over eighty years old. As they built the boat, the local Coast Guard started using their project as a teaching project for the younger Coast Guard recruits. They came by at least weekly to check progress and learn about the building techniques the Bowers were using.
In July of 2003 they launched the 65 foot Heron. By all accounts it is a "well mannered boat" - meaning that it is forgiving and handles rough weather well. It seemed to slide effortlessly through the water during our sail.
Since then, they spend their summers in Maine and head south for the Caribbean each winter. They home-schooled - or boat schooled if you will - their two daughters. The two girls decided the year before last that they wanted to attend some high school in public schools. I didn't have the opportunity to speak with the younger daughter, but Alissa felt like it wasn't her brightest idea. They learn way more out on the boat with their parents than sitting in classrooms with other students that just aren't that motivated to learn. The word "stifling" was used to describe the feeling that public school brings.
Among many other accomplishments, the girls have published a couple of books and teach sailing. The Heron provides lunch and dinner cruises, and the girls help out by cooking and serving meals during the season. One thing that attending school and missing a winter in the islands has taught Alissa is how unique the upbringing her parents provided truly is. This summer she is spending her days teaching local youth how to sail, and is enthused about returning to the islands this winter. They also have taken some amazing underwater photos.
The last few years they have been doing charters in the Caribbean Islands - they have been taking guests to remote islands that have active volcanoes that you can climb atop. In fact, if you are up for it you can take a two week island hopping excursion with them through the Caribbean.
1st mate Becky
On board during the cruises, 1st mate Becky gives talks on the history of the local area as well as insights on what it takes to sail a boat this size.
Twig is one of those soft spoken fellows of few words that you have to pay attention to or you miss what they are saying. He says there is only one way to take on a project like this - you have to just do the best you can with the day in front of you and roll with what comes your way. He has thought about building a bigger boat - more and more recently. But it is a lot of work and there are many potential pitfalls. It is hard to communicate what they have accomplished here - it is an incredibly rare feat for private citizens to build a sailboat like this in the first place - even rarer that it actually gets licensed by the Coast Guard as a passenger vehicle.
Combine that with someone who has been able to figure out how to utilize that boat in a way that provides a living to raise a family but also provides a great lifestyle for the family and you have a rare bird indeed.
The Heron cruises take you out of Rockport's harbor, past many houses perched atop rocky ledges.
Just as most of these harbors, Rockport has its own little island at the mouth of the harbor that hosts a lighthouse.
This is known as "Indian Island Lighthouse." It was built in 1875 and is now a private residence.
We head out into the bay, passing a few rocky atolls.
Along with all other sorts of wildlife, seals abound here.
All too quickly the three hour cruise is over and we are heading back into the harbor. This next shot clearly shows the geography of Rockport and Camden areas.
And that brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd."
Hardy men and women - it is the norm here in Maine. I couldn't hear what they were talking about - she can't be complaining about him eating fried food when she has some too. Maybe he snuck some beer in his glass.
And today's parting shot - I imagine you have seen some rendition of this before.
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