Two organizations that work to benefit young people with connections to the sea held fundraising auctions in the Midcoast this month.

Fishermen’s Forum raises scholarship funds for 17 students

On March 5, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum hosted its 13th annual scholarship auction, raising more than $17,000 for students throughout the state who are members of fishing families. According to Forum Coordinator Chilloa Young, this year’s auction brought in $13,452 and additional contributions allowed the forum to offer scholarships of $1,000 each to 17 students.

The atmosphere in the conference rooms at the Samoset Resort was lighthearted, contrasting with the intense focus on statistics, regulation, planning and training that typified sessions at the forum. Department of Marine Resources Deputy Commissioner David Etnier, dressed in a festive Hawaiian shirt, was the auctioneer, poking fun at bidders and urging higher and higher sales prices for items that ranged from the decorative to the necessary to the nostalgic.

An antique glass buoy shared the limelight with lobster traps, foul weather gear and cases of some of the last sardines to be canned in Maine.

Throughout the auction, Etnier and his crew of volunteers, including DMR Commissioner George Lapointe and Maine Fishermen’s Forum Web-site Administrator Mike Young, kept a fast pace, and few were spared the auctioneer’s pointed wit.

“I’m not licensed to do this in any state,” Etnier said at the start of the auction.

As he introduced some fleece sweatshirts, Etnier quipped, “You’ll never get cold again, even in this god-forsaken state.”

Station Maine auction celebrates future leaders

Warmth of a different kind was in abundance on board Rockland’s floating restaurant the MV Monhegan, as Station Maine celebrated St. Patrick’s Day March 17.

The annual event began with a traditional boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, served with Irish soda bread made by Rockland Harbormaster Ed Glaser.

Dinner for about 50 guests was cooked and served by members of the Station Maine crew, ranging in age from 9 to 17. One parent was in the galley, said Station Maine Director Muriel Curtis, but she stressed that the event was primarily organized and staffed by the students in the program.

“Our job is to give them real responsibility,” she said. “If there’s an adult around then we know who’s really in charge just by virtue of seniority.”

Curtis said that parent Erikka Schumacker was a big help this year, both in the galley and in organizing the auction.

“This year we have 19 committed rowers so far,” said Curtis. “These are kids I can pretty much count on to show up every week. Add to that more than 100 kids from school groups etc., who come just once.” Curtis said there is also an eight-member adult crew that begins its rowing days at 6 a.m. starting in April. Station Maine has had its rowing program in Rockland since 2001.

Laura Jones, 16, of Hope said she and her siblings have gone rowing in Rockland Harbor almost every Saturday for six years.

“Racing season comes in the fall,” Jones said. “Then we meet every day except Sunday.” During racing season crews practice after school every day before heading home to do homework, she said.

Jones said she was shy when she started rowing with Station Maine, and the program has taught her how to be a leader. “When you’re in charge of a boat or a [group doing] a job, you have to stay in command,” she said.

“Rowing teaches you how to be respectful to the person in charge, even when you don’t like them,” Jones said. She and her fellow rowers demonstrated their ability to work well together throughout the March 17 event as they waited on tables, assisted during the auction, answered questions from bidders and cleaned up afterward.

Malden, Mass., residents Lou and Donna DeLena planned a visit to their vacation home in South Thomaston to coincide with the auction.

“The young people really hustle,” said Lou DeLena of the event he first attended in 2009. “They really work hard.”

“I live and work in the finest community,” Curtis said as the auction got under way. “Station Maine is about rowing, but I think you’ll all agree it’s [also] about life skills, leadership and responsibility.”

Auctioneer Bruce Gamage donated his services for a live auction that raised a portion of the funds needed for Station Maine’s operating costs. A simultaneous silent auction also took place.

Station Maine is looking for adult rowers as well as those from ages 8 to 18 for the spring season. For more information, call 691-2037 or visit stationmaine.org.

To learn more about the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, visit the Web site at mainefishermensforum.org.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.