Yachting’s lasting legacy: The scene today

By John Hanson | Jul 22, 2011
Courtesy of: John K. Hanson, Jr Knockabouts racing in the Fox Islands Thorofare, ca. 1940-1950.

While the sailor of 1936 would find much changed today along the Penobscot Bay waterfront, he would easily recognize some of the types of boats that Maine builders are currently launching, similar as they are in appearance to the boats from his day. This is particularly true of two distinct types, whose antecedents were popular 75 years ago: One the lobsterboat-inspired cruiser; the other the long, lean sailboat.

Both types will again be in evidence at the annual Maine Boats Homes & Harbors Show in Rockland this August, where the theme “Tradition Shapes Innovation” will be apparent in many of the boats on display on the docks and on land. For example, Johanson Boatworks, of Rockport, has been working on two Maine powerboats, one old, one new.

The older one, Aleria, is a 1953 wooden Bunker and Ellis that has been treated to a complete reengineering and repowering, as well as a general overall refit. Aleria, and its brand-new Yanmar engines, will be at the show.

Johanson’s newer project, a Wesmac 38 hull, is a modern variant of the classic Maine lobsterboat hull with state-of-the-art fiberglass construction. This boat won’t be finished in time for the show, but can be seen at the Johanson yard as part of the second annual Maine Built Boats “Open Boatyard Days” tour, Aug. 15 and 16. The tour, which includes yards throughout the state, will offer a chance to peek behind the curtain at the work of a wide array of Maine’s finest boatbuilders. Learn more at mainebuiltboats.com.

On the classic sailboat side, a new generation of sailors has discovered the simple joys of sailing fast with no extra baggage in boats of great beauty. Boats such as the leggy knockabouts that were introduced to the Maine coast by B.B. Crowninshield and Herreshoff well over 100 years ago pose the question: Is the pleasure in the speed or in how the boat looks on the mooring?

Show visitors can decide while viewing one of the newest examples: a 20-foot-long Dark Harbor 12½ built by Northeast Boat, of Northport. This beautiful Crowninshield design, and other examples of the 1930s-era one-design classes of Penobscot Bay, will be on display.

The Morris Yachts M36, a sailboat design that marries the beautiful aesthetics of a knockabout with modern accommodations and engineering, will be at the show, as well. Maine craftsmen have been building fine yachts in fiberglass for more than 50 years, and some, such as Morris of Southwest Harbor, have advanced the technology via state-of-the-art composites to achieve high strength to low ratios that designers the likes of Herreshoff could only have dreamed about. Even so, our Penobscot Bay sailor of 1936 would recognize the lovely sheerline.

For a glimpse of boats from the 1930s, visit the “75 Years on the Penobscot Bay” section of maineboats.com. The 2011 Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show will have special exhibits that focus on the coast circa 1936 as part of an annual exploration of how “Tradition Shapes Innovation.” In addition to historic images and films, a mix of vintage and modern products will trace the influences of the mid-thirties on the products of today, and the ways that creativity has moved the state and its craftspeople ever forward.

As Maine’s only in-the-water boat show and coastal lifestyle event, the show annually features nearly 300 exhibitors of boats and marine gear, home wares and furniture, art and jewelry. It is produced by Rockland-based Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors magazine; maineboats.com, 594-8622.

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