Things are built differently in Maine, including boats. A workforce with grit is part of what makes this state special.
Lobster rolls. Frigid water. Picturesque vistas. Blueberries. Lobster pots. Lobster pots and tangled props. Those are the first things I think of when I think of Maine. Those alone, save the lobster pots, are reasons enough to visit this incredible part of the world. But what is it that makes this place so special? Why do so many snowbirds flock here every year?
That’s what we set out to discover—and what I hope you take away from this issue.
We wondered what it would be like to spend a couple days working as boatbuilders in Maine. I got excited about the idea of getting our hands dirty alongside craftsmen and learning from them firsthand. Then, a few realities set in, including thoughts about which boatbuilder would actually let us join its staff.
There was one person I thought we’d have an outside chance of convincing. On a hot day at the Miami show, I floated the idea by Bentley Collins, VP of sales and marketing at Sabre Yachts. “I was wondering, instead of coming up and touring the yard, would it be possible to spend a couple days actually working there?”
Collins paused for a few seconds. “Now that would be fun. Let’s do it,” he said. We shook hands. I didn’t think it an appropriate time to tell him my woodshop experience ended with a B- in 10th grade.
Fast forward a few months. Digital Director John Turner, Managing Editor Simon Murray and I pulled into a dirt road and up to a gravel parking lot at Sabre in Raymond, Maine, where we met Production Manager Don Wentworth.
“We start work at six tomorrow. What time are you guys going to get here?” he asked. I’ve been sized up before; I know what it feels like. I glanced at Simon and John. “We’ll be here ready to go at six.” “OK then.” Our two, 10-hour days working in various departments at Sabre taught us a lot about boatbuilding. We fiberglassed fuel tanks. We cut, sanded and epoxied tables. We acted as apprentices as pods were installed and hulls were infused. Yet as much as we learned about boatbuilding, what we really took away from this experience was an appreciation for how hard everyone worked. Because demand outweighs supply on models like the Sabre 45, you would expect to see management and supervisors cracking a whip to keep things moving. That might be beneficial in some yards, but it would be a useless exercise in a place like Raymond, where employees demand enough of themselves.
I left the yard with tired feet and a greater appreciation for Maine boatbuilders. But before you go thinking that it’s all work and no play in the Pine Tree State, well, not so fast. You’ll want to turn to page 64 and read Simon’s story about the obscure sport of lobster boat racing. As it is with the boatbuilders of Maine, lobster fishing—and racing—is a tradition passed down from generation to generation.
In Maine, people joke that there are two seasons, summer and winter, and that winter lasts eight months. There’s some truth to that. Long, brutal winters have taught longtime residents how to hunker down and become self-sufficient. It’s that resilience that I believe enabled the marine industry in Maine to weather the Great Recession and come out stronger on the other side.
So, what makes Maine special? Maine is a place where brothers work the line (boatbuilding and lobster fishing alike) alongside brothers. Where mothers work alongside daughters. Maine is a place where the workday starts early and family comes first. It’s a place where blood is a bit thicker and hands more calloused. The people are warm and welcoming, the air and water is clean and clear, and, of course, there are the lobster rolls.
There was a sign I saw while driving up that read, Maine: The Way Life Should Be. After a week spent meeting the people who live, work and play here, I certainly can’t disagree.
The author shows Simon how to craft a salon table. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.