Sunday, December 18, 2011

A History Lesson

Rockport Marine sits at the mouth of Rockport Harbor, on the west side of Penobscot Bay in Maine.  It is hemmed in by a river on one side and a creek on the other, which both fill to bursting in the spring run-off.  During that time of year, fishermen string large cone-shaped nets across these outlets to catch elvers, small eels that run up to spawn.  The eels are thin and clear, and considered a delicacy in Japan, where they are shipped to and sold.

Before the boatyard was a boatyard it was a sail loft, a roller rink and a lobster processing plant, at different times.  The Allen family bought the large, barn-red buildings and docks in the 1960s.  On the ground floor, Luke Allen began repairing and storing wooden boats.  His wife, Norma, started a restaurant on the second floor, serving solid New England fare: clam chowder, haddock with a cream and crab sauce, prime rib and meatloaf.  The couple lived on the third floor with their four children, and could look out on the dooryard of the shop, the docks and moorings, and to the lighthouse on Indian Island at the mouth of the harbor. It is a deep harbor, with good holding ground, but exposed to the south, and can churn up like a washing machine in a southerly blow. In the summer, then, as now, it was packed with yachts and lobster boats.

Along the walls of the entrance are photographs of what Rockport Harbor used to look like.  While it is now quietly bucolic, at the turn of the 19th century Rockport was a gritty, industrial harbor.  Lime kilns blazed through the night, and a train ran from the quarries to the piers.  Some faded photos show as many as 15 or 20 schooners docked and anchored, low to their waterlines with their freights of lime. Rockport was considered a poor cousin of Camden, and it was home for the people who worked in Camden’s shops and took care of Camden’s wealthy homes. 

Now the yard is owned by Luke’s son, Taylor. The restaurant has become the office for the boatyard, which has grown and flourished under Taylor’s management. We use the old butter dishes to hold our paper clips, and the old bar is now the design office. When Luke started his boat business it had a handful of employees, and now there are 50 people building and restoring some of the most beautiful wooden yachts in the world.

    - Maria Simpson        



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Location: Rockport, Maine, United States

Rockport Marine is a group of talented craftspeople who design, build and restore wooden yachts with unparalleled expertise.