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Keith and Travis Otis’ First Team pouring on with their 410HP SISU at Searsport. They beat out Ira Guptil in Diessel Class H. Stan Murfitt photo
Jonesport Fourth
The Moosabec area has a lot of race fans. In local sandwich shops, the Daytona Schedule is posted. The Jonesport Fire and Rescue trucks have “racing flames” painted on their hoods. The Reach has a history of fast boats and talented mechanics. Decades ago, Wil Frost increased the speed of one of his fastest (75 ft.) designs by removing its original Sterling engine and dropping in two Liberty aircraft engines, hitting 35 mph during a speed trial on the Reach. Moosabec owns the reputation of “proving ground” to some of the swiftest boats ever to cruise along its racecourse. In addition to that, the five mile current, which becomes a factor when the tide shifts, provides an extra challenge, making this an interesting venue.

The cool, Canadian front that had pushed out the fog brought a chill to the air. Benny Beal watched things from the front seat of his truck, which was pulled right onto his dock at Perio Point. Channel 10 won out over Hank Williams tunes, because there are priorities….The RED BARON baseball cap given to him by Glen Holland was a point of pride for Beal, who’s never backed down from a racing challenge. “I support the competition,” said Beal, who knocked TERMINATOR out of the ring in 1998. His STELLA ANN had a custom fabricated all-aluminum Donovan engine (588 ci) put in in 1992. After the heads and pistons were changed, Benny got more power out of her and she went 51.2 mph to win the title of Fastest in 1996. Two years later, at Searsport, the 28’ STELLA ANN hit 54.5 mph going over the line. Richard Weaver has put STELLA’S retired engine into a 1969 SS 396 Camaro, which Richard Weaver, Jr. races at Winterport. The viper blue, PRO Class rocket did 170 on the dyno.

“Pretty good for a retired lobster boat engine,” admits Weaver, who talks about lobster boat racing as a “White-knuckled, hard- driving sport.”

While Galen Alley has been racing cars at Winterport, hehe has his own engine, not to be confused with the custom fabricated former STELLA ANN block used in Rich Weaver, Jr.’s car. An error in a previous article got cars and engines mixed up : apologies to anyone who got ticked off by that.

So, where is STELLA? Right now, she’s stored in what someone called “a Quonset hut.” Benny may take her out of retirement…..He may not……We’ll see.

In the race for Fastest, no one wanted to gamble and use the tried and true “Hang back, then PUNCH IT” strategy—all racers gave her hell and went for it. It was an all-out throttle opener from the start, with Wes Shute’s DAYDREAMER steaming first over the line, doing 55.6.

Things were dicey at the start of the day’s final event, which would pit some serious racers against each other. Minutes before the start, Richard Weaver and Mark Pelletier got word LORNA R. had “an oil leak.” Rumors also circulated that, during the gas Free for All, “LORNA R’s rudder had come out of its socket, causing drag.” It’s like playing “telephone” separating fact from fiction. Often enough, the owner isn’t sure about mechanical problems, ‘til he pulls the boat out.

When Weaver and Pelletier got to the place LORNA R. should have been, “They were already gone,” according to Weaver. “We just listened.” A guy on the sidelines asked “Is she gonna last?” to which Weaver replied, “ I think LORNA R. could drive to France.”

51 and Amanda Joy going head to head at Jonesport. Stan Murfitt photo
At Moosabec, Alley’s boat blew a head gasket, “and the No. 8 intake was frigged before Searsport,” according to a later report. “The radiator hose had sucked shut and turned the water pump off, heat and pressure hitting the internal part of the engine caused it to blow oil out.” In 1973, Richard Alley started racing LORNA R., built with Riley Beal, who had started his boatbuilding career alongside Wilford Frost and Harold Gower. As every race enthusiast knows, this boat is still raced today by Dick’s son, Galen. One of the fastest contenders during LORNA R.’s first incarnation as a racer with Dick Alley at the helm, would have been Capt. James Preston on the MARGEURITE G., out of Roque Bluffs.

Though Calvin Beal, Jr. wasn’t quite ready, LITTLE GIRL went to the line and started. “Calvin worked all night long – they never got out there [to run trials]” was the word. During the long delay before the start, there was a lot of tension. “Is that Calvin coming out of the Gut?” Beal was towed to the line after resolving a battery problem, a minor issue compared with other hold ups confronting Calvin as he put together LITTLE GIRL, his first wooden boat in a long while. First lumber was an issue. Ever try to locate a decent slab of white oak with no ‘checks’ for a stem piece? Or receive a lumber order full of wood that was improperly dried or only 1/3 usable?

The wait for the engine still left lots of adjustments to be made after it arrived. Calvin’s the best of the best, so it’ll be worth the wait to see LITTLE GIRL...UNDERDOG also had a battery problem!

Another classic wooden boat built on Beals that’s still racing is Donald Drisko’s MERGANSER, which Drisko saw at Calvin Beal, Jr.’s shop in 1977. Though Calvin intended to use the custom built lobster boat himself, he recognized the way the young fisherman looked at his work and he sold it to Don. After installing a Yanmar Diesel into MERGANSER to replace the original gas engine, this boat became a force to contend with in Diesel Class B. “Don’s boat is 30 years old,” marveled Pemaquid Race Co-ordinator, Laurie Crane, “I can’t believe it.” MERGANSER is still one of the best looking classic wooden boats on the water, in addition to consistently winning her Class.

Crane has had a few inquiries about the $1,000.00 prize for breaking the speed record at the Merritt Brackett Races, set by Andy Gove in UNCLE’S UFO and Jim Clemons’ LUNASEA. For several years, there has been no winner, which will make this year’s event at Pemaquid on August 12th the place to be. While it’s a “no points” stop on the circuit, the fact of that un claimed title and the nice cash prize will draw fierce competition in a face-off amongst the best.

By July 4th, racers have begun to stake their territory in the points race, which determines winners over-all. In the past, a few boats have won their Class at the end of the season by racking up points by showing up at more races—including some past winners of the title of World’s Fastest Lobster Boat. Persistence gets you into the final winner’s circle.

At the concessions stand after the races, a guy from Boothbay named Bruce—the one who brought up the topic of blowers at the 2005 MLBRA meeting, thrust a picture of a boat—THUNDERBOLT into my hands, saying “This will be a fast boat, similar to the DAYDREAMER” On the way over to Beals, boat builder Peter Kass sat with his crew, who’d had a great day watching the racing. “It was an expensive day,” corrected a racer, who overheard the conversation as he passed by.

Up In The Bay At Searsport
Tucked away in the quiet outpost of Stockton Springs sits one hell of a lot of horsepower. There’s Bill Grant’s GLADIATOR (6 cyl. 287 hp Volvo 74A Diesel), the Otis’ FIRST TEAM (410 hp SISU 645 Diesel), SEACOCK (6cyl 410 hp SISU), and a Calvin Beal/Scott Lassard-Northport owned by Todd Ritchie. Then there’s VENOM (6cyl 250hp diesel) owned by David Grant and Wayne Rich’s RICH RETURNS (315hp Cummins Diesel). Harbor Master Fred Barlow stood by a friend’s truck and filled us in about the Stockton Springs 150th Celebration, which starts August 10th.

Peter Kass’ Diva at the end of the Searsport race. A group of Kass’ wood boats race every year. Stan Murfitt photo
“What about the pig roast?” That’s Sunday, August 12th at 1pm. The traditional feast is usually held the night before the Searsport Races but was postponed this year for the Town’s sesquicentennial.

Before events started, Ellery Alley mentioned that Ernest Libby, Jr. might be working on another boat similar to UNDERDOG, which was a prototype. Dana Beal was standing by, getting set to race in LITTLE DARLIN’ while another group from Jonesport took off in Kenton Feeney’s TERRY LUAN. Beal mentioned the amount of work Bronson Alley had put into the engine of the racing machine, UNDERDOG.

MAJOR WEAKEYES , which sat out events at Rockland on a Journey’s End trailer was back in the water and ready at Searsport. While Chuck Williams went racing at Rock City with friends on another boat, it couldn’t have been the same. When he got home, Williams looked the situation over and had some decisions to make. “She’s got a new engine—same as the other one.” Which meant a brand new 235hp Steyr for the Duffy 26’. A good call, because Williams took Diesel Class C (31.5) in MAJOR WEAKEYES over two fine boats—Nick Page’s ALL OUT and QUICKSTEP. (VENOM did not start.)

In Rockland, Journey’s End/ O’Hara has acquired Mitchell Cove molds 20 ,35, 32 and 37 (Calvin Beal, Jr. designs ) and is an IVECO dealership for the Northeast (as is Kennedy Marine). Ray DiPietro and Tobias Zimmerman, who sell the engines mentioned that Albert Bunker’s LAST ONE and Westin Ames’ SHAMELESS had IVECO engines, as did PANDORA, AQUARIAN and MEGHAN DAWN ”The horse power range goes to 2,500, but their 700’s (13litre) are the most popular model” says DiPierto. “On Albert Bunker’s LAST ONE, he’s got a Cursor 550. Jason Hamilton put a 1,000 in ACES WILD.”

Fort Lauderdale-based IVECO will undergo a name and division change in 2007—IVECO/FPT (Fiat Power Train) and will include their marine engines, while IVECO will become the name of their truck division in 2008.

Another engine that has been mentioned at races is the new John Deere 12.5L marine engine has just become available. Deere, incidentally, uses Yanmar engines in it’s smaller tractors.

Calvin Beal’s “Little Girl”, the first wooden boat he has built in a while. Stan Murfitt photo
“He cuts her like he’s driving a Chevy,” said a fisherman who races his boat, critical of the seamanship of the guy ahead of him. “He drives like a mechanic.”

Pointing to a billowing black cloud hovering above one boat before it got to the line, someone said, “He put a little something in there to make her fly…”

A lot of boats heated up during the day. “Some guys run salt water through their engine to cool it!” noticed another guy who’d never been to a race before, but was beginning to notice some of the sport’s finer points. Stick around, that’s only the tip of a very high-test iceberg.

Jim Minott’s HOOKED UP took Diesel Class F (36 mph) but didn’t finish the Diesel Free for All due to a blown head gasket.
D & L’s CRY BABY, which ran the track alone, worked out the ignition trouble experienced earlier, which kept them on the sidelines for a time.

LORNA R. broke a push rod. According to Richard Weaver, “The gasket was f—‘d, and we tried to fix it. A piece on the head got bound up with the push rod….” Then he started in about taking the valve cover off.” “…And some part that was pushed down into the base—deep—it needed a magnet. Because that part, it swims with the fishes, way the Christ down under the baffle.”

Before Searsport, there was trouble with the No.8 intake valve. They changed the wheel. They put the smaller pipes out. They tried to lighten the hull, and the LORNA R. lost 300 lbs. “It’s a heavy wooden lobster boat! The laws of physics DO NOT APPLY in Jonesport, Maine!” shared one skeptic.

Travis Otis’ FIRST TEAM (35.7) bested Ira Guptill’s MYSTERY MACHINE in Diesel Class H, but blew the turbo charger, which sucked flames ‘back into itself’ as they flew down the course.

At the end of the day, Wes Shute guessed he’d blown a No.3 cylinder, so during that last one where he was cruising at what should have been high altitude, he was running on only seven cylinders. “We still haven’t totally opened the throttle,” said Wes, who hung back near his trailer with Wayne Canning during the raffle. Automatic Sue shuttled trophies, beautiful ones with bronze eagles, back to Shute’s crew.

Heavy displacement Kass boats churning it up at Searsport. Stan Murfitt photo
Out of the Fog at Stonington
A cardboard sign announcing the re-scheduling of Races due to weather was ready to hang on the Harbormaster’s Office, but it never went up.

“The Jonesport boats headed back,” said one racer who’d come from Searsport to Stonington on his boat. “I saw them and told them they were going the wrong way,” responded another. Furthermore, the Deer Isle Bridge, with its already slim clearance of 9’ was closed down to a single lane, making trailer clearance impossible for LORNA R, DAYDREAMER and UNDERDOG, which eliminated them from the roster.

As racing schedules wilted in the fog and the crowd hovered over styrene cups of coffee, concerns were voiced by the Committee’s organizers: NOAA was casting some serious advisories.

There was a low growl that almost sounded like one of the juiced boats, and a guy peeled past the Harbormaster’s shack on a tricked out chopper. He wore a German military helmet with a spike. The guy stood up and barked, “It’s clear to the west.”

It was Mike Dassatt, who’d come from that direction. The helmet was a salute to team RED BARON. Running his first race today was 8-year-old Gavin Holland in a Holland skiff, BITS & PIECES, and the Red Baron himself would be riding shotgun.

Crystal Burch of Spruce Head wasn’t thrilled with the fog either. She’d planned to go along with Julie Eaton on CAT SASS. Finally, the sun melted the dense curtain of fog. As the islands along the thoroughfare became visible, racers were told the event was on.

Harlan Billings and crew of the barge RICHARD S BILLINGS extended their hospitality to several photographers and one racer—Greg Sanborn—who hopped off for the Diesel Class E Race, where he took 2nd on SU-SAN. Also aboard was Keith Young, a past coordinator at the Winter Harbor Races.

The firing of a naval cannon announced the start.

Gavin Holland ran a good race. The Yamaha engine is bigger than he is, but he managed not to allow that to interfere with his concentration. The last time Glen went racing, he was doing 57.8.

Nick Wiberg at the helm in the foreground for the Stonington skiff race. Nick took over as co-ordinator of the Stonington races and hosted a first class day. Stan Murfitt photo
There was a lot of water displacement during Race 30, the John’s Bay/Peter Kass Race. The wall of water cut by these wooden hulls melted into the atmosphere to the point that the fleet gave a free-floating illusion. Even the rock solid Billings barge rolled around as the pack thundered by. Before the passing wake subsided, Vance Bunker of Matinicus broke away in SARI ANN (20.7) and all that was visible in a sea of foam was Bunker’s orange slicker, and his arms waving around as he reacted to the victory. Someone dubbed this race “the Kass Class.”

You might not see Steve Johnson until Harpswell. On July 21, his crew were taking advantage of a weekend where there were no scheduled races to work on their new boat, TOO WILD. “It’s a Jingle Johnson 28’—no, a SISU,” he teases as speculation increases over the possibility of this late season twin engine entry. The ribbing stopped and he mentioned something about two 454 Chevy engines…then shifted the gears of the conversation. “It’s two engines bolted together running on one shaft: two engines are going into the bed—we’re dropping one in right now.” The WILD ONE is a Crowley Beal33, finished by Johnson (2005), which started out with a six cyl. 892 hp GM (735 cid.) and was a fast runner in Diesel Class K.

Last fall, Steve promised “the WILD ONE could “get wilder.” He had surprised the crowd with HATE ME ROSE, a seaplane that strafed the course while Bill Crowe hung out of the cockpit with his camera (Winter Harbor 2005).

In 1987 or ‘88 at Harpswell, Johnson and a buddy, Joe Scola, took the engine bed of the F/V SHORT FELLOW, a Repco 21and filled it with an insane hull-to-horsepower ratio of power—a Chevy 454. In 2006, WILD ONE closed in for the swoop to win the Diesel Class I title.

Although he claims that “it isn’t what it used to be,” Andy Gove’s Northern Bay 36’ UNCLES UFO runs with the best of them, and his 8 eight cyl. 900hp Mack Turbo Diesel can still harness a commanding amount of speed. Gove wasn’t open throttle when he overtook Tom Clemons’ Duffy 37 MOTIVATION, which also carries 900 hp under the trunk. Still, it’s always fun when Gove comes to the line, because it is UNCLES UFO, and there’s Andy driving. MOTIVATION has had an impressive season ( Diesel, Class K) and has become one of the ones to watch as Clemons quietly racks up the points. Same thing is true regarding Howard Gray’s BLUE THUNDER, a Northern Bay 28’( 230 hp Steyr) that’s consistently seen some good results and given the crowd some racing to talk about.

On the ride in, the former sardine carrier PAULINE (redone as a yacht) was at Billings, and, reportedly, is again for sale and has been for a while. She’s the sister ship to Dana Rice’s JACOB PIKE.

Everyone is grateful to Nick Wiberg for hosting a first class day, and for going for it and taking over as coordinator. It was a relief the skies cleared at the 11th hour so the racing wasn’t held off.

Andy Gove won the Jimmy Stevens Cup, sponsored by Commercial Fisheries News, which is based in Stonington. I mentioned to him that UNCLES UFO sounds like a Jet. “No,” corrected Andy , “It’s like a helicopter.”