A boatbuilder’s art: fed by a childhood passion and an experienced eye

Two old boats waiting to be rebuilt

Two old boats waiting to be rebuilt

Taking a few moments away from working on his latest project at his Wiley’s Corner workshop, boatbuilder Jim Parker reflects on what compels him about wooden boats. “A wooden boat is alive,” he says with no-frills conviction. “It’s about the grain, the feel of the surfaces—there’s even a certain smell to them.” Even though he has worked with fiberglass, and acknowledges its benefits, Parker calls it a “horrible medium” involving noxious chemicals and fumes. “Think of the difference between a plastic chair and a wooden one—which do you prefer to sit on?”

Parker has worked professionally as a boat builder since 1978, starting out at R. L. Wallace and Son in  Thomaston. He also worked for Spruce Head Marine before going out on his own in 1982. “I’ve worked mainly on smaller boats and repairs, along with contract work,” he says. In 2012 and 2013 he was part of the crew that renovated the Monhegan Boat Line’s freight boat, the Laura B.

Parker’s interest in boats began in childhood. “I was five years old when my grandfather set me to painting his two plywood skiffs—he paid me $2.50 for each. And my grandmother had a 38-foot cabin cruiser down in Kittery, so I spent a lot of time on the water with her during the summer.”

Learning to work with his hands also started early. “When I was six my father built me a workbench and gave me my first set of tools—a real drill, a real hammer, a real saw.” Parker adds with a laugh, “ I kept losing his tools, so he gave me my own.”

In terms of boat building, Parker says his father was an important mentor. “My father was a musician—he was the music director for SAD 50 for many years—but he also built four boats for the fun of it.”

The rest of his training has come from work experience and, importantly, from observation. “You can often look at a boat and guess who the builder was—the sheer lines and stem lines are like a fingerprint. Looking  underneath boats you can see the subtle differences.” Parker pauses and then shrugs. “I just like looking at boats.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAParker’s current project is the rebuilding of an old lobster boat for a client who got it for a bargain price. To an inexperienced eye it looks like a lost cause, but Parker is expert at understanding what makes such a project worth pursuing. “It makes all the difference if the basic hull is in decent shape,” he says, noting that this client lucked out because the boat came with an engine that was also useable. Getting the boat Coast Guard certified, as this client wants, poses some additional challenges, but despite that—and the fact that the cost of bronze and copper fittings is on the increase—the client will be getting the boat he wants for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

Parker also designs small boats. The Dorothy, a 12-foot double ender (sometimes known as a peapod) named for his grandmother, is what he calls “a good, stiff little boat that moves easy and likes to be right side up.” Parker recalls, with a note of pride, the reaction of a seasoned boat builder from Deer Isle who looked the boat over shortly after Parker finished it. “He said, ‘I like it, boy—I like it a lot!’”

Although Parker knows there might be a good market for replicas of the Dorothy, he prefers to customize his designs to a client’s needs. “My boats are all different,” he says. “I don’t just do the same boat.”

Parker says he finds that people show a lot of interest in wooden boats, but they fear buying one, thinking that the upkeep will be too expensive. “But if they perform simple annual maintenance,” he notes, “a wooden boat will last for 25 or 30 years without needing major work.”

Sadly, some who do purchase a wooden boat sometimes forget they have purchased something that is, as he says, “alive” and needs to be active. With a touch of understandable intensity, he states bluntly, “I get mad if someone doesn’t use my boats.”—JW

Jim Parker will be one of the participating artisans featured in the “Handrafted in St. George” event sponsored by the St. George Business Alliance on Saturday, October 11. Look for more details in the September 25 issue of The Dragon.

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Who was behind ‘Where in St. George?’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the most popular elements of The St. George Dragon has been the  “Where in St. George?” photograph on the back page. We know this because people begin emailing their answers literally within minutes of our posting each issue on The Dragon website. We here at The Dragon would like to take credit for the idea of creating this fun feature, but we can’t. It was Sara Holbrook (aka Ginger Aborn) who last summer emailed us a picture of two pigs wearing sunglasses taken during her morning walk,  with the suggestion that we run it in The Dragon and ask readers to identify where in St. George they were. Good idea, we thought, and the rest is history. (The pigs, by the way, were identified by Jan Letourneau, who knew they were to be found on the Drift Inn Beach Road.)

The original 'Where in St. George?'

The original ‘Where in St. George?’

Although we have also used “Where?” photos from other contributors, notably Maurice Klapfish, Holbrook has been our chief supplier of curious images from around this peninsula. “I look for anything a little out of the ordinary,” she says, noting that she always has her Sony digital camera with her, though she prefers using her Canon FD Mark 3 with its multiple lenses. “I took the idea of asking readers to identify the location of a photo from DownEast Magazine, but this is more personal.”

A watercolor artist, Holbrook already had a keen eye. But since she began taking photos for our “Where?” feature, she says, “I find I notice more—there always seems to be something interesting.”

That’s very good news for us. Thanks, Ginger, for your terrific contribution to The Dragon! —JW

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Livery stable

Sept. 11 livery stable copyThis photograph is from the St. George Historical Society Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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Hupper's IslandSMTo the editor,
I like the picture of Hupper Island in the last issue of The Dragon. The house on the left was my grandfather Ulysses Grant Davis’ house. My mother was born there along with her sister and brother. He had the boat house in the picture down near waters edge, and a cousin said you could eat off the floor it was so clean. The current owners allowed some of us to visit the first floor of the house a few years ago.

The middle house, yellow in color, was my grandfather’s sister’s, Jen Davis, and her husband, the first or second Levi Hupper. There were three, and I know it was not the third.

The house to the right was John Hupper Jr., brother to my ancestor Leonard Hupper. It is believed it was built by Josephus Bradford who sold the island to John Hupper Jr. Josephus would also be related to me as I am descended from Governor William Bradford as Josephus would have been.  I have now received my certificate as a Mayflower descendent, 10th from William Bradford.

Just some tidbits I thought you might find interesting.

Marvon Hupper
Port Clyde

To the editor,
I would like to give special thanks to Walmart, Shaws, and Hannaford for their donations to Sal’s Birthday Bash Fundraiser for the St. George Ambulance.  Thank you to the St. George firemen for the use of their tents and their help. Thank you to Donna Dennison for designing the  poster.  Thank you to Rick Freeman, Mike, Tracy, Randy Elwell and Bobby Joe Polky for the pig and chicken roast.  Paramedic Sally Taylor for providing blood pressure checks.  Thank you Dewayne Wight for the sound system.  Thank you to the musicians from the Monday night jam sessions at the St. George Grange for their wonderful music.  Thank you to the many friends and family members who provided salads and desserts.  Thank you to the kitchen help.  A special BIG THANKS goes to all the people who donated. Without everyone’s help we wouldn’t have raised over $3,000 for the St. George Ambulance!  I hope to see everyone next year for birthday #92!
Thank you,
Sally Long
St. George

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Fishermen of Port Clyde

PHOTO: Antonia Small

PHOTO: Antonia Small

The Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport is hosting an exhibition of photographs by Antonia Small of Port Clyde. Entitled “Fishermen of Port Clyde,” Small says the photographs are “part long-form documentary, part fine art.” She began the series of black-and-white images in 2009 and continues adding to it today.

“I was inspired by the ground fishermen who, in an effort to save their fishery, came together to develop the first Community Supported Fishery (CSF),” Small says. “I asked if I could witness their work as they sought solutions to the overwhelming issues they faced. I was struck by this small committed group of neighbors willing to set aside personal gain to save their livelihood for future generations.

“These families work ceaselessly to provide for the market, like many local food purveyors cropping up across this country. By developing smaller systems of harvesting, processing, marketing, and selling directly to the customer, they have navigated their way through some rough waters. I plan to continue this body of work into the future, when Port Clyde harbor sees a resurgence of the family fishing fleet and the public understands that not all fishing is overfishing.”

The 26 images in this show were made with a Yaschica twin-lens camera on 120mm B&W film, which Small processes and scans to make digital enlargements with archival inks on archival papers, through a small family printing company in Portland. A small edition of each size (27” x 27” and 16” x 16”) is available for sale.

The exhibit runs September 9 – October 19 at the Main Street Gallery (40 East Main Street, Searsport). Opening reception is September 13,   4 – 6 pm.

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artichoke on plantSMI’ve been growing artichokes this year. And have they been a fun plant to grow. Most commercially grown globe artichokes are perennials that don’t form those tasty flower buds until the second year they are growing. But the ‘Imperial Star’ artichokes are a variety that has been bred to produce fruit the first year. With a little work. I think these are the only ones we can grow in our climate as the winters are too harsh for the perennial variety to overwinter.

What I did this year was start the seeds in flats in the greenhouse at the end of February. There they had heat and light. They grew nicely and when they had their first true leaves I up-potted them to four-inch pots. Then toward the end of March I put them in a cool, dark part of the greenhouse and gave them very little water. This was “winter” after the brief summer the little seedlings experienced. After about a month of “winter,” I brought the plants back out into the light and warmth and started watering them regularly again. I kept them in the greenhouse until the soil temperature in the raised beds outside was 50 degrees or so, and frost danger had passed (a bit late this year).

artichoke harvestSMThen I waited. And watered as necessary. Slowly they grew lovely grey-green, fuzzy, spiky, thistle-like leaves. They are interesting sculptural plants even without the fruits. Then the first little buds showed up, deep inside the leaves. And then an explosion. One of the 10 plants I have in the ground decided not to be tricked by the false winter, and it’s just a lovely whirl of leaves. The tallest of the others is about five feet tall and I expect to get 14 fruits from this one plant (though the last ones will probably be pretty small). We had the first of the artichokes for a meal at the end of July, and they are producing well into September.

Up until this year I had grown artichokes for a lark, to see if I could. And I could, but I never ate them; rather, I let them flower because the flowers are spectacular. (They dry well too.) This year I may let a few flower if they will, but I think I am hooked on eating very fresh artichokes.

—Anne E. Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)
PHOTOS: Anne Cox

artichoke flowerSM artichoke seedlingSM

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Focusing on what matters most at The Point

Jessica Beal and husband Joe Andriacco

Jessica Beal and husband Joe Andriacco

Last spring, when the news circulated through St. George that Farmers Restaurant in Tenants Harbor was closing, there was a collective sigh of disappointment over the loss of the year-round, casual-style eatery. So people were very curious when they got wind of the fact that chef Jessica Beal was going to lease the property and open a new restaurant called The Point.

“I started getting lots of questions right away,” Beal says with a laugh. “But the most frequent were, ‘Will you be open year round?’ and ‘Are you keeping the bar?’” The answer to both questions is “yes.” And the answer to why “The Point” is that Beal believes this southern part of St. George is basically at the point of this peninsula.

Beal says she doesn’t want to make too much change in the restaurant,  but her culinary education at Scottsdale Community College and her many years of experience in the restaurant industry—doing everything from managing a serving staff of 200 at Margaritaville in Glendale, Arizona, to opening a Bar Louie in Tempe and getting certified as a food production manager—sharpens her focus on what she feels matters most: wholesome food, excellent customer service, and a clean kitchen.

“I’m a jack of all trades,” she says. “That gives me an edge. I can look at the restaurant from the point of view of what should be happening in the dining room, what should be happening in the bar, what should be happening in the kitchen.”

While The Point’s menu will center on seafood, steak and burgers, Beal’s approach to preparing dishes is very much farm-to-table. “I butcher my own meat and make my own sauces, mayonnaise and dressings. I also prefer herbs and spices to salt, cut my own French fries, batter my own fish and chicken, make my own bacon, make my own pastries. It’s all about good made-from-scratch food that is affordable. I think food should be made from the heart.”
As for dining room service? “I want to build a team,” Beal stresses. “I’d  like to prepare a family meal for the crew. The staff needs to know the food, needs to taste it so they can answer customers’ questions.”

Preston Beal unfurls the “Open” flag for the first time.

Preston Beal unfurls the “Open” flag for the first time.

Although the move from Arizona to Maine is a big shift for Beal and her family (husband Joe Andriacco, daughter Addy Andriacco, who will be a freshman at Oceanside High School, and nephew Tyler Adkins, 12, who will attend school in St. George), in some ways Beal feels they have come home. “My father Preston Beal was born in Jonesport and owns Beal’s Construction in Rockland. My brother is Buddy Beal, so our kids have cousins nearby. And Bill Stewart, who still owns our building, has a daughter who is married to my nephew. So it is nice to be part of this community.”

And the community seems excited to have her join it—virtually every day since Beal began renovating the restaurant’s kitchen and the family’s upstairs living space, she says, two or three people have stopped by to welcome her and ask about her progress.

Beal notes that the factor that really made the move possible was that her husband, who worked for Procter and Gamble in Arizona, got transferred to one of the company’s facilities in Auburn. When he is not working his shift there he will be behind the bar at The Point.
“I think this move was pretty much meant to be,” reflects Beal. “I’m a born entrepreneur. When I worked at the Phoenix Lobster Company I started buying lobster from Maine and began thinking about returning to my roots.” She shrugs and then adds, “You walk in faith and things happen.” —JW

PHOTOS: Betsy Welch

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Marvon Hupper: Beating the high cost of funerals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“When it comes to carpentry,” Marvon Hupper says with a wry smile, “I do a lot of things.” The wooden coffin which lies along a wall in his garage showroom is a case in point.  The Glenmere Road resident has also been making wood cremation vessels. Both are significant departures from the wooden lobster buoys and wood picture frames he also makes, the latter for Hupper’s landscape and still life paintings that hang on the showroom’s walls.

Hupper had schooling in carpentry, and early on he built a log cabin to house his family, but most of his working life he spent working in real estate in the Skowhegan/Waterville area, first as a broker and then as an appraiser. But his  roots in St. George run deep. The house where he and his wife now reside was built by his grandfather in 1905 on land deeded to Nathaniel Hupper by Lucy Knox, the only heir of Samuel Waldo who had sided with the Patriots during the Revolutionary War (by the early 1730s Waldo had gained controlling interest of the St. George peninsula). Nathaniel Hupper’s parcel once extended from Hupper Point to Drift Inn Beach.

Hupper says he first got interested in making coffins when an acquaintance made one. “And then there was a fellow at the Common Ground Fair (in Unity, Maine) who was showing coffins he had made. So I went online and got plans and made my first coffin last fall. I think the cost of most coffins you can buy through funeral homes is outrageous. I can make one for just $500.”
The coffins Hupper makes can fit inside a burial vault. “Or they’re good for a green cemetery,” he says, noting that Maine has two green cemeteries, one in Limington and one in Orrington. Green cemeteries require eco-friendly burial practices. Hupper’s wood coffins qualify because the wood will eventually degrade.

For an additional $75 Hupper offers a feature for people who like to, as he says, “plan ahead.” “I’ve built the coffin so that it can be used as a bookcase until it’s needed as a coffin,” he explains. “Or it could be used for storage or as a window seat.”

Hupper can also supply people who want to make their own coffins with the necessary specifications. “That’s what I did for my daughter,” he says, adding with a note of pride, “she’s a pretty good carpenter.” ­—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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Hupper’s Island, Port Clyde

Hupper's IslandSMThis undated photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today.

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The Ninth Hour

yellow daylilyIt is late afternoon, shady
on the east side of my kitchen
overlooking the garden.

Yellow lilies are strong, standing
tall, the butterfly plant in full
bloom, red hollyhocks
at their peak and

like anything else at its peak,
are shedding petals left
and right.

—Janet Shea

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