Progress on Electric Boat..more pictures

I finally got the pictures off my camera:

The motor well cut was made 6/6

The cradle was built before the flip

Lifting the hull. Will the sides break?

So far so good!

Over and intact! All I got was a bruised elbow.

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Progress on Lamoine’s first Electric Lobster Boat

After a bad bump in the road–an off-brand of epoxy which hardened to a chewing gum consistency and then stopped–Eleccentricity is taking shape. The bottom is done except for bottom paint which goes on just before launch, and the sides are on and glassed.  On June 6,  I plucked up my courage and cut a rectangle out of the bottom where the outboard lower unit will emerge.

My friend Jim sent me some bronze oarlocks so I will have an option when the batteries run down. I am looking forward to “the big flip” which will hopefully occur today. In order to do this I am building a cradle to support the boat upright. If there are pictures of the flip below it means it has happened!

I had pictures of the process but my camera stopped talking to my computer so I have no way to get them out.  These pictures were taken with my video camera. The boat is so big and heavy (eighteen feet long, seven feet wide and so far, 275 lbs.) that I can walk all around inside it without tipping up the eight foot long cradle.  The flip was scary. I was worried the ropes I suspended it from the ceiling with would pull the ceiling down. This process was at the limit of my strength.

It will barely fit through the door!

I’m still sort of making things up as I go along. I have no clear idea of how I will outfit the interior. I could build a standing-height bridge  and cuddy cabin but that would create quite a lot of wind resistance.  I’m anxious to get it in the water with all the batteries and motor in place so I can check the “trim”, how it matches up to the theoretical waterline, before I choose where to add superstructure weight.  Send me your ideas!

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Assaulted by Spruce

Crossing the bridge into Maine

I came back from a working trip to northern Michigan to find that during my absence four tall spruce trees were threatening SeaCat’s Rest.  Apparently there had been a big storm. One had fallen on our deck, one hung at a sickening angle over our driveway, one had fallen on our power lines (this is #5 or #6 since we built the house) and a big one fell over onto some fire cherry trees and was barely suspended above our roof, 30 feet off the ground. Most of the spruce forest we started with is gone, mostly due to the affects of age. The center wood starts to rot and carpenter ants often invade. The next big blow and they’re down…or leaning. We’ve had trees fall on two boats, a wheelbarrow, the house, outbuildings, fences and the compost bin.

Another spruce gone

This time the biggest challenge was to figure out how to deal with the big tree leaning over the roof, held in place by the young cherry trees. Normally I cut sections out of a leaning tree so that it gradually falls into a vertical position, then tip it in the direction I want it to fall. But this time the tree was so tangled up with the cherry trees that removing a few sections only produced a shortened spruce, still leaning toward the house.

I plucked up my courage and climbed to the top of the roof with my fishing pole. The casting rod was fitted with a heavy nut and I cast that puppy halfway to the neighbors property. After finding the nut (not easy) I removed it and tied on the end of a braided cord, substantially stronger than the monofilament fishing line.

and another

Back onto the roof where I pulled the cord up as I reeled in the fishing line. Now I tied off the cord on the roof and headed back down where I tied a 3/8 inch three strand nylon line to the cord. Back up again and now I tied the nylon rope to the top of the leaning tree.  I was trusting the friction between my shoes and the asphalt shingles to keep me from plunging into oblivion as I was standing a few feet from the edge. Now it was a simple matter to tie the rope to my borrowed truck and yank the tree back the other way, away from the house. With little effort the tree was down and the boring task of chopping up the tree was all that remained.

The big winds happen in Spring and late Fall, so summer visitors don’t have to worry about falling trees. But life on the Atlantic shore can be a challenge sometimes, just like everywhere else I suppose…

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Green Certification for SeaCat’s Rest Oceanside Suite

Affordableacadia’s oceanside suite, SeaCat’s Rest is now officially compliant with the State of Maine’s Environmental Leader in Hospitality program with a score of 172. One hundred points were required for approval, so we’ve managed to exceed this requirement by a wide margin. We can now proudly display the logo:

The truth is, I didn’t know this program existed otherwise I would have applied long ago. The qualification process was straightforward if somewhat comical in that so many areas clearly didn’t apply–like whether my “exit” signs were lit with LEDs. I have no exit signs, swimming pools, employee uniforms, or employees for that matter; drycleaning facility or insecticide application program. I would have gotten extra points if my pool were heated by solar energy or if my employee’s uniforms were cleaned with biodegradable detergent. Instead I had to make due with the 5 points I got for having no pool, rather than the 38 points I would have gotten for having a “green” pool. (Also no credit for the ocean or the swimming pond up the road).  I scored big on my solar water heating system, and if this green certification can result in an extra booking or two then it will be more than worth it.

I wrote an extra bit at the end in the “extra credit” section since when I built the house I had radical attitudes about building green. The exterior walls are doubled, the insulation was state of the art and the window placement and southern orientation are optimized.

The process was worthwhile because it shined a light on what I can do next to earn extra points and be even greener. Part of that involves my guests, you will now be invited to come up with ideas about how we can save that extra kilowatt. It’s not about doing without, it’s about being smart about how we use energy. It’s about Maine: The way life should be!

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A Boat Building Project Begins in Lamoine

boatbuilding at

Maine is one of the few places where wooden boats are considered a cool thing. I’ve always loved them so now that I need a boat I decided to build it. Not only am I crazy enough to take on this task, I’ve decided to design it as well. Why would anyone want to risk all that time and effort on a design when there are so many professional ones to choose from? Just crazy I guess.

My virtual boat

I want a simple, light, tough, easily driven eighteen foot boat for recreational lobstering (5 traps). I want to use it for excursions to Bar Harbor (8 miles away) and I want it to be electric. Think of it as a Nissan Leaf in the water. It will be driven by a six battery 36 volt power supply and a state-of-the-art permanent rare-earth magnet motor capable of around 4 hp. This will have a gas engine equivalent of about 8 horsepower, so I’ve read. The full-blown fantasy includes a roof covered with solar cells capable of generating 400 watts in full sun but we’ll see how that goes.

The hull will resemble a mastless sailboat more than a runabout because it will be a displacement rather than a planing design. That means that the hull will not lift out of the water, the transom will be higher and the boat will have a maximum speed of around 6 miles per hour. I’m going to build it out of marine plywood, and the deep cycle batteries will be housed in a hollow keel; nice and low for stability.

How the heck do you design a boat? Actually, it’s easier than ever with free software available from Carlson Design Corp of Tulsa OK. The program is called Chine Hull Designer and it is made for plywood constructed boats. The software computes the waterline at a given load, stability, a table of offsets and plywood patterns just in case you have access to a zillion dollar plotter/cutter machine.

Imagine cruising silently without fumes, starting with the flip of a switch and recharging for pennies. Electric boat propulsion is growing fast. There are limitations of course, but with weight and speed less of an issue than with autos, it seems like a good fit. The Yahoo electricboats group has over 4000 members, and there are numerous sites on the web where you can learn more. I may be crazy but I’m leaving the virtual phase. The plywood will be delivered in a few days.

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Sub Zero in Lamoine

On Monday January 24, the Acadia Maine coast experienced the coldest temperatures so far this winter, right on schedule. We reached -8°F just before dawn. Fortunately the ground and roofs are covered by a one-foot blanket of snow and the thermal mass of the ground is not that cold due to the mildness of the winter so far. Still, the cats are refusing to go outside. They ask, but as soon as they get their human to open the door they sit there and fail to budge. All that fur and nowhere to go. And they call themselves Maine Coon Cats!

One of the reasons I can shrug off this cold snap is the fact that the ocean is not even starting to skin over with a layer of ice. February is right around the corner and the sun will be getting noticeably stronger, so we need a lot of cold weather to produce a sea ice layer. As long as it stays liquid, it serves as a thermal sink, keeping the immediate coast several degrees warmer than further inland.

The ocean freezes at -2°C or 28.4°F. This is a little misleading, since the  freezing temperature depends on the salinity of the water, and this is always in flux. It also fails to account for the wind and tide stirring up the surface. In practical terms, the sea water has to have been chilled throughout to a temperature near 28.4°F in order for the top layer to begin freezing when exposed to cooler air temps. Right now our local buoys are reporting water temperatures close to 40°F, so freezing seems unlikely. Before freezing starts in earnest, shallow water close to shore skins over and that hasn’t even happened yet.

An odd thing happens when sea water freezes: it expels the salt. This happens because the crystalline structure of ice has no room for the salt ions. The salt is pushed into super-concentrated brine pockets in the ice or sinks below the ice layer. Sailors trapped on the ice knew this, they just melted the sea ice for drinking water. Anything mixed in water will behave the same way. One way to concentrate beer or wine is to freeze it. The high-alcohol product is then poured off the ice or filtered out. This is how Eisbok is made in Germany.

Thick, persistent layers of sea ice form in one of every 7-10 years here in Lamoine. These are the years locals remember and they tell tales of people moving houses out to the islands or deer migrations. Some islands have high deer populations and that’s how it happens. The effect of freeze-up on the local weather is dramatic, since the thermal sink of the liquid water is gone. Suddenly when the ice forms, our temperatures on the coast plummet and the usual annual bottom of -10°F becomes -20°F or less. In these years the lobsters are slow to arrive in shallower waters and may only molt once late in the summer. Lobster fishers waste a lot of time hauling and baiting empty traps. All this because the ocean cools off more than usual. But it won’t happen this year. There’s no sea ice! Not yet anyway.

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Blizzard in Acadia!

The view out our window, Dec 27, 2010


A Blizzard Warning remains in effect until 7 PM EST this evening.

* Precipitation type… snow

* accumulations… 8 to 12 inches with lower amounts along the
immediate coast and outer islands

* timing… through this evening

* temperatures… upper 20s inland to low 30s along the coast

* winds… sustained northeast winds 25 to 30 mph. Frequent gusts
of 40 to 45 mph across interior downeast areas… with gusts of
60 mph along the coast.

* Impacts… extreme impact. Heavy snow and strong winds will
create extremely hazardous traveling conditions. Blowing and
drifting snow will result in blizzard conditions.

CNN is abuzz with news of the great blizzard of ’10. New Jersey has 14 to 18 inches, New York City 13, and all their airports are closed. Here along the coast of Downeast Maine we have about 6″ so far, and it might change to rain before it’s all over. Across Frenchman Bay from our shore the sky has melted into the water in a luminescent gray void. My neighbors, new Florida transplants, are building a snowman. They tell me this is not something they could do in Florida, although their state has had some really cold temperatures lately.

Up and down the East coast it seems that temperatures are surprisingly uniform. This usually means that any weather systems coming up the coast dump most of their snow further south. By the time they get here, where we are brimming with all the necessary snow removal equipment and survival mentality, the show’s over. (I shouldn’t speak too soon, it’s still coming down).

By 5 PM today the snow will be over and our plow guy will have cleared our 1/4 mile long driveway. Our method of dealing with a Downeast blizzard is simple: stay put. Mainers are good at preparing for such an event. We watch the weather reports obsessively, hit the grocery stores the day before, stock up on batteries and generator fuel, save gallons of water in buckets and make sure the woodpile is dry and accessible. The vehicles of choice tend to be 4 wheel drive trucks or Subarus. We get by with front drive Hondas with snow tires. Our biggest challenge is usually our driveway.

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Mackerel, Maine’s Fun Fish

Here on Lamoine’s shore, 8 miles from Bar Harbor, the mackerel schools show up with the warm weather and the tourists. While not as thick as in Belfast, an hour southwest, our local mackerel is certainly worth pursuing. In fact, it takes so little in effort and investment, it’s the cheapest seafood you can get. And they’re fun to catch too.

It must be said, the beauty of the fish, with its classic streamlined shape and iridescent purple coloring is somewhat unmatched by its culinary appeal. The meat is oily,  sort of mushy and strongly flavored. Not the premier dining experience, but even sushi chefs serve it. The mackerel is related to the tuna and bluefish, so it has good heritage, and the fishery is reasonable healthy. Some folks find the taste quite good, especially when fresh, and the meat is high in vitamin B12 and omega 3 fatty acids. Also, unlike their larger cousins Northern Atlantic mackerel are very low in mercury, and can be eaten at least twice a week according to EPA guidelines.

Catching mackerel couldn’t be easier or more fun. The most humble of fishing pole and reel are adequate and the classic “four drop” mackerel rig can be bought anywhere for a few dollars. This rig has four hooks arranged with colorful sleeves and the impression is that when you reel in, all hooks will have a fish. This may be optimistic, but I have had more than one on occasion. Add a weighted hook at the bottom for easier casting.  Spoons or bare hooks can also be used. Bait is often a cut up mackerel, but where do you get cut up mackerel before you catch the first one? Start out with whatever meat is in your fridge: a hot dog, a chicken bit or a shrimp. Or, just ask the guy fishing next to you on the dock for a bit of mackerel.

Mackerel move and feed only at certain times. The tide has a big effect on their feeding behavior and it’s best to ask around for the local knowledge. If you go to the Lamoine State Park, just glance at the floating dock to see if anyone’s fishing. This is the best mackerel spot around, so just monitor the activity there and you will have success. Alternately, throw a line overboard while sailing or kayaking, but be ready for a fight. Mackerel are feisty fish and may pull your small boat quite a distance before they tire.

Keep your fish alive or on ice as soon as possible to preserve their texture. They can be simply grilled but are especially good smoked. I have done this by placing cherry sticks under the grill of my gas barbecue, heating them until they flame and then shutting off the gas. The fish are high enough to not be reached by the flame (on the upper grill). When the wood is burned, the fish are usually done, but if not the gas can be relit for a few minutes. Enjoy a meal of Maine mackerel, Maine potatoes and Maine sweet corn!

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Making Cider in Lamoine

If anything in Lamoine, Maine can be called ubiquitous, it is the apple tree. Most yards have at least a couple, either on the lawn proper or somewhere along the periphery, and more than a few can also be seen along the roadside on state Highway 184, where about this time each year, they let go their holdings all over the road, to lie like billiard balls until they are squashed by passing cars or scooped up by wily crows. “Apples, apples everywhere,” as it were.

Grinding is the first step. Photo courtesy of Douglas C. Jones

Apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge for co-opting his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but after watching nearly every species of wild bird and animal in Lamoine, from gulls to crows to fox to squirrels to porcupines to deer (even Labrador Retrievers get in on the act) gorge themselves on fallen apples throughout the Autumn, a few local humans got a little jealous and decided to appropriate some of this fruit for themselves.   These are our yards, after all, where the trees have taken root.   So recently, on a cold but sunny afternoon, about 7 friends brought many bags of apples, gleaned mostly from their yards and a nearby pick-your-own apple farm, to a house on Walker Road,  where the owners are in possession of a wonderful antique Jaffrey Manufacturing Company apple press.

The pulp is pressed. Photo courtesy of Douglas C. Jones

Prior to this get-together, we were encouraged simply to “get out there in your yards and jostle with the wildlife for your rightful share of apples.   And don’t be finicky.   Pick up any variety you find, even some crab-apples.”   As a preliminary step in the manufacture of our cider, we laid our many plastic bags of apples around the Jaffrey press for easy access, because once the pressing process starts, it moves apace.     The apple press has a small hopper with a wooden lid, a top-mounted corkscrew T-Bar, and a side-mounted hand-crank wheel.     Underneath the hopper, a bucket lined with burlap is placed to receive all the discard of the grinding apparatus on the press.     A volunteer with a strong arm is placed at the grinding wheel, and after the apples are washed, they are tossed willy-nilly into the hopper.     The person at the hand crank rotates the wheel rapidly and relentlessly.   Another person holds the small hopper lid on top of the tumbling apples, all the while pressing downward to keep the apples in contact with the ruthless blades.   As the apples are forced into contact with these rotating blades by pressure from the hopper lid, they are shredded into bits and come out into the waiting burlap-lined bucket.   There are chunks, cores, stems, seeds, and the odd leaf, but not to worry, as all these elements of refuse are snagged by the burlap.   When the burlap gets full, the cranking ceases, much to the relief of the volunteer, and a circular lid is placed on top of the scrap mound.   Next, the T-bar at the top of the press is lined up directly over this lid and cranked down tightly, squeezing cider through the burlap onto a slightly inclined rectangular wooden tray with a drain hole.   Under the drain hole, a bucket is placed to receive the apple juice.

Photo courtesy of Douglas C. Jones

When the burlap-lined bucket gets full of apple parts, and no more cranking of the T-bar is productive, the cranking is ceased, and the bulging burlap is lifted out of the bucket.     The scraps can be discarded in various ways, of course, but in this case, our host had designated a small area behind his house as a compost pile.     The burlap got carried over to that pile and emptied as compost.   The burlap was then shaken out a bit and fitted back into the wooden bucket beneath the hopper.     Meanwhile, each bucket of collected apple juice was decanted through a funnel, lined with cheesecloth (the second stage of a double filtration process), into standard plastic (previously cleaned and sterilized) jugs, such as might appear full of orange or apple juice at any supermarket.  When the burlap is placed back into the bucket, more apples are tossed into the hopper, and the whole process begins anew, although the previous wheel cranker is replaced by a new volunteer with fresh shoulder muscles.   We managed to crank out several gallons of cider that afternoon, and despite its mongrel pedigree, it was quite tasty.   The cider can be drunk on the spot, of course (a good deal of it was); refrigerated to be served cold on another day; or frozen to be thawed and heated up for cider in the dead of winter.

As mentioned, the particular Jaffrey model we used on this occasion was an antique, purchased at a yard sale more than 20 years ago, but there are updated versions available for perusal at While anyone can go to their local market and buy cider, there is something to be said about enjoying the fruits of your labor and honoring a long time tradition.

Photo courtesy of Douglas C. Jones

Thanks to my neighbor for this guest post. Anyone notice how cider has suffered from the new pasteurization trend? Cider ain’t what it used to be! We have to make it ourselves! Bruce

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So You Have A New Maine Job!

You are ready to pop right up and begin the house search, Right? Slooooow down. We made mistakes. You should know about them. Maine is a great place to live. The people are helpful and respectful, crime is practically non-existent, you can get what you need and prices are not outrageous. Sure, winters are long and social options can be few, but you knew that, right? Below I have assembled a list of things to be mindful of.

I’m assuming you know where you will be working. If not, I hope you have a nice bankroll or a free place to stay until you figure that out. If you have not yet settled on a location, start out here. The counties of Maine are rated for their health rankings. Here in Hancock County where Acadia National Park is located, we’re #2 in the state. Next door is Washington County, #15. Go figure. This site is rich with information and rates things like high school graduation, smoking, obesity, vehicular death and so on.

Schools are an obvious concern. Even if you don’t have kids, buying into a community with a poor school means your home may not sell easily. Around here, Mount Desert has the best school, and the home prices reflect it. Bar Harbor is #2. I’m stopping there lest I get into trouble. Mount Desert Island (not to be confused with the town of Mount Desert, which is on Mount Desert Island) is the most expensive place overall to live in the county. Here in Lamoine, we always say our house would be twice the worth if we moved it onto the island, a mile away. So talk to parents with kids in school, that’s the best way to get the lowdown on school quality. Be ready for lots of details, like whether kids have to go to one high school or if they have a choice. Finally, don’t think that small is better. Having a one-class class (all 6th graders in one room) means that your child will never escape the difficult characters in her elementary school.  Diversity is good. Sometimes so are bigger schools.

Rumford paper mill

Don’t buy a house downwind from a paper mill, incinerator or toxic waste dump until you inform yourself about the risks. There are mills in Old Town and Bucksport, and there is an incinerator in Orrington. A list of contaminated sites in Hancock County can be seen here. Overall, Maine is not bad in this regard, although some complain bitterly about aerial spraying of blueberry fields. Perhaps the worst polluter is us, in the form of ozone and smog from cars which blow up the east coast in the summertime.

Take a local map and put pins in everyplace you are likely to go. Grocery stores, work, doctor’s office, lumber yard, school, favorite restaurant, etc. Keep this map in mind as you start to consider places to live. When you find a property, find out how long it’s been on the market. Houses in Maine are hard to sell in certain areas. When we first settled in Belfast, we noticed that putting out a for sale sign was an annual event staged for tourists. People were asking prices unjustified by the jobs likely to be found there. Things are better now, but there are places where you may be tempted by a big sprawling house and barn; just a little too far from all the pins in your map.

I had a boss once who told me (after I bought a sprawling house and barn in the wrong area) that you should not buy a house in Maine unless it was either 1) waterfront or 2) view. He was right. Of course, there are other factors which may substitute for waterfront or view, but if you’re not careful you will end up with a house you can’t sell for more than you bought it for, as happened to us and our Belfast house. Those first few years in Maine were instructive. We saw more houses burned down (for practice by the fire department) than built. Houses were crumbling into the ground. That would not happen on MDI or Lamoine for the most part, but make sure you remember my boss’s warning.

Culturally, Maine life varies widely. Near the coast, big cities and universities there are theater, music, reading groups, good libraries and educated neighbors. In other places snowmobiles, ATVs and hunting prevail.  You may want to read The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute. This is recommended for anyone moving to Maine. There are really two Maines. The book is an extreme version of the “other” Maine, but there is a real dichotomy. You may want to figure out where you fit in this continuum before committing to a particular area. The best places are where people embrace both cultures, like Lamoine.

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