For Maine’s lobstermen summer is probably the best time of the year. That doesn’t have anything to do with prices (they are generally low anyway) or the weather. Nope, it’s lobster-boat racing time. It’s a time when fishermen who, while they can’t afford to blow up an engine, several times over the summer bring their boat to the line and when the flag goes down slam the throttle forward, asking as much from the engine as it can give over a mile or so race course.
Those are just the everyday guys with stock engines. Then there are those who don’t mind giving their engine a little something extra. With the electronically controlled engines it’s relatively easy to slide the horsepower rating up a couple hundred if you are savvy with engines and have a laptop.
Whether you are running a stock or a jacked-up engine, why take the risk of blowing a piston — or worse — then having to pay to have it rebuilt, while missing fishing days? The answer is easy. Most Maine lobstermen can’t pass up a good race. They just love the power.
“When the starter’s arm goes down, you ram the throttle home. The power nearly tears the wheel out of her. It’s hard to imagine such power,” is how Merle Beal, a Beals Island lobsterman who raced the Silver Dollar for years, describes the break from the starting line.
This year there are 13 races. The first was June 13 at Boothbay and the last is Sept. 8 at Eastport. The next race is today, July 4, at Moosabec Reach. The race was originally scheduled for June 29, but fog closed down Moosabec Reach, which separates Jonesport from Beals Island.
There’s a lot of anticipation for the race, as Galen Alley is supposed to bring Foolish Pleasure out for the first time since she had engine problems last year at Eastport. Two years ago she set the speed record at 72.8 miles per hour. Granted, with a 2,000-hp-plus turbocharged Dart block, Foolish Pleasure is not a working lobster boat.
People also want to see if Whistlin’ Dixie, a Holland 40 with a 1,000-hp Cat can continue her winning ways. She’s won all her races this year. Can Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 466-cubic-inch International, hold things together? At the Rockland race on June 16, the Wild, Wild West had a turbo failure. Pieces of the turbo ended up in the bilge, and the explosion blew the exhaust header off the engine.
It should be interesting. For a full schedule, visit the Maine Lobster Boat Racing site.
Photo: The Wild Wild West smokes after blowing her engine behind the Lisa Marie. Photo by Jon Johansen