Every lobsterman loves a good race. At least if the lobsterman is from Maine, which is why some have engines rated from 500 to 1,000 horsepower in boats ranging from 30 to 42 feet. You certainly don’t need that much horsepower to haul traps. Chalk it up to more than a smattering of — pleasurable and intense as it may be — irrationality, which is all part of Maine’s lobster boat racing season.
These are not fishermen with outfits like Caterpillar, Twin Disc and Cummins picking up the tab. These are guys that a day or two after a race have to go out and haul, and the day after that and the day after that. Blow a piston and your day job is shot. And you’ve got to spend money to fix the problem.
But that’s being rational. Bank on it, lobstermen will show up for the race. When the flag drops they’ll slam the hammer down and head as hard down the course as their boat will go.
At this year’s Stonington races 92 boats competed, and 84 showed up at the Moosabec Reach races. The numbers dropped off after that, but you can bet that by the time the last race is held on Aug. 18 in Portland, several hundred boats will have run in this year’s races.
Fortunately, there haven’t been a lot of breakdowns. In It’s racing season, I mentioned that the 28-foot Wild, Wild West had a turbo failure with parts of the turbo ending up in the bilge at the Rockland races.
Turbo failures caused a couple of other boats to be towed from the course. The 37-foot Madison Alexa reached the finish line at Jonesport when people heard a pop followed by a lot of smoke. At Stonington, the same pop sounded from First Team and, “green stuff was running out of the motor,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association.
At Searsport, the 37-foot Miss Karlee broke a piston ring. She had to be hauled out of the water and up to Otis Enterprises Marine to have the engine torn apart.
The nearest miss involved Galen Alley’s Foolish Pleasure at the Moosabec Reach races. Foolish Pleasure is not a working lobster boat. The boat is built on a 30-foot lobster-boat hull but with an engine that’s over 2,000 horsepower and runs on something only the owner and the boat’s mechanic know. She’s got the speed record at 72.8 mph.
Foolish Pleasure was running well ahead of her competitors, probably over 65 mph, when she started porpoising. “That’s always been a problem with that boat,” says Johansen. “It can go so fast but unless the conditions are right, he has issues.”
Foolish Pleasure came down on its bow, and once that happened, “it just sucked in around,” Johansen says. The boat went over and, according to estimates, went sideways for at least three boat lengths. Alley was strapped in at the helm, or otherwise he probably would have gone overboard.
Does that mean that Alley and any of the others won’t be idling up to the starting line at the next race? Nope, they’ll be there. After all, every lobsterman loves a good race — at least if he’s from Maine.