On August 18, 65 boats showed up in Portland for the last event on Maine’s lobster-boat racing circuit. Lobster boats came to race from as far away as Beals Island to the east and Hampton, N.H., to the west. Lining the racecourse were about another 150 spectator boats and hundreds of spectators looking out onto the course from Portland’s Eastern Promenade.
More was at stake here than just prizes and bragging rights. Since 2010 the Portland race has been part of a weekend fundraising effort for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, thus the name: MS Harborfest Lobster Boat Races.
Besides the lobster boat races, there was a sailboat race, an auction and a tugboat race. All of them were part of the revenue stream that generated just over $100,000 for the weekend. The biggest part of that — about $46,000 — came from the auction. Tugboat operators made donations and kicked in money from the sale of merchandise. Sailboat operators got businesses and individuals to sponsor their boats.
The lobster-boat races kicked in just over $6,000. The money came from selling T-shirts and donating each boat’s $20 entry fee. In addition, many fishermen give up the prize money they won for first, second or third place, and if no boats showed up for a particular race, all the prize money for that race went to the multiple sclerosis fund.
In at least one case, a fisherman who wasn’t racing “came up and handed over a $100 bill,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. “A lot of these people have been affected by MS, so they give.”
Top: Easy Money cruises to a finish in Portland Harbor; Portland fireboat starts the day’s festivities; Harborfest closes with a tugboat muster and race; Photos by Jessica Hathaway