GOULDSBORO – Thursday, Oct. 8 is National Harbormaster Appreciation Day and few harbormasters have had more opportunity to earn the appreciation of the community they serve than Gouldsboro’s Dana Rice Sr.
Rice oversees the town’s six busy harbors and, after more than 40 years on the job, he’s busier than ever.
Rice’s territory covers all the Gouldsboro waterfront and, he said Monday, “it’s a lot of area.”
Although Rice is assisted by a deputy harbormaster in Corea, he is still responsible for supervising the comings and goings of the boats belonging to about 125 licensed lobstermen plus some 15 to 20 recreational boats with home moorings in town waters. Rice also oversees three town launching ramps—in South Gouldsboro, Bunkers Harbor and at Gouldsboro Point—and the town wharf in Bunkers Harbor.
Rice became the town’s harbormaster as the result of “a setup deal” after longtime harbormaster Earl “Junior” Briggs retired and the two local fishermen who followed in succession decided the job wasn’t for them. The town’s selectmen asked Rice to take the job.
“I said ‘yes’,” Rice said with a chuckle. “I was young and foolish.”
Over the past four decades, the harbormaster’s job has changed considerably. For one thing, there’s much more paperwork, including mooring plans for each harbor and waiting lists for moorings. There has also been a change in the way things are done in Downeast harbors. For one thing, fishing boats are much larger than they were 40 years ago, and the town’s harbors have become extremely crowded.
When Rice started, he said, harbor regulation was fairly informal, as was his training for the job. Now, he said, many harbormasters are “badge-wearing, guntoting” law enforcement officers, though not him.
“The legal aspect is a big change,” he said. “People question authority,” though it’s hard to imagine that happens along the Gouldsboro waterfront very often.
Though he’s been at the job for longer than he anticipated, he has no intention to give up the post anytime soon. He expects to stay on “a few more years, two or three” in any event.
“I’m not a quitter,” Rice said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”