ELLSWORTH — The summer solstice arrives in the early morning on June 21, but celestial observations notwithstanding, summer truly arrives this Saturday when the 2018 Maine lobster boat racing season gets under way at Boothbay Harbor.
Lobster fishermen have undoubtedly been racing their working boats since the first time two of them moored in the same harbor, and certainly since the fleet switched over primarily from sail to power more than a century ago. Formal, organized racing events are a more recent phenomenon, but certainly date back at least to the 1960s in places like Jonesport and Winter Harbor.
Saturday marks the 33rd year of racing in Boothbay Harbor and the size of the fleet may be largely weather-dependent. Last year, 34 boats raced in the season opener on a day marred by morning showers. Cameron Crawford’s Wild Wild West gave fair warning that it would be the boat to reckon with throughout the season, clocking 56.5 miles per hour in the diesel free-for-all and just a shade less in the day’s “fastest boat” race.
The Boothbay Harbor event, with the first starting gun set for 10 a.m., marks the beginning of a busy June for the racers.
On Sunday morning, the fleet will race inside the breakwater in Rockland Harbor. Then, next Saturday June 24, racing returns to Bass Harbor where more than 60 boats lined up to run and Wild Wild West again dominated the diesel scene — winning its class race, the diesel free-for-all and the title of Fastest Lobster Boat.
June racing is scheduled to wrap up on the last day of the month with the Jonesport/Beals Island Lobster Boat Races on Moosabec Reach. Traditionally a part of the towns’ July 4 celebration, the races have been moved this year because the holiday falls in the middle of the week, when most lobstermen are busy fishing, and can’t take the time off to travel from distant Midcoast and western Maine harbors to race.
Racing moves on to Stonington on July 8 then, after a two-week break, heads to the westward for events at Friendship on July 22 and Harpswell on July 29.
The 54th annual Winter Harbor Lobster Festival is on the schedule for Saturday, Aug. 11. With it come the Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races.
The next day, Sunday Aug. 12, much of the fleet will head westward to Pemaquid Point for the annual Merritt Bracket Memorial race event.
The season wraps up on weekend of Aug. 18 and 19 with racing at Long Island in Casco Bay on Saturday and in Portland Harbor on Sunday.