JONESPORT — Fishermen probably have been racing lobster boats on Moosabec Reach for as long as there were two of them moored between Beals Island and Jonesport but almost certainly never so many at one time as last Saturday.
Historically, the Moosabec Reach Lobster Boat Races have been held, in most years at least, on July 4, timed to coincide with Jonesport’s holiday festivities. Historically, two things were virtually assured: a great parade and dungeon-thick fog that delayed the start of the races — occasionally for days.
Because the holiday falls on Wednesday this year, the races were shifted to Saturday, with astounding results. There was no fog on Moosabec Reach, and, according to Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association President Jon Johansen, 101 boats registered to compete, perhaps the biggest fleet in the history of the event, and the races actually started on time.
When all was said and done, there were enough exciting races to satisfy even the most jaded spectator and a still-unsatisfied hope that two super-speedsters would meet up on the race course.
Moosabec is one of the relatively few events that still holds races for purely recreational boats. In the first race of the day, Curtis Robinson Jr.’s 700-plus horsepower 18-foot ski boat clocked a stunning 75.8 miles per hour as it headed toward the Jonesport-Beals Island bridge.
While no other boat came close to that speed, there was considerable anticipation to see what Jeremy Beal’s Miss Marina & Marie, a 28-foot lobster boat with a 1,000-plus horsepower gasoline fueled Chevrolet, might do and how it would fare against the reigning diesel speed record-holder, Wild Wild West.
Unfortunately, neither question was answered.
Miss Marina & Marie suffered a recurrence of engine problems, couldn’t finish a combined class race against the smaller-engined Black Diamond and was done for the day. The hoped for faceoff may come this weekend at the Stonington Lobster Boat Races.
“It’s no fun racing without competition,” Glenn Crawford, owner of C&C Machine in Ellsworth where Wild Wild West is based and tuned, said Monday.
There was no shortage of intense competition.
In the class for boats 40 feet and longer with diesel engines between 501 and 750 horsepower, Jason Chipman’s Miss Amity and Eric Beal’s Kimberly Ann have been running bow-to-bow since the season got under way at Boothbay Harbor in early June.
Beal won at Boothbay and, a day later, at Rockland. Ten days ago in Bass Harbor Chipman won the third race of the season and, at Moosabec, he came on strong to edge out Beal even the series.
If a number of races were close, there were three that offered no surprise: the class race for non-working lobster boats with diesel engines of any horsepower; the Diesel Free-for-All and the Fastest Recreational Lobster Boat. All three went to Cameron Crawford’s 1,050-horsepower (at least) Wild Wild West which ran “between 55 and 60” at the races, Glenn Crawford said.
It’s no secret that the lobster industry has changed significantly over the past decade or so, and the Moosabec races last weekend provided even more evidence that the fishery has changed.
For many years, the “ladies race,” with a wife, daughter or girlfriend at the helm of some lobsterman’s boat, was a big favorite on the racing circuit. No more.
Last weekend, it was Harrington lobsterman and Narraguagus High School girls’ basketball coach Heather Thompson at the helm of her new 36-foot Gold Digger winning the title of Fastest Working Lobster Boat at the Moosabec Reach Lobster Boat Races.
Next up on the racing calendar: the Stonington Lobster Boat Races set for 10 a.m. this coming Sunday, July 8, on the Deer Island Thorofare.