The Susan Margaret after its launch last month. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHE WALTON

Mouse has many lives

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Five years of work rebuilding a venerable old boat were finally capped off recently when Kathe and Dan Walton celebrated the launch of the 1972 Bunker and Ellis lobster boat Susan Margaret.

The boat is named for Kathe Walton’s mother, Susan Bunker Newman. The late Raymond Bunker was Newman’s father and Walton’s grandfather.

The 36-foot wooden lobster boat is one of the original hulls used as a model by the late Jarvis Newman, Susan’s husband and Kathe’s father, when he began building fiberglass versions in the 1970s. It was first called Mouse after the nickname of its original owner, lobsterman Wilfred Lloyd of Vinalhaven.

The boat had a long working life. Six different Vinalhaven fishermen owned it before the Waltons bought it in 2014 and brought it to their Southwest Harbor shop next to Newman Marine Brokerage.

The rebuilding project was led by Richard Stanley, whose work also carries forward a local family maritime tradition. He grew up helping his father, Ralph Stanley, build and restore wooden boats. He is an old friend of Walton’s — the two both grew up in Southwest Harbor and were in the same class through school.

The rebuild included new frames, a new transom, new engine bed and sheer plank. Jonathan Minott assisted Stanley on the project.

To replace the sheer plank, Stanley said in 2016, they needed a 14-inch-wide cedar board in order to cut the curved shape required.

“No one had one that big,” he said. “But one day while we were looking, Gott’s construction’s crew called up Tom Gott because there happened to be a big cedar that needed to come down to get their excavator in” at a job site.

“The tree was 16 feet long, 20 inches across at the butt and maybe 8 inches across at the top,” Stanley said with a grin. “Tom just loves to saw lumber, especially specialty stuff. He’s always nerved up about whether it’s going to be good enough.”

The Susan Margaret was launched in early September.

“The engine started right up, and we headed over to the upper town dock to tie up for the weekend,” Walton said.

With so much new wood, and having been so long out of the water, the boat took its time swelling up. “I believe the harbor has flowed through her bilge!” Walton joked.

“We now have her at the (Great Harbor) marina where we can keep a battery charger plugged in, as she is still pumping every 10 minutes. But that’s better than every minute the first 24 hours. We spent the first night aboard her tied up to the town dock in case something failed, which it did not.”

“We have slowly putt-putted around the area at five knots a couple of times” and all went well.

The Waltons plan to keep the boat in the water another couple of weeks before returning it to the shop for the winter.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Liz is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Islander since 2013. She grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor. [email protected]

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