STONINGTON — No one can spend a lifetime as a lobsterman without a deeply imbedded kernel of optimism. While that characteristic might not be obvious in everyone, Stonington lobsterman Clayton Joyce would seem to have it in abundance.
Until just recently, lobster fishing has been slow. So slow in fact that the much anticipated shortage of lobster bait, primarily herring, hasn’t had much impact.
Late last month, as hundreds of his fellow fishermen wrapped up a rally on the Stonington pier against potentially costly and, many believe, ineffective proposed changes to federal whale protection rules, Joyce and several of his friends and family gathered just across the harbor at the Greenhead Lobster Co. dock to celebrate the launching of his new boat — the 36-foot Alyssa Noreen.
The event was well attended, several fishermen who were on hand said, because Joyce is held in high regard by members of Stonington’s lobstering community.
Named for Joyce’s granddaughter, the boat’s hull and top were built at the Wayne Beal boatshop in Jonesport then trucked last fall to Jeff Eaton’s shop in Deer Isle to be finished over the winter and spring. Designed by Beal’s brother, Calvin Beal Jr., the boat is 36 feet long and, with a beam of 13 feet 3 inches, comparatively narrow.
The easily driven hull is powered by a 450-horsepower Cummins diesel, the latest version of the engine that Joyce had in the boat he just replaced — a Duffy 35 that he fished for nearly 20 years. That boat replaced a Webbers Cove 34 that Joyce fished even longer.
Alyssa Noreen is definitely utilitarian but, even so, shows the extremely high level of finish that lobstermen have come to expect from boats finished by Eaton and his longtime associate, Dwight Staples.
Though they finish boats in the off season, Eaton and Staples are both longtime lobster fishermen. So as well as being meticulous craftsmen they know firsthand what really works, or doesn’t work, for hauling traps.
One of the great traditions that surround the launching of a lobster boat is the shoreside party where friends and family share good stories, good memories and good food. The launching of Alyssa Noreen did that tradition proud and everyone who boarded the new boat for a spin around Stonington Harbor did so with full stomachs and big smiles.