Monthly Archives: September 2011

community Maine destinations Maine Vanities

8MY_MNY Kenneth and Christina Beebe

Ken and Christina Beebe

Christina Beebe wanted black, but granite, not metal. She looks at the sleek black Series 8 BMW. “We were renovating the kitchen, and had planned on black granite counter tops, but Ken came home all charged up over this series 8.” She sighs, “Of course he talked me into it, and there went the money for my countertops.” And that explains 8MY_MNY.

Ken and Christina Beebe both have self-created jobs, and while Christina says of Ken: “He always has too many irons in the fire,” she is no slouch herself. She paints and runs a tiny gallery, he paints, fixes boats and farms oysters. Together, they have created a give-and-take lifestyle that suits them both.

Follow a winding road down a narrow peninsula and enter Beebe country. A high-roofed building houses Ken’s boat projects. He shows off the meticulously restored 18 foot 1947 Boston Rudder Cod dory that has just come out of the boathouse and has been sold to a lucky buyer from Massachusetts. Outside the boathouse is another classic wooden boat, but this one is in rough shape. The owner’s widow has given to Ken. She knew she could depend on him to tend to it, and bring it back to life. A few yards away is a massive boat trailer, and Ken switches from animatedly discussing restoring boats to measuring the tongue of the trailer and sketching plans for reworking it. He has just bought another boat, and needs to adapt this trailer to haul the longer, deeper keeled vessel.

“Ken had such a boat fetish,” Christina says, and one cannot help but wonder what it was like before, since she is clearly referring to an era with even more boats. Ken talks about selling the boats moored behind his house and just having the one he is refitting the trailer for. “I just want one boat now,” he says.

“He is lying” Christina says, laughing.

“We named one boat Four Letter Word,” she says. “That word of course was B-O-A-T. But it really aggravated a lot of people.”

Ken nods, and looks around the yard. It reflects life and work. Flowers and vegetables grow unrestrained and exuberant. There is a wrench lying near the trailer and Ken motions towards it and says “No florescent green lawns and black roses for me.” He lets his gaze roam from the boat shed to the vine-covered trellis leading to the house, and then to a nearby duck pond with feathers along its shore. “This makes me happy,” he says. He is a content man.

The duck pond is small, and the geese had chattered and departed before Ken approached. “Where did the girls go?” he asks. This is not rhetorical, he really wants to know, and you can hear the concern in his voice. These geese are family. Christina mentions Blue, a goose that died last year. She was 21 years old, and is missed. Not many geese lead such a cherished life.

Not far from the pond is Christina’s gallery, a sweet little shake-shingled structure that displays her watercolors, wooden salad bowls painted with flowers or salmon, floor cloths, and a portfolio of her faux finishes. Christina’s art is functional, up-scale folk art imbued with her warmth and love of nature.

Parked here and there in the compound are BMW’s, “beamers.” “We went through boats, gotta have this, gotta have that. Then it was cars.” Christina says. Her car is a white BMW 7 series, license plate Y 65. “I hate it” she asserts, meaning the plate, not the car. “It is so not me.”

Ken explains, “Why would you want to drive 65 miles an hour in a car that can do way faster that that?” he asks, explaining the plate. He also admits that he talked her into this car, their second BMW. Christina has grown to love the luxurious ride, but not the plate. “It is just asking for trouble,” she claims.

And then there is 5678BMW, on a series 5 white wagon. The message is that they have the set, series 5, 6, 7 and 8. The series 5 wagon is a working car. “It’s a shit box,” Christina says, making her feelings clear, then adds “Pardon my language.” Ken’s fetishes have included boats, cars, and, it seems, vanity plates. The white truck parked in front of the house is not a BMW, but bears the plate OYSTERS. This is the truck Ken uses in his painting business, but the oyster plate is because of his oyster business.

Hog Cove Oyster Company is the only oyster farm in the state in salt water, not brackish water. Shear orneriness is the reason. Ken, an oyster lover, had bought some oysters for Thanksgiving, and rather than keep them in the fridge drying out, he submerged them in salt water by the pier. The Maine State Warden came by, and emptied the bag into the water, saying he really should fine Ken and would certainly do so the next time Ken stored his oyster dinner in the bay to stay fresh. The letter of the law is that one has to have a license, purchased from the state, to have oysters in the water in a container.

“God dam I was pissed” Ken says, and he says it in a steely voice with sparking eyes. The irritation is still a tangible memory for him, and he is tense as he tells the story. “I went and grabbed a paint-rolling pole, and an onion bag, and went back and raked the bottom. I got back 32 of 36.” He smiles and relaxes. The satisfaction he felt is evident. He then went and got a license so he could keep his Thanksgiving oysters fresh. Along with the license comes acreage. The area he leased is not far from the dock behind his house, near Hog Cove, and it is in salt water. He now has 228,000 oysters growing. This is a man who doesn’t do things in small measures. That is a lot of oysters just to be sure there are fresh ones for a holiday meal.

He recounts telling other area oyster farmers his intent. “They all think I’m crazy.” The reality is that oysters in salt water need much more work than oysters in the river. They are prey to starfish, have mussels competing for their food, and need to be power-hosed every eleven days. But the salt environment may make them brinier, and give a distinct flavor that will set them above the river feeders.

Ken isn’t worried about marketing them, though. He has always loved oysters, and is confident these will be flavorful and sought after.

Christina hopes he is right, or she just might have to place a sign on the oyster boat, 8 MY MONY2.

Excerpt above from Maine Vanities, a collection of essays about the people and stories behind vanity license plates.

These short portraits capture Maine individuality. There is quirkiness, compassion, and humor. While passions range from skiing to solving Mensa puzzles, and ages from 14 to 91, enthusiasm, curiosity, and delight in sharing the story behind their plate and their bit of Maine is the common thread.

Acadia National Park Destinations Maine Otter Creek

In a fog

A small boat on the ocean, visibility twenty feet, no navigation system, and close to ten o’clock at night is not a good place to be. We did not mean to be there, but there we were, lost in the fog.

Fog changes the familiar. It has a presence, and the cool moisture is palpable. It cloaks the sharp edges of things making them a bit less comfortable, but beautiful and mysterious. I am happy walking in fog on the well-known paths behind my house. The soft gray contrasts with the dark forms of trees, accentuating their branches. It is not weather to explore new territory, however, or to stray off the trail. Driving on foggy nights takes concentration. The road disappears into the light of the headlamps, and progress is slow and tense. I only drive on foggy nights out of necessity.

To be out in a boat in such weather is foolish, and it can be fatal. We were foolish, but it was not fatal. This sounds melodramatic, but we were indeed in danger. We know better, so how did this happen? How did we end up floating, engine quieted, trying to hear a bell or sound that might tell us where we were?

We live close to the ocean, and our favorite restaurant is on an island just a few miles offshore. The Islesford Dock is on an old wharf and you feel like you are floating on water as you eat. The location and views are enough reason to go, but the food is taste after taste of heaven: Buratta cheese, rice, grain and pine nut cakes with spruce tree oil and roasted vegetables from the garden out back, sautéed kale with just the right tenderness and garlic. I close my eyes and swoon whenever I think of their food. There are usually fellow ID fans at the bar, and it is always a joy to meet fellow addicts. You can get there by ferry, but that means planning, as well as eating, around the ferry schedule. So we bought a boat.

As soon as they open for the season we head out, and during the long summer days we are back safe in our harbor well before dark. We go several times a week, it is a short 15-minute ride and we know it well. The season was drawing to an end, and we felt the need to go as much as possible before they closed. The days were also getting shorter. We asked a couple of friends to join us, and to meet us at the dock at five, but from that point on a series of unfortunate events unfolded. Individually, none of them would have been a problem, but cumulatively we ended up where we did.

Life jackets, check. Hand-held compass, check. GPS, check. Hmm, batteries are low. A few minutes were taken to find new batteries and toss them in the bag. Cell phone check. Powerful spotlight. No check. We searched the shed where life jackets and this light are kept but could not find it. We went up the road to the garage, another possible place for it. We debated. We planned to return before dark, but it would be close. We felt we needed it, and went back to the shed and found the lamp where it had fallen behind the counter we store the jackets on.

We get to the dock, and instead of the boat on the water ready for our friends; they are there ahead of us. We launch and head off, half an hour behind schedule. As we are leaving the harbor I explain we were late looking for the light. I point to it, but where is it? We each thought the other had put it in. Again the debate, go without or go back? We go back for it. We arrive at the restaurant with time to eat quickly and get home before dark, but it is packed and we have to wait half an hour to order. It is then my husband reaches for his cell phone to find it is not hooked to his belt. The fog we had seen off in the distance moves in, between home and us. The fog is there, we have to go back through it, we decide we may as well eat first. But the kitchen is backed up, and it is after eight when we finally eat. If I had a choice of last meals, this would be it.

We get underway, but it is after eight, dark, and, as my husband says, the fog is dungeon-thick.

We leave the Islesford Dock and go from one buoy to the next. After the third one there is a short stretch before the buoy at the mouth of Northeast Harbor, which would guide us home. We pull out the GPS, but the batteries we had grabbed turn out not to be new batteries. We had our powerful lamp, but it simply reflected a wall of gray. We see dim running lights of another boat, and coming close see it is a boat someone had told us was going to Northeast. We follow it. At some point one of us said, “seems as though we should have hit that buoy by now.” The boat we were following was not heading to Northeast Harbor, but to Southwest Harbor. We turn around, and think we were heading back the way we had come, but become disoriented. We take a bearing with the hand held compass, but it just does not seem possible. Maybe the compass is broken, we think. We move slowly, sweeping our light across the water to let other boats know we were there. There is, surprisingly, traffic on the water. Large shapes heard long before they are seen.

The fog is so thick and heavy our clothing is wet and our hair is plastered to our heads and necks. The constant moan of ships’ horns let us know we have company out there, somewhere. And quite close, we just cannot see them. Abbie and John, our dinner companions, are in it with us, no accusations, fear or complaint. We discuss whether we should trust the compass, and take turns wielding the light. The possibility of being out all night is a real one. We are all calm, calling it an adventure, while offering reasonable suggestions and avoiding lobster buoys. Abbie has a cell phone, but it only has a few minutes left. We decide to save it as a last resort. A large piece of flotsam emerges from the fog and silently drifts by.

Finally we hear a bell, marking the harbor entrance. We get close, and check the number, it is can number two. It is the first bell we heard since we reversed direction and so we feel it has to be the mouth Northeast Harbor. If we set our bearings and trust the compass we would see harbor lights in about two minutes. We floated, keeping the red can in sight. If it was not the Northeast can, and there was a problem with the compass, we might be heading to Ireland. We were divided here on what to do. It felt like the win or lose question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It was really important that we make the right choice. It was time to use a lifeline. Abbie turned on her phone.

Our friend Edgar grew up on Islesford and makes his living on these waters. He had joined us briefly at dinner, and had been hired to bring a party back to the mainland. He couldn’t be far away. We called. Abbie explained our situation, and the red can. It is not long before Edgar tells Abbie, “I’ve got you, be right there.” In minutes the Instagator was beside us, and we felt safe, and could admit just how very unsafe we had been. As Edgar bobbed comfortingly beside us and offered to lead us to harbor, the Elizabeth T. came by. Captain Danny Lunt is another man who is at home on the water. He is a local legend, known for competency and calmness. They were headed for Northeast. Edgar asked him to guide us, and we left our lifeline to follow the Elizabeth.

It was a long ride. We were wrong, we had not been at the buoy at the mouth of Northeast Harbor, so it is a good thing we did not head off following the compass. We might very well have ended up out of sight of land, and very lost.

We followed Captain Lunt, but it was still not smooth sailing. His wife Linda describes that night as follows: Wild Ride Last Night on the Elizabeth T! Rainy, foggy, Dark, and around 9:30 someone in a small boat darted from nowhere in front of us, then did the same thing to the folks behind us – NOT SAFE! Don’t know who they were, but hope they are not on the water today!

We were the folks behind them, and thank them for bringing us home safely.

The next morning my husband called Edgar. “Good morning, God,” he said. “This is the village idiot calling to say thank you.”

Some lessons come at great expense. Our only price was a damp ride with cheerful friends.

Acadia National Park Bar Harbor community Maine

Shipwreck

Seal Cove Shipwreck

“Learn the basics for mapping and documenting a wreck site by working with maritime archaeologists. Potential volunteer activities could include making archaeological drawings of the vessel, recording the site in photographs, and transferring the field drawings onto a site plan. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact…”

I saw the ad before the project, instead of in an old paper after the opportunity had passed. I was going to be here, not away at some event, or with family. Still, there were many reasons not to take this day off, such as responsibilities, deadlines, and rebuilding a house that is more demanding than any child could ever be. I ignored them all, and joined retirees, schoolteachers on their summer vacation, and Franklin Price, shipwreck archeologist, at a shipwreck here on Mount Desert Island.

“What ship?” “Why did it wreck?” “What was it carrying?” These are a few questions I have been asked when I tell people of my day deep in mud and covered with sunshine at the wreck site. And those are the very questions Franklin Price hopes to answer. The Seal Cove Shipwreck Project is an Institute of Maritime History project in conjunction with Acadia National Park. The ad said no experience required, but I could not imagine how a group of eager, untrained volunteers could be of much use, and not do any harm. Eager and untrained, I donned mud boots and sun hat, splashed on bug repellent and trotted off.

We gathered at the parking lot of the high school, and personalities began to announce themselves. A Florida resident spoke of getting his property boarded up for the winter, and how glad he was not to have to deal with snow. A teacher said she read we should bring muck boots, but preferred to wear her Tevas, and a young student arrived out of breath and apologetic. Her mom caught us just as we pulled out to hand over the left-at-home boots. The half hour drive to the site did not quite gel, the back seat could not hear the front, and so we chatted with neighbors or subsided and watched the scenery.

At the site other volunteers were already at work. The day was glorious. The dark ribs of the wreck were corduroy on the inlet bottom. Markers and tapes indicated areas where measurements were being recorded, and buckets above the tide zone were neatly filled with tape measures and slates–which to me looked very much like clipboards. The project was well thought-out and organized. We were given tasks in small understandable doses, and equipment, which we were shown how to use.

I was assigned a partner, a delightful young man who was not a random volunteer, but an archeology student. Lucky me. In addition to the very clear instructions from Franklin Price, this fellow explained why when we measure depth, we also run our hands under the beam. Our first task was to take a given beam from the hull of the boat, and measure where top and the bottom were in relation to a line we had made with two posts, a string, and a level. We took a measure every foot, and also drew in knotholes, wooden pegs, and on one beam, a stretch of tar. The tar was in a large pocket under the beam, and we recoded it going from 54 inches to 78 inches.

Our job was to collect data and record it. Greater minds can interpret. But, a patch of tar? We do not know, but speculate that a repair was made there. Other volunteers were also finding patches of tar. We asked Franklin about this, and while he would not commit to an explanation did say it was possible this ship had been brought in to the inlet for more repairs, and that the ship was beyond fixing, and so left there.

Unsure at first, the regularity of moving twelve inches and taking top measurements, bottom measurements and noting any distinguishing features became routine. Not in a tedious I-wish-I-was-someplace-else way, but in a I feel comfortable, I am gathering useful data, and I am in total bliss way. Any awkwardness on the ride over was dissolved as we shared bug spray, tips on moving around the site without falling into mud, and, oddly, finally exchanging names. We did not start as a team, then we paired off and so did not bond as a team, but as the morning wore on we shared delight over wooden pegs called treenails, which held the planking to the hull, tar, and worm marks.

Worms bore away at the wood of the ship’s hull, making a twisting pattern. While beautiful, the wood will eventually be eaten away. Not good if at sea. My archeological student partner explained that sacrificial planks were applied to hulls to decrease the risk of damage from worms. Attached to the outside of the hull, this half-inch thick layer of wood was replaced when infested with marine borers and discarded, or sacrificed, hence the name sacrificial plank. The fact that there were worm marks on our vessel indicated it had traveled in warmer waters than ours, since the worm making the mark lives in warm water, and does not survive long enough in brisk Maine water to make wormholes.

We also learned that the measurements we took of the ribs would help determine the original length of the ship. If the beams were ten inches by ten inches, the ship could not exceed a certain length. If they were twelve by twelve, it would indicate the ship was larger.

Hours disappeared into tiny notes on a slate, and then the tide turned. The very shallow basin of this cove means the tide comes in fast. Absorbed in our hull ribs, we did not want to pick up until we finished our measurements, and the drawings that went with them. Tide was pushing us, and we reached out and helped each other, exchanging tape measures, helping record, doing whatever needed to be done to make sure each pair had their data and measurements done. No competition, no discussion, we just did it. Franklin moved from group to group, running confirming spot checks, and helping us finish up. I felt like a proud kindergartner when he picked up my slate and double-checked three random measurements. All were within acceptable range. I glowed. We all did. A mark of a good leader is making everyone feel valued, and we all felt that.

We stood ankle deep in water, the wreck totally submerged. It was satisfying as we gathered our tools, tape measures, levels, and our hand drawn charts. We came away knowing what it is like to do archeological research. We learned trilateration, baseline offsets, drew profiles, and measured and measured and measured again. We understood the importance of accuracy, and double-checking numbers that may be gone in a few years, and beyond being checked. We learned to look with our fingertips, as they moved gently along the bottom edge of a hull rib, out of sight under the water. We know what a sacrificial plank is. I went to learn about history and archeological process, and I did, but I also came away with a renewed appreciation of diligence, painstaking accuracy, and working slowly, carefully, and methodically. The tide was coming, but we did not rush or make hasty calculations. Standing in the sun, with sleeves rolled up, giving and getting help, we were united, calm and competent. It was a day outside of time.