It Came from Outer Space

A local build really shakes up a Maine Boating town.

tell tales
The local paper had covered the build like a UFO crash, and most folks in town had wandered by for a look.Steve Haefele

I called my pal Bob with the good news: “I think there’s still hope for the proper yacht!” I was shouting over the howl of the first serious cold front to make its way Down East. Bob is not so keen on the supersize center-consoles and mega-speedboats common in South Florida, and Maine’s waterfront offered a decidedly different view.

“These days, boats look like spaceships and have too many highs: high tech, high performance, and I’ve had my fill of the high maintenance,” Bob groused.

“It’s different in Maine,” I said. I reported that my circumnavigation of the harbor had revealed only one blemish: a futuristic sled that appeared to have wings. “This place is a time machine,” I insisted.

In truth, it really was for me. I had visited the area years before as a yacht designer tasked with reporting on delays in the construction of a custom design that looked like a spaceship with all the “highs.” The yard had built minesweepers, steel draggers, and a fleet of some of the finest wooden sailing and power yachts on the water, but it had never built anything like “It.” The yard’s owner had deciphered the works of a who’s who of yacht design, and he had learned to be suspicious of fellas with big ideas, particularly youngsters like me.

“Yup, a vessel like this one here takes its own damn time,” he grumbled as he cleared his pipe on the office stove with a bang.

The man was a yacht-building legend. His “yup” was good enough for me. I trudged through a ­frozen mud field to jawbone with the fellas in the shop.

“Never seen nothin’ like It ’round here,” one said. “What’s It’s purpose?” another wondered aloud.

The local paper had covered the build as if It were a UFO crash, and most folks in town had wandered by for a look. The uneasy feeling about It was unanimous.

I knew the yard’s craftsmen were up to the challenge of the build; they just weren’t keen on the design. After a few tots at day’s end, the boys made it clear to me that the vessel’s construction was impractical, and that given her oversize diesels, she’d be expensive to operate. Worst of all, to them, she was no lady. It was unpleasant to look at, and It was not a proper yacht.

Of course, they were right, but since I liked my job, I left that information out of my report when I got back to my office. I truthfully cited the complications encountered in the “highs” for craftsmen who’d “never built It that way before.”

In the end, the boat’s owner got sore and abandoned the project. It’s remains were later revived, and I recall seeing them dockside once, years ago. The truth is that I’ve probably walked past It a dozen times since, and It wouldn’t raise an eyeball in a South Florida marina today. That yacht was ahead of her time.

I sent Bob a few pics of the Maine harbor in the hopes that a vision of traditional hulls might improve his view of the modern yachting landscape. I’m looking to improve my view as well, with a place on the harbor next summer.