Harbor Festival celebrates boat building with varying degrees of seriousness

By Jordan Bailey | Aug 19, 2014
Photo by: Jordan Bailey Sarah Vanderhoof, of Lyndeborough, N.H., with her daughter Lydia peeking over the bow of their cardboard Viking ship, "Norsemen Nightmare," overtakes Thomas Rondy-Turcotte and Federick Turcotte, of Quebec, in their boat "eh Canada" during the Belfast Harbor Festival's cardboard boat race.

Belfast — The fifth annual Harbor Festival featured wooden- and cardboard-boat building competitions and races, among other activities, in what the Rotary Club says was the most successful festival to date.

"This Harbor Festival was a major success, bringing in more people, sponsors, vendors, exhibits and food providers than ever before," said Belfast Rotary volunteer Michael Sirota.

"Overall we were pleased to have the opportunity to do something for the city, and to let more than 2,000 people know what the Rotary is about," he said.

National Boat Building Challenge

On Saturday, Aug. 16, three teams competed in the National Boat Building Challenge, in which teams of two must each build a wooden skiff in under four hours and then prove its seaworthiness in a rowing relay race.

Materials were donated by local businesses: Robbins Lumber of Searsmont supplied the lumber, EBS provided plywood, and Hamilton Marine of Searsport donated the hardware. Teams receive identical skiff designs by Ensign Boats in Kentucky, the same design used in national boat building competitions that take place all over the country.

Points are awarded for three elements: time to completion, construction and rowing.

The three competing teams were "Belfast Buccaneers," with members Tom Murphy of Meredith, N.H., and Andy Zenor of Avon, Colo.; "Last Minute," with members Joe-Pete Saucier and Juliane Dow, both of Belfast; and "Heavy Metal Pistol Packing Truck Driving Mommas," with members Max Wlodyka of Swanville and Trip Irish of Belfast.

"Last Minute," so-named because Saucier did not have a teammate until Dow joined just before the competition started, finished its boat first — after 3 hours and 59 minutes.

Wlodyka and Irish withdrew from the competition. The Belfast Buccaneers were given an extension to complete their boat.

Meanwhile, a classic boat show organized by Dr. David Deebe had a variety of boats from kayaks to sloops on display, and local musicians entertained the crowd from the gazebo.

At 4 p.m. both boats were ready to compete in a relay race in which each member completed an out-and-back run to a buoy. As the boats were being pushed off for the first leg, Zenor, in the Buccaneer's boat, was given the instruction: "Don't look, just row."

This turned out to be the advice that lost them the race. He and Dow were neck and neck out to the buoy, but when they turned their boats around and Zenor started to go off course, the crowd, all apparently familiar with rowing, shouted "Left, Left!" not to tell him which direction he should steer the boat, but to indicate which oar he should be giving more power.

Eventually his teammate's shouts of "Power left!" rose over the shouts of the crowd, and Zenor corrected his course.

When it was Murphy's turn to row, Saucier was already ahead of him. Murphy closed the gap quite a bit, but not enough to overtake Saucier. Team "Last Minute" won the race and the overall competition.

"The boat that succeeded in winning received fewer points for sticking to the design but more points for completing it in four hours, and for coming in first in the race," Sirota said.

The three teams that entered the competition received awards during a ceremony next to the boat house. Saucier and Dow received plaques mounted with wooden skiffs.

After the race, attendees enjoyed a barbecue dinner by Pig Out Barbecue of Belfast, and a free movie, "Puss in Boots," was shown under the tent at Steamboat Landing. Belfast's Parks and Recreation department, a major sponsor of the Harbor Fest, organized the Saturday evening activities.

Cardboard boat race

The cardboard boat race Sunday morning, Aug. 17, drew a large crowd despite the wet weather. Fourteen teams competed in the race, some coming from as far away as Quebec City, which is in the same Rotary district as Belfast.

Participants could bring boats made from the allowed materials — cardboard, duct tape, paint, and decorative materials — or build their boats that morning, as the teams from Rollies' Bar and Grill did.

Decorating materials for the boats were purchased by the Belfast Rotary Club with a donation from Nautical Scribe Books of Belfast. Front Street Shipyard sponsored the event and offered free tours of the shipyard that day.

Two boat-building workshops were held prior to the event. Penobscot Marine Museum held one in July and another was offered at Belfast City Park in early August.

The winners of the race in the youth category, David Estes and Daniel McKeon, both of Searsport, built their boat, "Yellow Submarine," at the Penobscot Marine Museum workshop.

Boat designs ranged from slapped-together to elaborate, from humorous to serious, and from seaworthy to soggy. The Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce's Dorothy Havey competed in a boat named "Chamber Pot," complete with a plunger and toilet paper, and Lydia Vanderhoof of Lyndeborough, N.H., rowed an elaborately painted Viking ship called the "Norsemen Nightmare." Three boats folded or sank before completing the race.

Boats "Yellow Submarine;" Waldo County YMCA's "Bruce," by Josh Powell and Jordan Bleakney; "Chamber Pot," rowed by Havey and Kevin Moreau of Searsport; "2.0," by Dutch Chevrolet team Silas Walsh of Morrill and Zach Flagg of Belfast; and "Angry Dragon," built and navigated by Mike Dionne of Thorndike and Sean Comer of Franklin, Mass., won their individual heats and competed in the final heat. Angry Dragon finished in first place.

The sixth annual Harbor Festival is being planned for the third weekend of August 2015, which Sirota said will be "even bigger and better than this year's."

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