Jinxed shuttle boat renamed the right way

Owners of The Back and Forth appease sea god, get back to business
By Ethan Andrews | Jul 03, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis casts an ingot bearing the old name of The Back and Forth into the harbor June 29 as part of a belated renaming ceremony for the Belfast Harbor shuttle boat.

Belfast — Among sailors, renaming a boat is considered serious bad luck. Fortunately for Lisa and Alex Pelling, there are do-overs if you get it wrong.

The couple didn't know the lore, or much of anything about boats, when they bought an old lobster boat, Clara K, from a local family and scrambled to retrofit it for a new shuttle service between downtown Belfast and Young's Lobster Pound. The job included a new name, The Back and Forth.

"They took the letters off and said you're happy to rename it," Lisa Pelling said. "We're not boat people, and weren't aware of the seriousness of things."

A month later, a 47-foot sailboat caught a bad wind and crashed into The Back and Forth at the dock. The Pelling's boat was out of commission for close to a month.

During that time, they learned about the superstition, whereby renaming a boat isn't out of the question, but doing so requires de-naming the boat first.

As luck would have it, this can be done retroactively, so on June 29, the couple enlisted Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis to conduct the elaborate ritual, which involved incantations to each of the four winds, followed by a splash of Champagne off each side of the boat. An ingot — in this case, a key ring tag — with the name "Clara K" was dropped into the harbor. Poseidon was beseeched. The event was tongue-in-cheek with a strong undercurrent of can't-hurt.

Belfast Poet Laureate Thomas Moore read a poem composed for the occasion.

The Pellings, who have lived in Belfast for three years and speak in accents from their native Yorkshire, England, got the idea for the business during a family visit. Hoping to get their relatives out on the water, they found the only option was a day sail on the Timberwind, "which was great," Alex Pelling said, but would have cost $450 for the group of nine.

The couple saw a market for shorter and cheaper cruises and picked the popular restaurant Young's Lobster Pound as their East Side landing. They guessed that the shuttle boat would appeal to inebriated patrons of local bars needing a ride to East Side motels, parents of young children for whom a two-hour cruise would feel like a lifetime, and tourists looking "to take it (a sail in Maine) off their list," Lisa Pelling said.

Today The Back and Forth runs from the foot of Main Street to Young's Lobster Pound, or vice versa, for $18 round-trip or $10 one-way. A 30-minute cruise around the harbor can be had for the price of a round-trip ticket. The boat runs from 10 a.m. to sunset with no schedule or reservations — if it's there, it's available for rides. Those looking for a return trip need only call to be picked up.

The Back and Forth recently starting doing night charter cruises with movies.

"We go out and put on Jaws, or some water-based movie," Alex Pelling said.

For more information, call 207-323-5952, or visit facebook.com/TheBackandForthBelfastMaine.

 

Belfast Poet Laureate Thomas Moore and Mayor Samantha Paradis participate in the June 29 renaming ceremony of The Back and Forth, a harbor shuttle that got off to a rough start, possibly by offending the boating gods. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A small group raises a toast June 29 at the formal renaming of The Back and Forth. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
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