The lobster boat S.S. Gridley graces the Kids Corner playground in Bar Harbor. Built with donations from friends and family of the late Christopher Gridley, the cedar boat features a sandbox and plenty of play areas and snack nooks. The boat was built by local carpenter and Kids Corner dad Jeremy Laurendeau. The boat's wheel, below, was donated by Dallas Hodgkins on behalf of the crew of the McDermott Derrick Barge 50, where Gridley worked. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Kids find adventure on the Gridley

BAR HARBOR — Kids Corner’s new boat has been two years in the making, according to director Lori Krupke. Christened the SS Gridley, the boat arrived on the playground about two weeks ago, from the workshop of local carpenter Jeremy Laurendeau.

Krupke described the first day she opened the door from the daycare center to let kids out on the playground to play in the large cedar lobster boat with a sand box in the back.

“The screams and squeals … brought such happy tears,” she said.

Now a permanent addition to the playground at the early childhood education center, the boat was built to honor the memory of Kids Corner alumnus Christopher Gridley, who died in 2016. Gridley not only graduated from Kids Corner himself, he came back to volunteer while in junior high, according to Krupke.

Gridley’s father, Thomas Gridley, wrote in an email to the Islander, “Christopher was a favorite at Kids Corner. He went there in his Pre-K years, but he also went back when he was older to play with the children there.

“That, along with the important role Kids Corner plays in Bar Harbor, is why we listed it as one of the sites for people wishing to donate in Christopher’s memory.”

Krupke said she wanted to do something special with the money that was donated.

Gridley spent much of his time on the water. According to his obituary published in the Islander in January 2017, Gridley graduated from Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), and worked for McDermott International on the Derrick Barge 50.

Usually stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, Gridley was also able to travel to Trinidad and Tobago and to Brazil. When home, he would lobster.

Krupke envisioned transforming the sand box, an old favorite on the playground, into a boat to commemorate Gridley.

She described the idea to Laurendeau, whom she describes as “our carpenter extraordinaire,” and he drew up plans for an authentic-looking lobster boat with a covered bow, and low play area in the stern.

Materials were purchased at Hammond Lumber with the donated money. Laurendeau, who himself has had four children attend Kids Corner, built the boat at home and delivered it on a mid-October weekend with the help of volunteers.

Dallas Hodgkins, a fellow MMA alumnus who also worked on the Derrick Barge 50, dropped off a ship’s wheel an behalf of the crew on the ship.

“They really adored him,” said Hodgkins of the crew that worked with Gridley.

“I think more fishermen are actually going to drop off more stuff, to dress it up,” he said, with realistic features like a radar antenna. Larendeau is working on a bumper on the bow.

“We think the ship is a perfect remembrance of Christopher,” Thomas Gridley wrote. “He loved Kids Corner, the sea, and being a Maine Maritime graduate. He also loved children, and they loved him. The SS Gridley is a wonderful tribute to Christopher, and reflects how big his heart was, and how much he was loved.

“We are so grateful to Lori, to Jeremy Laurendeau, who built the ship, to Dallas Hodgkins, who donated the ship’s wheel, and to all the people who donated for this, and who loved Christopher.”

The boat is beloved by children and staff, who get a lot of use out of it even while the final pieces fall into place. The children have used the boat for a picnic spot during snack time, the sand box gets daily use, and some little captain is always ready to take the helm to steer the SS Gridley toward adventure on friendly seas.

This article has been updated.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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