The Rich family has been part of Bass Harbor’s boatbuilding and fishing scene for decades. This photo from 2016 was taken shortly after Colyn Rich, then 14 years old, won the race for gas-powered boats in the wooden 26-footer Wide Open, clocking in at 36.9 mph. Race organizer Wayne Rich’s 38-foot Rich Returns also is a frequent race competitor. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Lobster boat races set for Sunday

TREMONT — Sign up early to get into the eighth annual Lobster Boat Races Sunday in Bass Harbor but try not to be too upset about your prize.

“The slowest boat here could end up with the best prize,” race coordinator and fisherman Wayne “Cooly” Rich said Monday. “We do it a bit differently.”

Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the harbormaster’s office in Bernard and ends at 9 a.m. Races, nearly 30 in all, are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Boats will be separated into racing classes based on the size of the boat and the horsepower of the engine.

It won’t be clear just how many boats are participating until after registration, Rich said. Last year, there were close to 70 lobster boats involved in the festivities, most coming from harbors along the Maine coast, but one coming from New Hampshire.

Most, but not all, are working fishing boats.

“Ninety-five percent of the boats that race are going to work on Monday,” he said, noting that those that come just to race are referred to by some as “hot rod boats.”

Typically, working lobster boats skim along at 35-40 mph at the races, but a handful can top out at 50 mph.

Nearly a dozen towns in Maine host lobster boat races throughout the summer months, and most require an entrance fee. Bass Harbor’s event doesn’t, which often leads to more locals competing, Rich said.

Boats travel nearly a mile on the race course, which begins off Lopaus Point and ends at the entrance of the harbor, near the Swans Island Ferry Terminal.

“If people are coming, they usually hop on someone’s boat and watch from there,” Rich said.

Races are expected to run at least a couple of hours, and prizes will be presented following the events on the town wharf in Bernard.

Prizes come from local businesses and can range from handmade crafts to bait worth $500-700. Winners are drawn from a hat, not based on race results.

A blueberry pancake breakfast hosted by the Bass Harbor Memorial Library will take place on the town wharf from 7-10 a.m. as the race is getting organized. Also, at 11:30 a.m., library representatives will fire up a grill for a barbecue lunch. Donations are encouraged for the pancake breakfast, while the cost of the lunch is $8.

Rich, who has coordinated the boat races since they began in 2010, relies heavily on dedicated volunteers to make the event a success.

“I appreciate the people who help out that don’t get recognized,” he said about local residents Scott and Steve Harper and many others, including Wid Minctons, whose barge Charles Bradley marks one end of the finish line.


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.