SOUTHWEST HARBOR — It’s been a busy spring for the Maine Marine Patrol.
Last month, Col. Jay Carroll replaced Col Jon Cornish, who retired after 34 years in the service, as chief of the Marine Patrol.
At the end of this week, the patrol’s second in command, Maj. Rene Cloutier, will retire. His replacement has yet to be named but on Monday, the Marine Patrol celebrated the naming of a new Sergeant — not a patrol officer but a Wesmac Super 46 patrol boat that will be based in Southwest Harbor.
The new boat is a typical S 46 with a solid fiberglass hull 46 feet 9 inches long, 17 feet 2 inches in beam. The foam-cored top features a split wheelhouse top with both inside and outside helm stations and is set up with an L-shaped settee to port and aft with an adjustable table in the corner for paperwork.
The boat is powered with an 803-horsepower C18 Caterpillar diesel under the platform that turns a 5-blade 32-inch-by-34-inch propeller through a ZF transmission. Fuel is carried in two 475-gallon tanks, giving the boat plenty of patrol range even at her classified top speed.
At the helm inside the wheelhouse, Sergeant carries an array of electronics, mostly Furuno for navigation and Icom for ordinary VHF radio communications, as well as a certain amount of communications gear available only to law enforcement.
The real story, though, isn’t about how big Sergeant is, or how powerful, or how stacked with advanced electronics, but rather how the Marine Patrol came to buy the boat and, most important, to name it.
There are nearly 5,000 licensed lobstermen in Maine, but a few have always stood out from the crowd because of their skill, tenacity, regular attendance at countless meetings devoted to managing Maine’s complicated fisheries and willingness to carry scientific observers aboard to assist them with their lobster research.
One of those standouts was a Milbridge fisherman named Stanley Sargent, though almost everyone knew him as “Cappy” from the time he was a baby in Bernard and later growing up in Stonington.
After high school, he went scalloping and dragged for sea urchins. He went groundfishing when there still was some to be done, and pursued lobsters far offshore. Everyone knew his boats, too, first a Duffy named Gale Warnings, later a Wesmac 42 named Gale Warnings II.
Two summers ago, Steve Wessel and his crew at Wesmac Custom Boats had just installed the engine and shipped the hull and top for Sargent’s new Super 46, that was presumably to be named Gale Warnings III, to be finished off at a boat shop on the Midcoast, when Sargent died unexpectedly on July 2, 2016.
First, the Sargent family had to deal with its sudden loss. Eventually it had to decide what to do about the boat.
It took awhile, but eventually Cloutier learned of the family’s desire to sell the unfinished boat. The Marine Patrol had already made a decision to buy a large new patrol vessel capable of working offshore.
“Rene brought the boat to our attention,” DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said Monday, “and the name, even with a different spelling.”
A price was agreed on and the Marine Patrol solicited bids from boatbuilders to turn the unfinished kit into a ready-to-go patrol boat.
Fittingly, Wesmac submitted the winning bid. Not only had the company started the project, owner Steve Wessel’s father was a longtime member of the Marine Patrol, patrolling both on the water and in the air as an aircraft pilot.
The Marine Patrol took delivery of the finished boat after completion of sea trials last week. On Monday morning, cheered on by a throng of family members, Wessel and Linda Greenlaw from Wesmac and Marine Patrol officers, Cappy Sargent’s widow, Tina, smashed a ceremonial bottle on the stem of the new patrol boat and officially commissioned Sergeant as the Marine Patrol’s newest vessel.
Because the service has a longstanding rule of not naming its boats after individuals, Keliher said, the spelling of the name was not exactly as it might have been, but everyone along the waterfront would know just who the boat’s name honored.