TREMONT — Perched on the flybridge of boatbuilder Chummy Rich’s boat anchored just outside inner Bass Harbor Sunday afternoon, Glenn Crawford flashed the contented smile of a man who’d accomplished a mission.
And he had. Crawford had just watched his son Cameron pilot the 28-foot Wild Wild West to a new speed record for diesel-powered lobster boats after years of trying.
Running in diesel free-for-all near the end of the Bass Harbor Lobster Boat Races, the younger Crawford pushed the Isotta Fraschini-powered lightweight to a speed of 60.4 mph and broke the record of 58.9 mph set six years ago in Portland by Alfred Osgood’s Mack-powered Northern Bay 36 Starlight Express. Minutes later, Crawford broke his own record, turning in a 60.6 mph clocking in the Fastest Lobster Boat race.
“Alfred’s out there waiting for me,” the elder Crawford said with a grin after Wild Wild West’s second record-breaking run.
On the boats that lined the race course set up in the outer harbor, rumor was that Starlight Express might well show up on Moosabec Reach for the Jonesport/Beals Island races on July 2 and, if not, would almost certainly be ready to run in Stonington on July 10. In any event, it looks like an interesting racing season is underway.
Besides Crawford’s record-breaking performance, there was plenty of excitement at Bass Harbor. The sky was blue, the breeze off the land and the water flat – all conditions that could not have been more perfect for racing.
Among the Bass Harbor boats, 14-year-old Colyn Rich smoked all the gas-powered competition, turning in a 36.9 mph clocking in the 26-foot Wide Open, built in 1963 by his great grandfather, Bobby Rich. Earlier in the day, his father, Wayne, turned in an even faster lap (37.6 mph) with the same boat in the Wooden Boat Race.
Greg Lewis in Rachel Irene was the winner of this year’s Bass Harbor trophy, in a separate race only for the local fishing boats. “Rachel Irene is a Mitchell Cove 35, built right here in here Bernard,” Wayne Rich said. Participation in the race has dwindled since they began the tradition, he said. “But Greg’s got a fast boat. Everyone knows he’s one of the top contenders.”
One of the closest races saw Winifred Alley’s Last Design edge Julie Eaton’s Cat Sass by a cat’s whisker – just .4 mph difference in speed at the finish line – in Diesel Class B (236-335 horsepower, 24-33 feet.) Last Design is reportedly the last hull that Beals Island designer and boatbuilder Ernest Libby Jr. worked on before his death four years ago.
Another scorcher came just minutes later in Diesel E (336-435 horsepower, 24-33 feet) with Steve Carver’s Holland 32 Bigger Dirls (sic), Kenton Feeney’s Bad Influence and Nick Wiberg’s Miss Katie running pretty much bow to bow to bow, all around 34 mph, before Carver squeezed out a win.
Although Wild Wild West was a special case, it was hardly the only fast boat on the race course. Patrick Faulkingham’s Winter Harbor-based Margaret E, a Young Brothers 33 with some 570-horsepower FPT under the platform, clocked 42.8 mph, while Jeff Eaton’s La Bella Vita (Northern Bay 38, 750-horsepower FPT,) a much bigger boat, was just a dite slower at 41.2 mph.
This coming Saturday, the racing fleet will head Down East to Jonesport and Beals Island for the Moosabec Reach Lobster Boat Races. Home to such boats as Foolish Pleasure, Lorna R and, in the past, Stella Ann, the Reach race could see some interesting new competition this year.
Steve Carver, who brought his Bigger Dirls down from West Jonesport, said on Sunday that several Canadian boats might come over to race from up the Bay of Fundy. Though Carver said they were not likely to be working lobster boats, they thought it would make a great race if they all ran together.
A few highly anticipated boats didn’t make it to Bass Harbor. Among them: Galen Alley’s overall record holder Foolish Pleasure, which clocked in at 72.8 mph at Stonington in 2011, remained on Moosabec Reach; Steve Johnson’s 1,100-horsepower Elizabeth remained at his Long Island boatyard waiting for a new transmission; Shawn Alley’s Little Girls, which dominated last season’s racing, stayed away with a reported major engine issue; Wes Shute’s Daydreamer, returning to racing after several years’ absence, wasn’t on the scene.
Liz Graves contributed reporting to this story.