Front and center

Harbor committee officials in Mount Desert last week announced their intention to install new floats in Northeast Harbor and to move the Maine Sea Coast Mission vessel Sunbeam to a float in another area of the marina.

Commercial interests on the harbor have been eyeing Sunbeam’s prime spot at the main wharf for years. It appears they will now have their way.

What sadly is missing from the discussion, however, is what the move says about the community’s priorities.

Northeast Harbor rightfully has taken pride for decades that a unique and quirky vessel which fosters connections and serves as a platform to improve the lives of people on offshore islands and along the coast of Maine calls the main dock there home. Having “God’s Tugboat” in a prime spot, front and center on the waterfront, makes it clear that Mount Desert is a place that puts people of every stripe and community first.

The committee overseeing the marina does not have an easy job as it tries to balance accommodating opulent yachts, commercial fishermen, visiting boaters and the comings and goings of ferries servicing the Cranberry Isles. But the committee should consider that users in all of those categories have come and gone over the years. And throughout it all, one dependable constant has been Sunbeam.

In a world of super yachts whose owners can afford to pay any price for prime dockage space, or where commercial fishermen argue profits and convenience as justification for muscling to the head of the line, the fact that the good people of Mount Desert saw fit to put a humble tugboat with a cross on its funnel front and center spoke volumes about the community’s values, its priorities, its ideals.

Will the mission’s good work suffer with Sunbeam no longer residing at the head of the main dock? Probably not. But it’s a sad day when all that the vessel symbolizes and the good work it represents is shunted off to the marina equivalent of steerage.

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