Down East 2013 ©
Cummins versus Detroit. Novi versus Beals. Foolish Pleasure versus Momma’s Worry. The showdowns that take place every other weekend in the races of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Circuit are as personal, and as hard-fought, as any that you’ll find in the Pine Tree State during the summertime. Part monster-truck rally, part floating NASCAR, the races see working fishing boats from Portland to Eastport converging on select harbors so their captains can rev their engines, make some waves, and have a whole lot of fun.
“Some guys take it pretty seriously, where they’ll jack up the fuel pump and really go for it, but I have to go to work on Monday so I don’t get too crazy,” says Marshall Farnham, a lobsterman from Boothbay Harbor. “We take the grill, pack the cooler, and make it a family event.”
The races, ten in all, are held in harbors from Portland to Jonesport (there’s also a non-sanctioned event in Eastport). Individual classes divide the diesels from the gasoline-powered boats, for instance, with the top racer so far this season setting a new speed record of seventy-two miles per hour. (Farnham insists that particular vessel isn’t a working fishing boat, but rather a custom dragster that arrives at each race on a trailer.) Prize money consists of a few hundred dollars, plus some hardware donated by local chandleries and merchants, but Farnham says bragging rights alone are worth what it takes to compete in the races. “Some guys will burn 150-200 gallons in a weekend, between racing and then getting there and back,” he explains, adding that organizers plan two days of racing on alternating weekends, rather than every Saturday, to help crews conserve fuel.
For spectators — as long as they keep a safe distance from the racers’ wakes — the charging lobsterboats offer a glimpse of the real Maine, a side of the working waterfront that you definitely won’t find on a postcard. But you might get wet!
IF YOU GO: You can catch the Lobster Boat Races on August 21 in Portland and September 11 in Eastport (non-sanctioned race). For more information, visit lobsterboatracing.com .