Jarvis Newman’s boat shop on Main Street in Southwest Harbor, Maine, is a living museum of early fiberglass boatbuilding of Down East boats.
Among the appeal to the shop is a regular visitor, a neighborhood boat builder named Steve Spurling, still going strong at 92 years.
Spurling, who lives with his wife Arlene two doors down from Newman’s shop, has been a boat captain and boat builder all his life. He still builds small craft, including Whitehalls and dinghies of his own design, in a shop behind his house.
“He keeps the rowboats out there for sale,” says Newman’s daughter, Kathe Walton, in a profile by the Bangor Daily News. “He keeps building them. That’s what he does. And Arlene sews. They stay so busy. They’re both remarkable.”
Spurling grew up on Great Cranberry Island. As a young man, pre-World War II, he rode on Raymond Bunker’s boat every morning from the island to Southwest Harbor, and back in the late afternoon, so he could work for the Southwest Boat Corporation. The first boat he worked on was a 90-foot wooden dragger, which was being built outdoors; the crew had to work in all kinds of weather.
From there, Spurling began a career odyssey that had him working with some of the legendary Maine boatbuilders of the 20th century.