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Under Way

Eye-catchers from the Maine Boatbuilders Show

Eye-catchers from the Maine Boatbuilders Show

Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a color drawing depicting the lovely lines of a Down East powerboat. I forget all about where I am headed and tack out of a busy aisle at the Maine Boatbuilders Show, which brings me face to face with Stan Pendleton, who owns the Pendleton Yacht Yard in Islesboro, Maine.

The Stephen Davis rendering that caught my attention and yanked me out of the flannel-and-denim slipstream shows a handsome 42-footer with varnished trunk cabin, windshield frame and coaming. “In look,” Pendleton says, “this is Jericho.”

For the uninitiated, Jericho is the name of a 42-foot lobster yacht built in 1956 by Raymond Bunker and Ralph Ellis. The talented builders produced sturdy, seaworthy fishing boats in their Mount Desert Island shop, along with handsome yachts for wealthy summer residents based on their workboats.

Pendleton’s yard is known for its Bunker & Ellis restorations, and now he would like to build a series of cold-molded yachts (a 36, 39 and 43) based on these classics. Mark Fitzgerald has done the design work for the Pendleton Series. From the waterline up, the look of the P-43 is traditional, not precisely Jericho but close. Below the waterline, the design can be anything the owner desires, from round bilge to a fast deep-vee, Pendleton says.

“I want to keep this look alive,” explains Pendleton, who is 58. “This is the look I associate myself with. It’s the look I associate my yard with. This is the original picnic boat, right here.”

For more information, contact PYY at (207) 734-6728 or visit .

The Pendleton Series is just one example of the blending of modern and traditional that you find at this show, held each March in an old locomotive railroad foundry that is part of Portland Yacht Services. A good many of the boats on display not only showcase the skill, craftsmanship and thinking of contemporary builders and designers, but also reflect an understanding and respect for the boats and traditions that preceded them.

I set a new course and make my way over to Dick Pulsifer, who builds the versatile 22-foot strip-planked Pulsifer-Hampton launches, which trace their lineage back to the early Casco Bay lobster boats. Pulsifer, who built his first Hampton in 1973, was showing hull No. 96 in Portland. No. 97 is under construction at his shop in Brunswick, Maine, and the 100th will be built sometime next year.

“Every one of them is special,” says the bearded, soft-spoken Pulsifer, who is 65. “Every one is a landmark.”

The pine, cedar and white oak used in his boats is harvested locally, sometimes from Pulsifer’s land. “To me, the essence of these boats is that they are made with local materials,” he says. “You know the trees where these things came from, or participated in the harvest. You’re on an intimate basis with the pieces. You’ve handled them when they were green and heavy. They have a life that is hard to quantify.

“They have,” he concludes, “a soul.”

Pulsifer pauses for a moment; he says he doesn’t mean that wood boats alone have this special quality. “I think it’s a function of the smallness of the operation,” says Pulsifer, who runs a two-person shop that he says has a real “family” feel.

Pulsifer’s base boat costs about $42,250. For more information, contact Richard Pulsifer Boat Builder at (207) 725-5457 or visit .

My eye is taken by another small boat positioned in the corner of one of the display halls. The Western Way 19 is made of fiberglass, but, according to the gospel of Pulsifer, I suspect it would qualify as having a soul of sorts, seeing how it’s put together by a small crew at Cranberry Island Boatyard.

That belief is only reinforced when I meet the boat’s creator, David Stainton, 72, a retired architect who has owned the yard for 21 years. “We wanted a boat that didn’t look like a production boat,” says Stainton, who believes that simpler is better. “It’s a weekender for people who don’t need air conditioning.” He smiles and adds, “In Maine we have natural air conditioning.”

Needless to say, the Western Way 19 is a good-looking little Down Easter that comes in several configurations: classic launch, bass boat and center console. The model at the show was a “lobster yacht convertible,” which has a small cuddy, pilothouse with canvas top and generous cockpit. It is powered by a 115-hp Yamaha mounted on a bracket, and rides a deep-vee hull with 22 degrees of transom deadrise.

“It behaves bigger than it is,” Stainton says.

Cranberry Island Boatyard has been building the Western Way 19 since 1998 and now averages four to five boats a year. Hull No. 24 is in the works, and there currently is a two-year wait for a new one. The boat with power costs about $45,000. Contact Cranberry Island Boatyard at (207) 244-7316.