Big Boats Navigate The Maine Coast This Summer

The Riviera, an 800-foot cruise ship, may have spent the summer tied up to Eastport’s breakwater as a result of the federal government’s no-sail order earlier this year, but other, private vessels, not quite as large, have been plying Maine’s coastline this summer. And that has posed a few problems for the state’s lobstermen.

“Yes, there’s been an increase in larger yachts this summer,” said Rockland harbormaster Matt Ripley. While the city was not visited by the giant Carnival Cruise Lines vessels of past summers, billionaire David Geffen’s 453-foot yacht, Rising Sun, was seen on the waters of Penobscot Bay in July, anchoring in Camden briefly. The 180-foot yacht Silver Shalis, owned by New York City developer Larry Silverstein, also spent time in Rockland Harbor in August. Ripley noted that some of the largest boats — those greater than 253 feet in length — require a pilot when entering a harbor. The Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association reported that its members piloted five private yachts this summer, more than in any other year.

Rockland has two federal anchorages, one to the south and another just inside its mile-long breakwater. There have been very few problems from the vessels encountering local lobstering gear, explained Ripley, primarily because the large yachts drop anchor in one of the two anchorages. “From a navigational standpoint, they know where they are,” he said.

Rising Sun in Penobscot Bay. Photo courtesy of Mount Desert Islander.

That hasn’t been the case in Kennebunkport, where lobsterman Laurin Brooks has lost several traps this summer. “There is no dedicated anchorage for yachts here,” he said. “They anchor in deeper water which is where my traps are.” This summer he moved his traps twice to avoid the large yachts. The Kennebunkport harbormaster established an area outside the town breakwater in deep water for larger private yachts to anchor, but that area is not a federally recognized anchorage and thus does not show up on charts. It is identified on the town’s web site.

“Where they want to anchor is soft bottom,” Brooks continued. “A lot of us fish there in the summer.” He pointed out that most captains, when contacted by local lobstermen, are willing to move outside of the fishing area. “They work with us,” Brooks said. “But they need a place where no one fishes.”

Raelene Pert, Stonington harbormaster, has had few if any problems with large private yachts. “We don’t have a lot of deep water here,” she explained. Out in Eggemoggin Reach things are different. Giant vessels, such as Magic, have found anchorage there. “[The big boats] kick the living shit out of traps,” said lobsterman Christopher Pert, her husband. The only change this summer for harbormaster Pert has been the demand for moorings. “Before, I would get maybe 20 or 30 calls for moorings. This summer it’s been 30 to 70 calls and they will call me at 9 o’clock at night!”

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