The Working Waterfront

A future in boats and photos

Rockland boat yard image includes named shadows

By Kevin Johnson
Posted 2022-12-08
Last Modified 2022-12-08

This month’s photo shows the view down upon the Snow Marine Basin, circa 1948, with Lermond’s Cove and the city of Rockland behind it. A lobster boat owned by Russell Stewart is being dragged to her winter location while yard workers clear a path for her.

After World War II, Bert Snow and Maurice McKusick partnered with Alfred Storer and Ralph Cowan to develop the Snow Marine Basin at the site of an old lime kiln in Lermond’s Cove across from where the island ferries now are based. The marine services business did everything—hauling vessels for repairs and re-launching, boat and marine carpentry, restoration and painting, building and setting moorings.

It also became the playground of two 14-year-old boys, Maynard Bray and Don Merchant. Born two days apart, they shared a mutual love of boats, an interest in photography, and a disdain for school and sports. Bert Snow and the other men at the yard not only tolerated their presence but even gave them odd jobs and free range.

Born two days apart, they shared a mutual love of boats, an interest in photography…

In the photograph below taken by Bray with his mother’s Kodak Jiffy camera, the boys survey their kingdom from the deck of a large boat. Their shadows, though probably accidentally included, allow them to mark their own presence in the scene that had such an impact on their lives.

Both went on to have careers in the marine world and both of their photography archives are now with the collections of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

The Penobscot Marine Museum on Route 1 in Searsport has 500,000-plus historic images in its photography archive. Composed of scores of individual collections, it’s the largest photo repository in Maine.

The photos make connections: logging camps to lumber schooners on the coast; Maine shipyards to views of a crowded Hong Kong harbor; farming to the ice shipping industry that required hay for insulation; and fishing nets teeming with herring to the 2010 closing of the last sardine cannery in the U.S. The power of the images is enormous. They teach, inspire, infuriate, and amuse.

The foyer of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Library at the museum offers an overview of the major photography collections and photographers with biographies, examples of work, and related ephemera. A large digital display features a rotating slideshow showing highlights from the archive. On weekdays, visitors are welcomed into the photo archives where there are additional displays, and they can observe and interact with staff and volunteers.