PHOTO: COURTESY KIM SMITH
Frenchboro fisherman Andy Smith, his sternman Daniel Saxby, and local contractors were scrambling in late May to finish construction of Smith’s new Mussel Ridge 46 lobster fishing boat, Sylvia Mae.
After all, Smith had already sold his previous boat, a Novi named Jacquelyn Mae, to a Massachusetts fisherman, and he was itching to get his traps in the water.
“We’re late. We usually have all our gear in by now,” Smith said during a rainstorm that was holding up work while the boat sat at a Downeast Diesel dock down at the harbor.
The Mussel Ridge was designed by Albert Hutchinson, who owns Hutchinson Composites in Cushing. Hutchinson sold Smith the kit in the summer of 2017. Smith decided to build the boat in the Southwest Harbor village of Manset, instead of Frenchboro, which has limited ferry service and would have been tricky for Smith and his family to get on and off at will without their own boat.
Born and raised in Kittery Point, Smith has fished lobsters all his life. He and his wife, Kim, moved to Frenchboro seven years ago.
“I always wanted to live on an island,” he said. “My wife liked the idea of it, too.”
The couple has been together 21 years, so that idea kicked around quite a while because they didn’t want their kids having to go off to the mainland for high school. “So we kind of gave up on it a while,” he continued. Then he found a house for sale on Frenchboro, and they decided to give it a try.
Building a kit boat comes naturally to Smith.
“A friend and I finished a boat for me in 2000,” he said. “And I’ve always done repairs. Kind of figure it out as I go. Lot of phone calls.”
Contractors and suppliers on the job include Esposito’s Welding in Surry, Downeast Diesel & Marine in Southwest Harbor, Hamilton Marine, Marine Hydraulic Engineering in Rockland, Kramp Electronics in Southwest Harbor, and independent contractor Tony Menzietti.
Smith said he chose the model because he liked its looks and its promise of speed.
“We were doing 8 knots with previous boat,” explained Saxby. Sylvia Maewas expected to cruise at 16 knots, cutting the time in half to get to the traps. “A half-hour steam on the old boat will be 15 minutes or less on this. We’ll have the speed, we’ll have a faster hauler. So productivity should really increase, as far as the amount of traps we can haul in a day. And the time we’ll be getting in, compared with before—we’d leave at 4 o’clock in the morning and we wouldn’t get home until 6, 7 o’clock at night sometimes. Now we might be able to make that 2:30 or 3. That will be huge.”