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November 2015 MAINE COASTAL NEWS Page 11. The American Sardine Boats By Arthur S. Woodward Herring, also referred to as sardines or


fi sh, were transported from where they were caught to sardine canning factories along the coast of Maine in boats called sardine carri- ers, sardine boats, or in earlier days sardine smacks. This looks back to bygone days. Sardine boats were fi rst sail powered and around the end of the 19th century onward they were powered by engines of various types. In their middle and latter years most were diesel powered. Many of them were powered by GM 6-71s, some had smaller GMs. Some may have been driven by steam in early days. Some had gasoline engines, with some having other brands of diesels. The fi rst GM diesel I remember hearing as a small boy was the one in the Helen Eaton. She was going down around the shore past our house on Beals Island. The GMs had wonderful characteristic sounds. Diesels, in general, have good sounds, as do gasoline engines, particularly wide open. The size and model of the carriers


varied, in part due to their age. Some were converted from sailing vessels. Some were taken to Nova Scotia and “rebuilt”, which essentially meant that a part of their keel was saved and incorporated into what otherwise was a brand new boat, with the name main- tained. These boats were the Nova Scotia model, with pod stern, nice sheer, pretty bow, a lot of freeboard, a pretty block pilothouse built up over the engine room, and a ketch rig with two masts. The riggers in Novi rigged the masts beautifully. Many carriers were built by various American builders, including three built on Beals Island, and by and large were pretty boats and nicely rigged in the predominant ketch rig. Later model boats did not carry sails. Pilothouses varied from being built on the deck to above the engine room, and some had engine rooms built off the after end of the pilothouse. Fronts of pilothouses could be rounded or angular. The boats varied in length from maybe something under twenty fi ve feet to over eighty feet in length, and width went from perhaps ten feet to eighteen feet. Loaded draft of a big sardine boat might be


around nine feet. They typically had round bilges. Sterns of sardine boars could be pod stern (double ender), steamer stern (rounded under), slanted under transom stern, and square stern. Their foc’sle down for’ard was for the accommodations for the crew, with bunks, stove, sidelockers, cupboard, and table. Their carrying capacity varied, from some ten to one hundred hogsheads. The carriers had proportionately large hatches with high hatch coamings. There might be two to four hatch covers (which were not to be turned upside down… It was a seagoing superstition that the boat would sink). On bigger boats there might be two hatches. The proportionately large holds were almost exclusively midships. The mean speed of the boats would probably be eight to ten knots. Typically most sardine boats were painted white, red copper paint on the bottom, white pilothouse, white doghouses, lead color decks, buff masts and boom, and probably white mastheads and boom tips. There was one boat painted yellow, maybe a few black, and a few painted lead color. Each boat had distinguishing features so with multiple discrimination each one could be identifi ed at a distance. Down East the volume of herring was measured in hogsheads. Up to the west’ard the volume was measured in bushels. A hogs- head is a big barrel that will hold ~9 bushels or ~63 gallons. Sardines are small pilchards from maybe six inches to two - three inches in length. Purchase a can of sardines and note the typical size.


I grew up on Beals Island by the side of the Moosabec Reach and I graduated from Beals High School in 1950. The Reach is about a half mile wide at that point. Directly across the Reach was the Wm. Underwood Co. sardine cannery. Just down the Reach below Underwood’s was the Jonesport Packing Co. (“Middle Factory”), and down a little more, in Cross Cove, was the Charles Stevens Packing Co. Each of the factories had several sardine boats bringing in fi sh. The fl eets changed over time, of course. A good amount of the sardine boat traffi c up and down the Reach was to and from these


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Grandson Mike Woodward sailing model sardine boat that I rigged from bare hull and painted, and restored several years later. Boat now is named Ann Louise after my daughter, Mike’s aunt.This was one of my playboats as a boy


three factories. With many sardine factories up and


down the Maine Coast, from Down East in Robinston, Eastport, Lubec, Machias Port, Jonesport, Addison, and Milbridge, for example, and several ports along the coast to the west’ard, all the way to Portland, and with the bountiful Washington County bays, coves, and shores and offshore herring runs being in our area, it gave us a wonderful opportunity to observe and admire many sar- dine boats, loaded or light. It was interesting


and great fun for me, and certainly would be to this day if such were available to watch and hear. The Reach made an excellent pas- sageway east and west.


The highpoint of the sardine boat activ-


ity, I think we can safely say, was the 1950s. It had started in the 1800s and the last big American sardine cannery closed in 2010. I believe there are a few boats still running herring for lobster bait.


Continued on Page 19.


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