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Maine Coastal News S   I

Volume 30 Issue 5 May 2017 FREE

This is the wooden lobster boat MY THREE GIRLS, built by Willis Beal of Beals Island in 1985 for his brother Robert who still owns her.

BEALS – One of the pleasures of covering the waterfront of the State of Maine has been getting to know the people of the coast. I have always gravitated to the boatbuilders and many have become personal friends. One such person I always enjoy stopping by and talking with is Willis Beal, one of the most noted wooden boatbuilders on the coast. Willis knows a lot of the Island’s his- tory and some of it has been passed down for several generations. I remember going into the shop when he was building the torpedo stern boats and listening to his father tell stories. I have always wanted to get these stories documented and early in April I caught Willis in his shop and I got him to tell some of the stories that he remembered about the Island. One topic that we discussed was the

early boatbuilders of the Island. When asked about George Brown, Willis said, “He built right somewhere where Travis’s wharf is. (This is his son-in-law’s wharf and just to the left as you come over the bridge from Jonesport and next to Willis’ shop.) I never knew the man and never saw his shop, but that is where they told me it was. He used to work alone mainly and they told me that he did fi ne work. When asked if he was one of the fi rst

boatbuilders on the Island, Willis respond- ed, “I don’t think so. The fi rst boatbuilders I know on the island were Will Frost and Harold Gower. Their boat shop was on Lit-

tle Island. Later Harold moved to the main island where Dougie’s (Dodge) shop is. Will built there for a while and then he moved to Jonesport. I never ever met the man, but I knew Harold quite well. When I started building boats I had made my moulds, stem, keel and stern and I wasn’t sure just how much rocker I wanted to put in that rabbet line. So I went up to talk to Harold about it because I liked the way his boats set in the water. My grandfather had one of them and it set light on the water. He pointed to the upper end of his shop and said ‘Do you see those moulds up there?’ I said ‘Yes’ and he said, ‘Those are the molds I use, you are welcome to take them. All I did was widen them out. The stem pattern, stern pattern, everything is there just take it, use it and bring it back when you are done with it.’ How many boatbuilders would’ve done that? I thank him and said, ‘I’ve got everything made, but I was just checking how much rocker to put in that rabbet line to have it set on the water similar to yours.’ I had fi gured 6½ inches and that is just what he told me.” “I had known Harold all of my life be-

cause my father had a boat built there and my grandfather had two built there,” said Willis. “So I remember going to Harold Gower’s a lot of times and watching him build boats. One time Daddy and I were there together and he said, ‘Now Harold if he comes up here and he’s in your way you set him coming for home.’ He said, ‘He’s no

problem. He just sits there and watches and asks questions once in a while. I don’t have to pay any attention to him.’” “We used to come down here to where

Riley was building boats on the point,” con- tinued Willis. “He built lobster boats in the shop and outside on the point itself he was building sardine boats and lobster smacks. My fi rst boatbuilding job was there. We were up on deck, I don’t know what boat it was, one of the sardine boats I believe, and Merrill Frost, which is Will Frost’s son, was putting bungs in the deck and trimming them. I was watching him and he said, ‘Here you can put some of them in. So I drove some in and then he handed me a big chisel and said, ‘Now you’ve got to trim them.’ He showed me how to do it. I don’t imagine I trimmed them very well. That was my fi rst boatbuilding job.” At the time, Willis was maybe fi ve years

old. He also remembered the launching of the lobster smack ARTHUR S. WOOD- WARD built at Riley’s shop. “I was on board aft of the pilot house,” said Willis, “I thought it was terrible to launch that boat with no masts in it. It had a 2 x 4 up back of the pilothouse as I can remember it with a fl ag on it.” One of the things most young boys

did on Beals back in the day was play with toy boats in the water. “They’d learn a lot from the play boat they had, the way it was designed and how it worked in the water,” said Willis. “I had a torpedo play boat that

C o n t e n t s

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my uncle Erwin did for my father when he was nine years old. It was pretty much like the boats at that time with a trunk house on it and he had a riding sail on it. It was up in the attic and I got my eye on that boat and I was bound that I would have it. It wasn’t long before the riding sail was gone and the trunk house was knocked off , but I managed to save that boat. I was busy building large boats and I started to fi x it but I didn’t have the time. Alvin had built me a model boat, one of his torpedo stern boats with a spray hood, and after completing that I asked him if he would fi x that one for me and he did. I took it home one Sunday morning, mother and father were to church, took it in the house and put it on the desk in the hallway so when he came in he looked right at it and mama said tears rolled right down his cheeks. He said, ‘I didn’t think I would ever see that boat again.’ Willis added, “I was sailing that boat

when I was small right here on this beach. Daddy had his boat in here painting and I had my fi rst pair of long legged boots on. They were too long so they would roll down in the back and I kept working off . Daddy said, ‘You were going to fi ll those new boots,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not,’ and he said, ‘If you fi ll those boats I’m going to dunk you.’ Well he was just as good as his word. I fi lled the boots and I got dunked. You know he felt

Continued on Page 19.

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