•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Friday, September 17, 2010

Morris Yachts


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There's been a lighthouse at Bass Harbor head since September of 1858 when John Thurston and his family took up residence there. The lens installed in the lighthouse in 1902 is still in use today. The bay outside Bass Harbor is sheltered by five small islands: Great Gott Island, Little Gott Island, Black Island, Placentia Island and Swanns Island. It has long been known among sailors and captains as a safe refuge from the ravages of winter weather and from foul winds whenever they blow. Since the 18th century large, transatlantic, sailing vessels often made use of its shelter on their way into and out of ports farther west, Portland; Portsmouth, Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York, and Philadelphia. In the shelter of these island, Bass Harbor thrived as a nearly mainland outpost of Maine fishing.

Most of the boats that sail out of Bass Harbor today are lobster boats. There are two active lobster pounds there which buy the daily catch, but some lobsterman prefer the town dock on the Bernard side. These independent lobstermen sell to middlemen who drive there trucks out on the dock and weigh and buy from the incoming boats. Fishermen always preferred good harbors on the outer reaches of Maine's peninsulas and on its islands. Being that far out gave them a head-start on getting to the catch. Lack of modern conveniences and the advantages of motorized fishing boats mean fewer commercial fishermen fish from the islands these days, but Bass harbor offers all the advantages of being near the outer edge and none of the inconveniences of island life, and it remains a center of lobstering.

The old Underwood Sardine Factory in Bass Harbor has been closed as long as I remember, and the only catch now is lobster. Continue past the brick Underwood Building and the ferry terminal and you'll reach Morris Yachts. They continue New England's traditions of fine, custom, boat building and design. I'm told they recently completed a yacht for Martha Stewart painted in a color they promise will remain unique. Bass Harbor is a commercial harbor. They build the yachts here, but the yachts find home port elsewhere.

I took this picture on my trip with Jane in early spring.