Lazy Bones

Bubba Gray was having a meltdown. His wife and the business manager wanted him to accept a contract to restore an old rum runner, and Bubba was saying there was no way on earth that the cursed thing was coming into his yard. Lazy Bones had famously killed its owner, his lover, and two mobsters in the thirties when it brought Canadian whiskey into Maine harbors. It had spent thirty years in a shed, and according to Bubba, it was there the damned boat remained. His wife quietly argued that he either accepted the contract or found another way to extract the yard from eminent bankruptcy.

It wasn’t just that the Lazy Bones seemed to have been cursed. It was spectacularly cursed. On launch, the boat had rolled on its builder and crushed him. The reputation of having been christened in blood followed the boat. But an uncanny ability to disappear in fog, outrace the Coast Guard and slip into small harbors undetected had made it a money maker. The owners had wept when Prohibition got repealed.

 It seemed to drift from owner to owner, with no one holding it for more than a season. Its pattern of unfortunate accidents followed it too. It crushed one against a float in Bath. He slipped and fell into the water; the boat swelled against the float, breaking ribs, collar bones, and an arm. The wife of the next owner quietly committed suicide in the cockpit. The following day, she was found with her scarf tightly around the wheel. 

The boat did not age well; rumrunners like the Lazy Bones are not cheap to maintain. But, it’s like they always say, “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” So the boat was stowed in a shed screened behind years of old furniture, trunks, and household goods.

All this time, Lazy Bones was out of sight, but not mind. The boat was just infamous enough that it enjoyed a life in the town’s folklore. Tours of the waterfront always included retellings of the story of the Lobster racing boat Devil, and the Lazy Bones. According to rumors, these boats were seen on Halloween, racing in the harbor against low banks of clouds.

Against this background, the boat’s restoration began at Bubba Gray’s little boatyard. A canny business woman Evvie Gray charged entry to where the Lazy Bones restoration work was getting done. A natural storyteller, she wove threads of the boat’s history and lore into a powerful tale. Soon photos of her standing with the boat appeared in papers Like the Boston Globe and even the LA times. She re-did her wardrobe to be more dramatic for the Yankee Magazine spread that featured her and Lazy Bones against the background of the yard. 

It was a purely commercial decision on her part that she take the boat on a grand tour as soon as all work was done. And when a Las Vegas casino offered her a residency with Lazy Bones, it was again a purely commercial decision.

Divorce was not that common in town then. But the news that Evvie Gray was divorcing Bubba came as no surprise. Bubba was the only one genuinely surprised. The yard folded not long after; without Evvie struggling to keep it going, Bubba failed in a year. But he seemed happier just working over at Allen’s larger boat yard on the other side of the harbor.

Evvie milked the Las Vegas deal for all she could and wound up taking a position with a developer creating new concept ideas for casinos. And you can see the Lazy Bones on display at a museum of cursed and damned boats; it’s evil only latent now.

Some say that the boat’s evil caused the break up of the marriage, the closure of the boatyard, the ruin of bubba Grey, and even the fall of Evvie Gray into a ruinous Las Vegas lifestyle. All of this is open to interpretation, as is the history of the Lazy Bones. I can only comment on what I know; most of what transpired was human nature and failings.

But supernatural explanations, curses, and misfortune sell more tickets and makes the heart race on a cold dark Halloween evening.

The Devil


You’d be hard-pressed to find any family of seafarers, fisherfolk, or plain coastal types without some horror tale on the water. It just goes with the territory; salt water envelopes most of the world and is dangerous. 

Lurking beneath that calm tropical paradise you’ve vacationed in are currents, tides, rips, rocks, tidal flats, and reefs – these might all be known hazards, but that doesn’t mean that they are less deadly. Circumstances and bad luck can be the dividing line between inconvenience and tragedy. And that’s just the stuff you can make plans to avoid or correct.

There’s just a ton of stuff you can’t plan for; rogue waves, sudden squalls, engine failures that put you at risk on lee shores, collisions with unseen objects, and illness at sea. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It’s no wonder that hidden in every sailor is a tiny little superstitious knot. It might not be as apparent as a refusal to sail on a Friday, no bananas on board, or not whistling while you set sail, but it’s there. But without a doubt, the most dangerous element at sea will always be the human element.

Where I lived on the coast, it was considered bad luck to change the name of a boat. But, if you did, many boatyards followed procedures that seemed more like heathen rituals than practices you find in any of the local Baptist, Congregationalist, or Methodist church.

Libations would be poured to Neptunas Rex and Davy Jones. Coins under the masts would be added to, carefully put back in the exact locations after repair, or eliminated in exchange for a completely new set, and of course, the boat would be thoroughly cleaned fore and aft. Sometimes this would not be enough.


One of the Allens from over to the cape purchased a very smart lobster boat third-hand. He did this against his wife, father, and brother’s wishes. He’d been thrice warned.

The boat had started life as a workhorse lobster boat built by a well-known builder out of Boothbay. She’d worked the waters of the mid-coast for years as the Hattie Carroll. Then, about 1974, she’d been sold to a New York City Banker who had her gutted and fixed up as a fancy boat to tour clients around during the summer; what we call a lobster yacht these days. 

Then, without any to do, he’d had a signmaker slap some vinyl letters on her, and her new name was ” The Cheek Of The Devil” in a fancy script. The boatyard had suggested that a bit of ceremony would be nice, but he wanted what he wanted, so he got it. No ceremony, but it was the talk of the harbor. Using the Devil in a boat’s name was not typical and not thought lucky.

He didn’t enjoy his boat long. A fire started offshore, and all aboard went into the bay. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been enough floatation devices aboard for all the guests, so he yielded his floatation vest and drowned. 

The boat survived with severe fire damage but was salvaged and put up for sale.

She lay in Spinney’s yard for two years before being sold. I wouldn’t know if the reason was the fire, the owner’s death, the name, or a combination of all three. But sit in the back of the yard, she did. To locals, it was the Devil when someone referred to that boat. That should have been enough to discourage any local from buying it. 

History and name suggested that nothing but ill luck was involved in that boat. Wash it in a bathtub of holy water from Saint Jerome’s, pour libations all day long, and do whatever hocus pocus you wish, and none of that would help. My father-in-law, the Cap’n, put it succinctly enough when offered the boat at a bargain rate, ” I wouldn’t allow any of my kin to sit in its shadow, much less step aboard.”


The Devil sat there until Jacob Allen went looking for a cheap boat with fast lines that he could pour a high-power engine into for lobster boat racing. The Devil fit the bill. And over a long Maine winter, he worked to rebuild the boat into his dream of a fast racer. 

During the spring, his trial runs seemed to indicate that he’d be a contender in any race he entered. Unfortunately, Jacob was not the type to go full speed ahead, only at a race. He’d run circles around other lobster boats in the local harbor gang he belonged to. Jacob took pleasure in almost swamping small craft he considered to be in his way. Jacob wasn’t well-liked.

Jacob was known to infringe on the territories of nearby lobstermen and was closely watched until, one day, he was caught. The first time you get caught, you will likely pull your traps and find a half hitch in your line. It’s a warning that your trespass has been noted. Do it again, and the penalties will go up. 

The Devil proved as successful as Jacob believed it would, and victory was frequent. Now I do not know how plush the prizes are these days, but back then, it was peanuts. You raced for the joy and pleasure of it. Jacob also raced because he loved to rub other skippers’ noses in how fast the Devil was. In a family of quiet Mainers, he inherited all the ego.


I was helping out at Spinney’s boat yard that September hauling out summer people’s boats, and overheard Spinney talking to my father-in-law, the Cap’n. They both agreed that Jacob was heading for a fall. they quieted down when I walked up, but it was common knowledge that Jacob had been robbing traps, and something was bound to happen.

Things get slower as the weather gets colder; lobstermen spend more time repairing and making new lobster pots ( or traps), repairing their gear, and taking care of their boats. But on Halloween evening, the blast rocked the entire harbor as the Devil blew up with Jacob Allen aboard. The official report said Jacob had ignited a puddle of gasoline while starting his boat. A death by misadventure, I guess. But knowing people understood that Jacob Allen had been a scrupulous man in caring for his boat.

Murder was suspected but never proven. There wasn’t much of the Devil or Jacob Allen left for an inquest, just the mutterings of people about the enemies he’d had and someone finally canceling a grudge hard.

At the coffee shop in the morning, there were comments about how the boat had been ill-fated from the start, and then, more quietly, someone muttered that the Devil had certainly known his own.

Better With Age

The concept of being wet takes in a bit of territory. On the coast, you can be “wet from birth,” meaning you grew up on the water. Sometimes I’ve heard people described as just being all wet. The meaning here is that you weren’t smart enough to come in from the damp weather. Sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve been both all at once. I was born a part of a seafaring family and spent my youth growing up helping my Marine Engineer father. But as a sailor in a boat with actual sails, I can’t compete with those “smart as fresh paint” wise guys who’ve owned their sailboats since before puberty. One is not quite the equivalent of the other.

Then, I developed my penchant for carving boats these days rather than sailing them. I had hit the point where scrambling fitfully over centerboard trunks and going forward on heaving foredecks to tend fitful jibs no longer appealed. Knees and hips had aged.

So now I carve and once in a while pontificate on the activities of my peers. I actually may be improving with age, without ever leaving the dock.

Fall Arrives

With September absconding with the warmth of August, I should have been back in Boston. But there I was helping the Cap’n prepare Pysche for the winter layup. Unfortunately, the Cap’n was a bit of a frostbiter and wouldn’t truly yield to the cold until later in October, “there are lots of crystal clear sailing days into October, Wes!”

Of course, my practical and cold-averse wife suggested trips north as long as “Daddy” could get out for a sail. But, I was the one going out and getting frozen fingers and toes – that’s why it’s called frostbiting. So, no, Georgia would stay home and promise to keep the woodstove going and have hot chocolate or hot spice cider ready.

We sorted and packed everything that should not stay aboard through the winter months in September. There would be no multi-day long coastal trips and much you’d expect to need for those went ashore. We put on a heavy-duty rub rail at the waterline because the ketch spent the winter in a tidal gut that didn’t freeze up, but the hull needed protection from passing ice. The engine would get winterized when the Cap’n called it quits. Then we’d stip the sails for storage in the little lazarette below and cover the boat for the winter.
By then, I was approaching mid-terms and preparing papers. I was typing, reading, and attempting to keep my cat, the Grey Menace, out of trouble. There was a mountain ash tree in front of the cabin, and after the berries ripened, they sometimes fermented. Fermented berries meant drunken birds, and drunk birds meant great fun to the Menace. As a result, he was frequently confined to the dining room window, where he watched the birds cavorting without his assistance. To him, this unfair and arbitrary punishment made him more than usually interested in attacking passing ankles or bare toes. Finally, tripping the Cap’n on his way out with a bucket of wood ash got him summarily dumped outside. Now the Menace was in his element and began to stalk a drunken robin only to have the robin unexpectedly turn hunter and counter-stalk the cat. A loud yowling signaled that the robin had won the match and a chagrined cat retired to perch by the stove.

Sometime around the middle of October, the Cap’n would call it quits. At that point, you’d expect to be done. But a canny owner knows to double-check and check again. So as the fall rains and storms whipped through our area of the coast, we spent time going out and confirming that everything was secured.
Then the Cap’n and Cora would slip into their winter round of square and line dancing evenings, and my crewing services were no longer needed.

As winter approached, I’d take the little skiff out one final time, row around Pysche, and say goodbye to the cove until some snowy middle-of-winter trip brought us back with a growling cat who hated the snow between his paws; but adored evenings curled up in front of the fire.

Cribbage, Lights List and Coastal Pilot

The broken cribbage board and the Coast Pilot Take me back to the days when I learned to “Hand, Reef, and Steer” aboard the 34-foot ketch Psyche. The lovely thing about the ketch rig is that you have a wide choice of sails and sail configurations. Pick the right combo, and the boat will “wing on wing” before light air leaving you to enjoy the sail. The less fun part of the ketch rig is gaining the experience to choose correctly. The knight in the Indiana Jones movie said – “Choose, but choose wisely.”

Among my duties aboard were to swing the lead line, go forward on a heaving foredeck to take in jibs, reef, steer under the Cap’ns instructions, and heave the anchor up ( no, no capstan chanteys). I also mess cooked, went for ice, was first off with the lines, and had a plethora of additional duties. Look, I was chief cook, bottle washer, mate and buffet server.

At night I was required on demand to play cribbage with the Cap’n. Playing cribbage was not an optional duty. His daughter, my first wife, was not thrilled by the game, and thus, I was required to play. I developed a robust distaste for the game. And that’s why the broken cribbage board will stay that way. 

I’d like you to consider that for many years I could not recall the name of the game or could not force it past my lips. I still can’t remember the rules. Only in recent years have I been able to push those two syllables past my lips. I do not consider this a detriment, because by now you have realized that I loathe the game.

The Cap’n didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want to play some other reasonable sailor’s game:

  • No Acey-Ducey.
  • Cheaters Monopoly ( and I don’t mean the wimpy civilian version).
  •  Or Craps.

He wanted to play cribbage, night after night after night.

One night on deck, the question arose about identifying the navigational lights we saw from the various lighthouses along the coast. That conversation lead to my introduction to the Lights List and Notices to Mariners. The next day the Cap’n introduced me to the Coast Pilot, a publication that lists important information for mariners regarding the harbors and waterways along the coast.

Over the next two trips, the Cap’n pulled out his worn 1941 edition of Bowditch, a sexton, sight reduction tables, and away we went. I eventually got good enough that I did not calculate our position as somewhere near Washington, D.C., when we were near Sequin.

All these instructions gave me a solution to the cribbage problem. I found that if I begged off playing because I had to study the Coastal Pilot or Lights List, my wife had to play cribbage with the Cap’n. Unfortunately, this “evasion of my duties” didn’t help my deteriorating marriage . 

Things came to a head just before I left to return to school one summer. I played my educational card once too often and got accused of selfish behavior. Too damn true! I self-righteously refused to give up my navigational studies for mere cribbage. I maintained that I was taking the high road to self-improvement. My wife seeing through my ploy, clocked me with the cribbage board. That night I played cribbage.

Somehow when we separated, the broken cribbage board wound up in one of my boxes. It went undiscovered for years but gradually found its way into one of the family game boxes; forgotten.

A few weeks ago, Matilda and I visited Shelbourne Falls with a few of our kids. In one of the used bookstores, I found this copy of the Coast Pilot, and all the memories came pouring forth: Psyche, my first marriage coming undone, piloting, navigation, and of course, cribbage.

I am reminded of an anonymous quote: A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner. However, I hope by now that I am at least somewhat skilled in life, if not too wise.

Sloop of War

Small vessels of the Napoleonic War era below the rate of the frigate were frequently termed Sloops of War. It didn’t matter if the ship was rigged as a sloop, a brig, snow, or an actual ship rig. A frigate was generally ship rigged ( square-rigged on all three masts) and had at least 28 guns on a single flush deck. 

So the handy little flush deck Sloop of War I’ve carved here is almost a pocket frigate. With twelve guns, she will not stand against a larger ship, say a Frigate, but is armed well enough to do some severe damage as a Privateer, dispatch, or reconnaissance ship. Fast and able ships like this served the British, American, and French navies throughout the era.

About the carving:

This was lots of fun to carve. I modeled the Sloop of War on several illustrations but modified things until I had the sail plan and view I wanted. The carving was executed in eastern white pine. After most of the carving was complete, I decided on a mixture of painted color and bare wood for the sort of contrasts I wanted. The sea combines crushed stone, blue ink, and acrylic paints. The quote is a favorite Horatio Nelson quote that is both era-appropriate and matches the scene.

Sailing before the wind is a challenging position to carve. It needs a bit of hollowing in the sails for drama, but it can be tricky to express. Remember you are trying to get this sense of depth and movement in 1/8 of an inch or less of carved depth.

I’ve been developing this carving style as an homage to nineteenth-century sailors’ dioramas and ships’ portraits. It’s not modeling, nor is it flat portraiture. It’s a sort of hybrid.


A lobsterman I knew back in the day was a chef on board his floating diner, his lobster boat. Although his dutiful wife always packed him a cooler of goodies, he was known for the impromptu repasts he’d cook on the muffler of his engine. I was aboard one day when lunch was a glorious cod cooked with onions and peppers.

The fish was a bycatch, something that wound up in the lobster trap that didn’t belong there. That day it was a cod. After cleaning the fish and dressing it with the peppers and onions, it was double wrapped in layers of heavy tin foil, tied to the muffler, and cooked until the flesh was tender. He stated, “You’ll never get a fresher fish dinner at a restaurant.”

Lunch was served on the fantail with chilled bottles of beer, his wife’s apple pie for dessert, and a view of Seguin lighthouse as a backdrop.

This meal stands out among the standard fare I experienced offshore. Unwanted mementos of offshore culinary disasters included gas and upset stomachs caused by the Capn’s favorite lunch of sardines and pilot biscuits washed down with tea, cold beans, stale meatloaf sandwiches, and indifferent cold pizza. Depending on who you were going out with and the time you expected to return, one could feel quite the gambler.

Among sailors, there is a saying, “Bad cooking is responsible for more trouble at sea than all other things put together.” I agree.


You can not put a Genie back into the bottle. It’s like repacking one of those tents from the big box store. First, take it out, then use it. Then, try to fit it back in the bag the way it started. Forget about it.
It’s part of the joy of family camping with kids. Offer them breakfast the day you return home at their favorite fast food franchise if the tent fits back in the bag and the bag into the box.

The oldest takes charge, and pretty soon, there is much-concerted action. However, my wife is looking at me sideways. She is stirring last night’s ashes for coals. Starts the fire and puts on the coffee. Today we’ll start the long peregrination home after a combined camping trip and boat show.

The division of labor on these trips is hardly fair. She gets the kids, and I get to run my booth at the show. But at some point in the day, after the kids have raided every shop in town for small toys, books, and souvenirs, they show up at the show. Once they arrive, they tour the show greeting the mixed batch of Labradors, Portuguese Water Dogs, and other canine attendees as long-lost friends, poking around booths and “helping” with sales at my booth.

Standing around the booths for hours is tedious for the kids. So they find ways to entertain themselves. A friend asked my daughter, ” Dot, what type of boat is that?” I think he was trying to distract her from some interesting object in his booth with a short lecture on rigs. But, without hesitation, my seven-year-old daughter looked up and said, ” It’s a Cutter.” It was indeed a cutter, and to the uninitiated, not any easy rig to distinguish from some others. My friend was surprised, but I was astounded. I hadn’t taught her that, although I promptly took credit. It was the learning that the observant pick up around the docks and boatyards. A lot of it is stuff you can’t learn otherwise.

As a society, we place a lot of value on formal education. Traditionally this was not so. You began to work with a family member very early, learning to cook, weave, create pots, build boats, and fish. Dot and the other kids had spent time with me at shows in my workshop and watched as I prepared designs for carving.
Yes, I was surprised that Dot casually identified a cutter. Still, to a degree, she’d had the opportunity to listen as friends discussed different forms of rigging and boat design, if only casually. Very early on, they had learned what dad had wanted when I asked them to pick up that piece of cherry, not a piece of pine.

We send off kids to school and sports these days. Rarely do children work with a parent or relative in a trade or occupation. But not that far in the past, working with a parent in the family trade or business was a regular part of a child’s life. For example, at age nine, I handed tools to my father as he repaired the engines on commercial fishing boats. I did not grow up to be a Marine Engineer like him, but I not only spent that time with my father but also learned about boats and making a living.

We have created a division between education, work, and creation as a society. We frequently don’t value the labor of people who create things with their hands because we don’t make anything ourselves. If you don’t create anything yourself, you are less than likely to value the product created by others. It will always be easier to buy the knockoff trash and not understand the actual value of what you consume.

You cannot put a genie back into a bottle. Not everyone is a weaver, potter, carver, marine engineer, cook, or gardener. Or at least we don’t start as one. More and more emphasis gets placed on lifelong learning recently. It’s impossible to put a life back into the box and bag it came in, and you shouldn’t try. Where you are going with your lifelong peregrination is more critical than where you started.

Generosity – a Flashback Friday presentation from July 2019

I carved this banner around when the Patrick O’Brien books like Master and Commander were popular. With so many boats being named Surprise, I thought it might be an attention-getting device at boat shows, and it was. Around the time I began to focus on portraiture, this quarterboard still looked tremendous but lost the booth space competition to portraits. It was regularly trotted off to WoodenBoat School for students to examine.
With the popularity of Surprise, I wasn’t too amazed at the number of people who’d come up and tell me that that was their boat’s name.

One year at the school, we had a Waterfront manager who particularly admired the board. He’d more than gone out of his way to help many of the students, and the students appreciated it. He became a regular visitor to our class. One afternoon while class was in progress, he was in the shop admiring the student’s work and casting glances at the Surprise quarterboard. Of course, his boat’s name was Surprise, and the poor thing was barren of any display of name. So, I reached over, grabbed the board, handed it to him, and said: “it’s yours.” I think he mounted the board almost immediately that afternoon.

We are in business to earn. But, as an artist is within your scope to please with a gift. You get as much, if not more, than the receiver out of that transaction.


I was talking to Spinney. It was a late August Sunday evening, and we watched the sun sink into the bay. A conversation about the green flash had evolved into a discussion of the Golden Age of Piracy. I was going on about how the piratical equivalent of the fence was really the most essential part of the operation. There wasn’t much “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” without the cash to pay for the booze and fast women. Spinney allowed that this was true. He took a sip of his beer. Then, looking out over the bay, he went silent for a moment. Finally, he said: “it’s not just about a good fence; it’s also about a good place to hold the goods until the fence can move them, or until the fence agrees to a price.” I did a fast take on Spinney, “What?” This was Spinney speaking, deacon of his church, most ethical boatyard owner on this stretch of the coast.

Spinney said, “My family has been around this stretch of the coast since before the first Census. Even before the Revolution. Some families claim to have been here before the Pilgrims landed. Not a few of us moved goods that the Crown saw as against the “Navigation Acts.” My father was known to move goods from offshore and Canada during Prohibition. Not my family, but others made a racket some years ago, breaking into summer people’s homes and emptying them out. An excellent place to stow goods is essential. You can’t exactly keep two hundred cases of Canadian Whiskey in your garage. Well, you could, but that’d be the first place they’d look, Likewise with stowing four rooms of antique furniture.

I bit. “OK, where would you put it”? Spinney looked towards the bay, pointed out to Boomkin Island, then a bit further to the ledges known as the Spires. “Out there, here and there.” The summer cottage break-ins were solved because the police chief was a Grey. He knew the spots that old Alden Grey used in the Thirties. Unfortunately, Alden’s grandson was no Alden. He had no clue that other family members knew those spots. Todd was not too bright, and the Chief didn’t like a family member dragging the Grey name in the mud. So one morning, they rounded up the furniture and soon rounded up Todd. That was the last I can recall of the old spots being used. There were a few attempts to use sites on Old Ram, but those were outsiders.

“So Spinney, are there still goods out there? Could you show me a spot or two?”
Spinney quickly changed the subject to sports, a topic he knew I knew nothing about and liked less. Soon afterward, the sun went down, and we each went our own ways.

Next week Spinney showed up in his battered green pickup truck. I offered him a cold beer, but he said: “no time for that now if we’re going to get to the Little Widows before dark.” I didn’t bother questioning but assumed this was the inevitable continuation of our last conversation. Spinney was going to show me one of the spots. “Now I know that you anthropologists make a point of confidentiality. So understand that what I’m going to show you is in the way of being a family trade secret.” I glibly agreed never to reveal the secret … not that I could ever pilot a boat out to the nubs of rock and spruce we were about to visit.
“Anyhow, one of the Widows has been a family spot since before the Revolution. There are lots of Spinneys in the state. But, particularly my family to this one town. So my spots are only known to close family.” As Spinney laid out the family history, we were going recklessly, or so it seemed to me, through narrow passages from the inner bay to the outer. I had once been out with Spinney in a thick fog that he had navigated through solely by the benefit of the rare sounding, dead reckoning, and wave sounds from adjacent shores.

The sun was almost gone when we reached the tiny islet he assured me was the location of a Spinney spot. Searching around in the tide, Spinney eventually found a rusted chain with a shackle. To this, he secured the boat. Walking into the thicket of stunted oak and spruce, Spinney suddenly reached out and stopped me. He reached down and grabbed the edge of a ratty tarp. Shaking off several years of storm wrack, leaves, and jetsam, Spinney revealed a rusted metal hatch plate. “Grab the other side. I haven’t been out this way for years, and the last time I was still young enough to handle this myself.”
Lifting up the hatch almost pulled my arms out of their sockets. In his 80’s, Spinney was as lean and spare as they come. He was known as a compact powerhouse around his yard. Straining not to drop my end of the hatch, I awkwardly crab-walked back the few yards while Spinney effortlessly walked off with his side. “Ok, put this down easily now.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a flashlight, and careful not to shine the light about, he illuminated the contents of the stash. “We have to be careful about the light. Don’t want anyone ashore getting curious”. Inside were stacks of wooden cases, brandy, Scots Whiskey, rye, Canadian, liquors, sherry, and more. I felt a terrible thirst building. It had been a dry ride out, and the night was cooling. Spinney must have read my mind because I next heard the clink of two shot glasses being pulled out of his jacket. “What shall it be?” asks Spinney, as politely as the bartender at the Anchor Bar over in the harbor. “Well, Spinney, it’s your stash, so it’s your choice.”

Spinney cast the light over the stash and waved his hand over a few of the closest cases while he contemplated his selection. Then, reaching down seemingly randomly, he pulled up a Napoleon brandy. “This will take off the chill.” Opening the bottle with a bit of flair, Spinney pours us both a shot that we knock back fast, making room for refills. We lingered over the refills. I’m sitting on a speck of an island, drinking from a stash of booze that’s been sitting there since Prohibition. I am in on one of the biggest secrets on the coast. I’m also thinking about how hard it would be to confirm documentation from other families about similar spots and traditions. I am thinking about an article in American Anthropologist (Traditions and Family in Illicit Coastal Trades: Stashes and Spots along the Mid Maine Coast). It could help me get a tenure track after I finish my dissertation.
Spinney has been my confidant for years. He has questioned me closely about anthropology and academia as I have asked him about life in a coastal community. In the jargon of my trade, Spinney is a “key informant.” In short, Spinney knows what is running through my head. But then, quietly, he refills our glasses and says, “No, you’ll never be able to write it up, except maybe when you’re my age. But, it’ll be a nice story to tell when you’re out for drinks.”
I looked at Spinney and said: “Yeah, especially when I add that I sat here drinking booze hidden from the time of Prohibition.”

Spinney sat there quiet for a few minutes. “Uh. Wes?” “Yeah?” “This stuff is old, but it’s not from Prohibition. About twenty years ago, I closed the roadhouse we used to run on Route 29. The rest of the family are straight-out teetotalers, and I couldn’t stow this stuff in the barn, so I stashed it out here”.

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