Getting Our Bearings

Maine State Seal, folk art version.  Gift of Ambrose C. Cramer, 1960.32

The Penobscot Marine Museum will launch Getting Our Bearings, a new permanent exhibit, in its Main Street Gallery this season. Through a collection of objects, photographs, and primary source documents, the exhibit introduces the key themes of the Penobscot Marine Museum. It explores how maritime communities fed the Atlantic work, built America’s Merchant fleet, constructed pre-Civil War America, became America’s Vacationland, engaged in global trade, and served as homeports and homesteads. Museum visitors will get to see how the sea has impacted—and will continue to impact—daily life on and around Penobscot Bay. 

Blueprint from Stockton Yard, Inc. Crooker Collection, PMM 4.

Photo of hauling in the sardine catch. Atlantic Fisherman Collection, LB1992.301.115

Getting Our Bearings is sponsored by Hamilton Marine and is funded in part by a major grant from the Maine Bicentennial Commission with additional grant support from the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust. 

Everything old is new again…

By Cipperly Good, the Richard Saltonstall Jr. Curator of Maritime History

The sea chantey is the moment’s hottest fad on TikTok, a social media platform dedicated to song and dance. The chantey is meant to be bellowed six feet apart and to bring disparate work crews from many different nationalities, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds into alignment to “pull together” towards a common purpose. In the nineteenth century, it got sailing, fishing, and railroad crews to act as a unified force of effort. Today, the chantey allows us to raucously sing together in call and response, albeit remotely, into the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a tense presidential transfer of power, a racial reckoning, and seasonal affective disorder.

Although sea chanteys are an oral tradition that allowed the chanteyman to adapt the words to include inside jokes only the crew understood and pointed references to the bully mate or captain in coded language, some intrepid collectors copied down their favorite versions. Luckily for us at Penobscot Marine Museum (PMM), our very own Joanna Carver Colcord (1882-1960), a Searsport Sea Captain’s daughter and founding member of PMM, was one such compiler. In her foreword to Roll and Go: Songs of American Sailormen, written in 1924, she writes:

The following examples of these work-songs of the sea are drawn in part from my own memories of years spent on blue water under sail from 1890 to 1899, mostly on voyages between New York and various ports in the China Sea. In part, they are songs learned from my father, who loved them and sang them well, and whose seagoing began about the year 1874. This makes my versions of the songs later than the “classical” period of shanty-singing, which extended from about 1840 to the time of the Civil War. I also owe grateful acknowledgement to many shanty-singers still alive…

Shanties naturally fall into three main divisions on a scale of occupational classification: short-drag shanties [i.e. hauling sail onto top of yard], halyard shanties [i.e. raising sail], and windlass or capstan shanties [i.e.hauling up anchor]. The form of the shanty for each of these three divisions is quite different, since it is fitted to an altogether different job aboard ship. I have used this natural classification in the following pages as a means of dividing the collection into readable lengths, and also as an aid to the general reader in forming a clear conception of what the shanty stood for and how it was used.

Of course, when setting out to be the expert on a topic, there is always push back. Colcord lays out two pages of debate on the spelling of shanty versus chantey in her foreword. In our collection, we have correspondence between Colcord and Gershom Bradford on whether the song “Shenandoah” could be a halyard or capstan shanty:

PMM 29-1062, Colcord Collection

October 30, 1936
My dear Miss Colcord,
In my copy of your Roll and Go, Shenandoah is classed as a capstan shanty. I would like to ask if you ever heard it used in hoisting topsails or do you think it was ever used in that operation?
The reason I ask this is that my uncle who sailed in the Ocean Pearl in the 50’s as a seaman (later a captain in the Coast Survey) once told me the grandest music he ever heard was Shenandoah sung in gale when reefing topsails. He, or I, may not have been correct in our memories.
Just what constitutes a Sou’ Spainer? South of Spain or a real deepwaterman from around the “Capes”?I enjoyed your article in Yachting some months back.
Sincerely,
Gershom Bradford


PMM 29-1062, Colcord Collection

November 13, 1936
My dear Mr. Bradford
I have no doubt that Shenandoah was sometimes used as a topsail halyard shanty—indeed, its form, like that of Sally Brown and Goodbye, Fare Ye Well, indicates that it probably started life in that fashion. Some chance would seem to have led these songs being more frequently used, in later years, as capstan shanties.
The term ”Sou’Spainer” was not used in American sea-jargon, at least in my day. I have run across it in Masefield, and believe it must have been a British expression. the Yankee expression for a Mediterranean voyage was ”up the Straits”; I knew of no term by which the vessel or the seaman habitually in that trade was described….
Sincerely yours


Gershom Bradford III (1879-1978), who wrote the letter of inquiry to Joanna Colcord, was no stranger to the sea. He trained at the forerunner of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to be a merchant marine captain, served as a bridge officer for the East Coast steamers used by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, rose to the rank of lieutenant as a navigator in the Navy Hydrographic Office, and trained the next generation of navigators at the US Shipping Board School in Boston. Bradford was in charge of writing the Notice to Mariners, put out by the Naval Hydrographic Office to correct errors or changes on nautical charts. In his private time, Bradford published books and articles on sailing and navigation, and like Joanna, wrote about sea terms. His book was titled: The Mariner’s Dictionary: A Glossary of Sea Terms, whereas Joanna’s was Sea Language Comes Ashore. Both also published articles in The American Neptune.

His uncle, and namesake, Gershom Bradford II (1838-1918), as noted in the letter, served as a seaman on the OCEAN PEARL in the 1850s, and later as a nautical surveyor and captain in the US Coast Survey. The US Coast Survey, which was renamed the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1878, and finally became part of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in 1970, surveyed and created maps for mariners. Bradford’s name shows up as the Hydrographic Inspector on nautical charts. At the time of his 1871 marriage in San Francisco to fellow Duxbury, Massachusetts native Minnie Winsor, Bradford was an assistant on the US Coast Survey schooner MARCY surveying the shoals and coastlines of the United States. Minnie joined him on the surveys aboard the MARCY and later the YUKON and PALINURUS. While government ships are not known for their sea chanteys, Bradford definitely used the work songs in his time in the merchant marine. The OCEAN PEARL mentioned in the letter could possibly be the ship built in Charlestown, Massachusetts by T. McGowan in 1853.

An Outdoor Living

LB2017.19.41675

It’s November, and we’re in the later part of deer hunting season in Maine. Here’s a tip of the hat to those who hunt and fish. The sporting industry is vibrant in our state, and given the millions of acres of pristine ponds, lakes, and woods here, and the endless miles of rivers and streams, it was inevitable that people with expert knowledge of these environs would create an economic niche for themselves: the Maine Guides. While people have hired these services out for two hundred years or more, Maine didn’t formalize the practice until a piece of 1897 legislation began to require registration. The first registered Maine Guide was a woman: Cornilia Thurza Crosby, known colloquially as Fly Rod, was also an early popularizer of sporting in Maine. (Wikipedia, “Maine Guides”, n.d.)

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When homegrown talent Kosti Ruohomaa, who exalted Maine folk life throughout his career as a photojournalist, visited Maine Guide Ed DeMar in 1958, DeMar was an elder statesman of the profession. A native of the Rangeley Lakes region, he was intimately familiar with the woods and waters there and a born steward of wild places. As expected, he knew where to find salmon and deer, was a wily storyteller, a friend to his fellow guides and clients but also to the wardens and state wildlife professionals who sustained the regulatory boundaries he operated within.

LB2017.19.2518

DeMar was a longtime officer in the Rangeley Lakes Guide Association, a sort of local workers’ union for old fashioned New England conservatives. The Association established pay ranges for guides and outlined standards for working conditions. At the time, they represented around 130 guides.

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His propensity for the outdoors apparently dominated his character: in the off season, he sometimes signed on with logging companies and spent his winters at lumber camps in Maine’s north woods.

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Guiding almost always selected for competence. Then as now, the job required not only expertise in the wilderness, but a strong moral backbone, a quick head, a radar for danger, confidence in one’s leadership, charisma, and an unflappable sense of humor.

Their excellence garnered benefits. Their clients, known in the trade as “sports”, customarily returned to the same guide year after year, cementing long and friendly connections. They often sent gifts to their guides from back at home. They tended to be successful professionals, who didn’t mind paying $150 a day to be shown to hunting and fishing grounds or to pay the equivalent of $180 per pound for fish they caught themselves.

To all who are hunting this season: keep safe, enjoy the woods, and have fun.

LB2017.19.2634

Maynard Bray Collection

We’re excited to announce our first unveiling of Maynard Bray’s photographs online. As many of our audience know, Maynard is still alive and well and living in coastal Maine. He’s been working on and around boats for most of his life and has gone out of his way to meet countless others of a similar stripe.

After landing a BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine, he went to work for Electric Boat in Groton, CT in 1956, followed by a six-year stint at Bath Iron Works. By the time he finished there in 1969, he’d become their Chief Mechanical Engineer. He spent the next six years at Mystic Seaport as their shipyard supervisor. Here he was in his element: up to his elbows in wooden boats. After leaving Mystic for Maine in the mid-1970s, he stayed involved with Mystic Seaport into the early 2000s: he continued sourcing wood for the museum’s endless restorations, serving on the Ships and Yachting Committees, rescuing important collections of ships’ plans from becoming landfill, and as one of the Museum’s trustees. Shortly after returning to the Maine coast, he landed a gig as technical editor for WoodenBoat magazine, a position he still holds today. He’s also been writing the captions for Ben Mendlowitz’s Calendar of Wooden Boats since 1983.

Luckily for small boat aficionados—owners, builders, admirers—Maynard photographed his activities along the way, beginning when he was a teenager. He donated his collection of some 25,000 black and white negatives to Penobscot Marine Museum in 2013. The photos illustrate the fascination Maynard and his late wife Anne shared for traditional craftsmanship and their joy at being on the water.

This initial rollout represents Maynard’s own selection of his early medium format film work, and will be followed throughout the coming year by sets of his 35mm images.

But the best way to make this announcement is in the photographer’s own words. Maynard writes:

This first batch of 200 or so photos were mostly shot when I was in Junior High School (about 1947 and 1948) while my pal Don Merchant and I haunted the Rockland waterfront and our less geeky classmates were playing sports. Snow Marine Basin was then being created on Crocketts Point, across from where the Maine State Ferry terminal is presently located, and we hung out there, helping, immersing ourselves in boats, and taking lots of photos.

Fish processing in Rockland made for a working waterfront that fascinated us: its draggers and sardine carriers became so familiar that we knew which ones were in port just from seeing their mastheads as we peddled our bikes down Sea Street.

Don’s photos are also at PMM (collection LB2013.13), and by viewing his and my collections together you’ll get a good idea of what was going on along the Rockland waterfront in the days following the Second World War when fish were plentiful and yachts were few.

If you search for PIXIE/EAST WIND, PENOBSCOT, SEA WOLF, LELA, ALLSTON E., NABBY, CUCKOO, and BRUTAL BEAST, you’ll find what our own boats or the ones we used looked like. The steam lighter SOPHIA and the little tug HUGH were special to us even though they were on their last legs at the time. Search on Snow Marine Basin and you’ll begin to understand why both Don and I chose maritime professions.

My obsession with Herreshoff began with boats like DELIGHT, VENTURA, COCKATOO, and JOYANT, discovered after Anne and I were married and moved to Mystic, CT.

More recently, Maynard is one of the co-founders of OffCenterHarbor.com (or more commonly, OCH); OCH subscribers have access to engrossing and entertaining documentary videos the team produces. Their focus is on people who make, own, use, and repair small boats with a creative, DIY flair. PMM has often collaborated with OCH to share and mutually promote content.

Finally, we’re glad and lucky that Maynard spends a day a week during the cold months here in the PMM photo archives (as did his wife, Anne, before she died in 2018), donating his time to help us get his and other collections ready for our internet audience. We trust everyone will enjoy the fruits of this long labor. To browse his images, click here.

Marty Bartlett Photographs Now Live in the PMM Online Collections Catalog

Photos by Marty Bartlett

Marty Bartlett, now in his eighties, is done with the ocean, but he’s a character who was clearly shaped by his lifelong interaction with it. His photographs are a privileged on-deck view of tuna and sword fishing during a critical time for those fisheries. While searching for images from PMM’s National Fisherman Collection for a book he was writing (Wind Shift at Peaked Hills, a creative nonfiction account of sword fishing) , he offered to donate his work here. While the images don’t tell a Penobscot Bay story, their powerful place in the recent history of the Gulf of Maine made the choice of accepting his gift an obvious one.

Bartlett grew up fishing with his dad along the shores of Cape Cod. The pair missed a couple of years during the second World War; he recalls seeing columns of black smoke from burning tankers offshore. After the war, fish stocks rebounded somewhat; he could catch pollock with a mackerel jig off the beaches. The father-son ritual was finally abandoned after dad, in a lapse of attention, backed the Model A into the garage with the fishing rods standing like flagpoles, snapping all of them.

Bartlett enlisted in the Coast Guard for four years after high school. This intensive sea time gave him the chops to find work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he spent six years crewing on research vessels; there, he worked his way up to second mate. During this stint, he was lured into the WHOI game fish tagging program by its progenitor, research associate Frank Mather. Mather had achieved some renown for his project, which involved a novel tagging mechanism for large pelagic fish; his tags used a small barb which was embedded in the thick skin of a tuna or swordfish from the end of a long pole. In contrast to loop and other tag styles, these remained in place for four years or more. Tags, of course, allow scientists to track the growth and migratory patterns of fish, which in turn can provide insight into the impacts of fishing on the vigor of populations.

He’d bought a Leica and was shooting some 35mm film showing the work he was a part of, but boat crew and research personnel don’t often have the luxury of being observers, or “tourists”. It wasn’t until a few years later, when he started getting invitations to act as a guest artist on commercial fishing vessels, that his moment came to document the dynamic realities of harvesting large predator fish. These captains were of course in pursuit of profitable landings, but research entities like WHOI were willing to pay them to tag some animals and throw them back. Bartlett captured scenes of both longlining and seining; US fishermen in the North Atlantic were late adopters of these practices, both of which had a devastating impact on swordfish and tuna stocks.

Bartlett’ career had further significant chapters; he eventually bought his own boat, the Penobscot Gulf, a burly steel-hulled workhorse which had been used to haul fuel to the islands of Penobscot Bay during WWII. He fished commercially from the Gulf with a crew for several years until swordfish, tuna, and groundfish stocks began to disappear in the 1980s.

The group of images we’ve rolled out this month can be viewed here:

Bartlett Collection

This is the only the first wave of Bartlett’s archive; keep an eye out in the coming months for another announcement as we continue to digitize these important and engrossing photographs.

In Scaling Up: The Canoa da Picada Plan Goes Full-Size

In Scaling Up: The Canoa da Picada Plan Goes Full-Size,  João Bentes has recreated a workspace to traditionally loft, or scale up from a paper plan to a full size work plan, the “Canoa da Picada,” a Portuguese Sailing Sardine Carrier, in sections. Break the Anchor, a Portuguese nonprofit, is building the “Canoa da Picada” in collaboration with The Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine. After construction, launch, and sea trials, the vessel will cross the Atlantic through the Azores, landing on Portuguese shores to establish a seamanship and boatbuilding apprentice-based school in Portugal using the vessel as an itinerant workshop. On display May 25 through October 20, 2019.

Weather or Knot?

Weather or Knot? gives visitors a chance to imagine life at sea in calm and stormy seas. They can watch storm clouds slowly gather and waves and wind increase through a collection of paintings chosen to depict the thirteen wind forces of the Beaufort Scale. Visitors will learn the importance of knot tying, the difference between vessels, as well as sail shapes, configurations, and rigging. Weather or Knot? is sponsored by Diversified Communications with grant support from the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust. On display May 25 through October 20, 2019.

Where in the World?

Where in the World? features paintings of Maine cargo ships in foreign ports and the navigational charts that guided the way. Captains and owners commissioned paintings of their vessels as a point of pride to ensure a successful voyage. Today, these port paintings provide viewers with a tour of the ports as they looked in the early- to mid-1800s. Navigational charts with hand-written course notations from the Museum’s collections accompany the port paintings, putting the voyages of Maine sea captains into geographical context. Where in the World? is sponsored by Diversified Communications with grant support from the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust. On display May 25 through October 20, 2019.