The Cummins inboard engine rumbled to life like a charm Saturday afternoon, June 10, and Rockport fisherman Kenny Dodge gave a slight smile and nod. Inside, though, you knew he was grinning big. He stood on the deck of his new 47-foot lobster boat, the Hemingway, reached through the window for the wheel, and reversed the vessel into the Goose River Channel.
It was a boat launching of magnificent proportions for a town that prides itself on supporting its working waterfront.
There were cheers and applause from the crowd that lined both sides of the channel, as the motor surged the boat forward into the harbor. At the helm, Dodge eased the boat around to the commercial fishing dock, where his family and friends had gathered to celebrate his hard-earned accomplishment. A sizable bait box was filled with ice and beer, picnic tables were set up, and the party would continue until evening.
The day culminated five years in the making: Dodge had worked through past winters building the Hemingway in his West Rockport boat barn.
Like the Becca & Meagan, his smaller lobster boat that he has fished aboard for decades, the Hemingway had been painted his signature red. And everyone knows Kenny Dodge — a fisherman and artist with many talents — goes for his particular shade of red.
Read the 2015 account of Dodge’s boat project:
On Monday, June 12, Dodge was happy. The Hemingway was swelling nicely, tied up at the float. The boat had hardly leaked a drop over the past 48 hours. He would soon be conducting sea trials with Midcoast Diesel, taking the Hemingway out into Penobscot Bay and opening up the motor. Then he was going to to drive over to Hallowell and get his fishing license changed from the Becca & Meagan to the Hemingway.
“It’s been a long five winters building it,” he said.
The Hemingway is unique in many aspects, primarily because Dodge built the vessel from oak and cedar that he cut from his West Rockport land, and then milled right beside his house.
He carefully constructed the boat in his boat barn, filling it stem to stern with a long oak spine that he cut with a chainsaw. The 47-foot-boat slowly grew from the wooden cradle, its 14 foot, 10-inch beam carefully fitted, nailed, caulked, sanded and painted. The transmission and engine were lifted in, then the decks put in place, and the cabin constructed. Specially ordered windows were set into the frames, and then it was time to call Belmont Boatworks to come down and haul the Hemingway to the harbor.
Family and friends helped him along the way.
“My brother, Raymond, and Roger Steele were a big help,” he said. On moving day, Ralph Jones, Jr., accompanied Steele behind the Hemingway convoy down Route 90, while Dodge led the way in his pickup.
There are many Dodges fishing out of Rockport Harbor, and it’s hard to keep track of who are the uncles, sons and brothers. Most of the time, they are cracking jokes and smiling, when they aren’t ribbing each other or the other fishermen. The Dodges descend from a large Rockport fishing family.
When the lobster season is over, Kenny Dodge might go get scallops, or dig clams, depending on what he wants to do that day. And he won’t tell you where he goes.
Dodge’s father built his own boat in the 1960s, and when it came time to haul it to the harbor, he towed it on its cradle along Route 90 down to the water. Nobody minded so much back then, except perhaps the road commissioner and selectmen.
This year, however, Kenny Dodge hired Belmont Boat Works to haul the Hemingway from Meadow Street to the Rockport Harbor launch area. It was a sight to see, the red boat proudly moving down the road, with honks and waves from the traffic.
The Belmont Boat Works crew worked efficiently to maneuver the large boat around the Marine Park circle, and then back down the launch ramp. Dodge, cool as a cucumber, edged along the dock beside the Hemingway. Then he stepped aboard, and his dog jumped in beside him.
The Hemingway is Dodge’s own design, and he carved a model to scale. That provided the lines of what he wanted, something between a Novi (traditional Nova Scotia design) boat and a Maine lobster boat. Something that he can use for pulling traps, shrimping, getting halibut, or catching bait.
Two years ago, he said: “I took all of the years of fishing and fixing boats, and applied what I thought to what will be a seaworthy boat — flat, wide and deep on the keel.”
Ultimately, the Hemingway is a working boat. Soon enough, the bait will be loaded on board, and it will get scruffed up.
“There are traps I haven’t seen in three weeks,” said Dodge. “And I’ve got to go catch halibut.”
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