By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,693)
Travis Otis’ grandmother, Geraldine Kilpatrick, had Multiple Schlerosis and that is one of the reasons that he always participates in the Lobster Boat Races off the Eastern Promenade he said this afternoon at 58 Fore Street. Otis had finished first place in his class and was waiting for the picnic barbecue to start and the following award ceremony before heading back home to Searsport. There are other reasons for his involvement in the Lobster Boat Race as well.
The Race is almost ten years old and Otis was one of about fifty (50) skippers who participated in the fundraiser on the Portland waterfront.
Back home in Searsport, Travis works with his father at Otis Marine Enterprises, a boat building business his father started. The yard specializes in building “Down East style” hulls – their own line of hulls. “They make a pretty boat that can go out in ugly weather,” said Travis. He’s also the Assistant Harbor Master in Searsport. Recently, he worked with the State of Maine, Department of Marine Resources on mercury research in the lower Penobscot River. In 2014 – 2015 7 acres was closed to lobstering and crabbing because of mercury levels. As a result of the additional research, the State decided to close another 5 l/2 acres at the mouth of the River.
Some of the mercury pollution was certainly due to the HoltraChem plant, once located on the River. It was closed in the 80s, Travis said, but the damage had already been done. to the River. The River also produces some bacteria that contributes to the mercury levels as well. Travis is vice president of the Lobster Boat Racing Association.
He enters ten (10) lobster boat races each season, beginning with the Boothbay Harbor race in June. That means that he travels 1,500 nautical miles each year to compete. Travis built his 36 ft. “modified Northern Bay”, First Team” and that is the one he uses in the Lobster Boat Races. In fact in a moment of “showing off” last year, the engine blew up in Casco Bay during the Race. There was a big cloud of black smoke around him. It took Travis 8 l/2 hours to get back to Searsport rather then the usual 4 hours it takes to navigate the Maine coastline Down East.
“This is a very important event for the city of Portland. It brings many people into the city using hotels and restaurants,” said Phin Sprague, Jr., who with his wife donated the food for the barbecue.