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Have Their Say...

Station Maine
Songs and Poems

Photos by photographer David M. M. Taffet:

  • Open house - June 6, 2009
  • Work party - April 24, 2009

  •  Station Maine in the News...




    United Mid-Coast Charities Distributes $547,000.
    Fifty-eight Service Agencies Receive Checks.

    Muriel Curtis receiving a check from UMCC representative John Burgess - September 20, 2016.
    Click here to download the full press release.



    A Letter from Jennifer West, Teacher

    My students all look forward to their Station Maine experience each week. Sometimes they want to wimp out when the going gets tough or it's cold. But we go out anyways, and they come back saying, “Wow, that was really awesome, it wasn't cold once we started rowing, and we were OUT there!”

    Too many of my students have learned over the years that making mistakes is a bad thing, rather than a process of learning. Many of my students have anxiety about new experiences and making mistakes. I often hear the comment in class, “I can't do that!”. With good leadership and the supportive environment of Station Maine, my students are learning that mistakes are a natural occurrence of learning, and not to be devastated by them. Through the support and humor during our Station Maine trips, making mistakes is an accepted process of learning, something that carries over to the classroom in more traditional learning experiences.

    Additionally, students get to realize the value of being both the leader and a team member. Out on the boat, our success is not artificial and is dependent on what they do and how they behave. Students are offered the opportunity to be coxswain, to lead the boat's direction and actions. Being in this position, they remember what it is like to be a rower and have an understanding for their crew.

    After this experience, they remember what it felt like to be in command as they receive directives from the coxswain. This back and forth of being in command and following commands in a real life situation helps students to realize that

    Even in a classroom situation, they will at times be in command (to choose their own course of study or activity) and at times will need to follow the teacher's directives.

    The only people who don't make mistakes are the only people who don't do anything.



    Mariah Jones
    Girls Rock Title IX Leadership
    Award Recipient 2010

    You know, I can still remember that day when Muriel Curtis, the director of Station Maine, knocked on my front door and said “Hi! I’m one kid short for my hundred mile expedition down Penobscot Bay, so how would you like to come? You’ll be gone for two weeks and you’ll have to pack everything you need in a small pack that’ll fit under your thwart. You will get hungry and tired, sun burnt and windblown. You’ll row in the rain and the baking sun, but you’ll have fun!” And some crazy part of me said yes to this insane woman that I had only ever met once before in my life. And you know what? To this day I am happy I did. I have lived more in my short seven years with Station Maine than most people live in their entire lives. I have rowed all the way around the Island of Manhattan and raced in France and the Quebec 400 celebration against people from all different nations. I have been an ambassador for my country, my state, and my town. I have rowed the fifteen miles out to Vinalhaven in 90º weather and all the way out, well, almost all the way out to the Statue of Liberty. Turns out our government doesn’t like you doing hat anymore. I have raced against boys and have heard them brag when they finally beat me. Truly I have lived a very full life and it’s just starting. I have so many people to thank for that. Muriel who caught me and dragged me in, my parents who put up with every crazy idea that ever happened in my life, and all the people all around the world who have welcomed me and rowed with me.


    Mariah Jones honored with Leadership Award - 4/9/2010

    Mariah is a Senior Watch Captain with Station Maine. For the first few of her seven years with us she was the only girl rowing with us. She never seemed to notice, nor did she allow the boys to treat her differently because she was a girl. She pulled her oar with a power that brought her the title of Girls Champion in the CrashV, an indoor rowing competition on Vinalhaven. Since then, Mariah has continued to take greater and greater responsibility for the crew. Although she admits to being a shy person she has raised herself to the level of Senior Watch Captain, one of the few young people to have achieved that status, which requires considerable training and experience in coaching young crews and old with various levels of experience. This standing requires not only superior seamanship ability, but judgment beyond her years as she sorts out the abilities of her crew, her vessel, the weather and sea conditions. There are many girls now with Station Maine's rowing program. They all look up to Mariah. Because Mariah has achieved such authority and status within the Station, the local rowing community, and beyond, every young girl in Station Maine knows that she can learn to row and command as well as any boy on the crew.

    CONGRATULATIONS MARIAH!

     


    Community Person of the Times
    Rockland is anchor, inspiration for Curtis' work By Emily Sapienza VillageSoup/Knox County Times Reporter


    ROCKLAND (Jan 5, 08): Muriel Curtis has seen many places in her days. She has worked in Greece. She has worked on schooners that have voyaged around the world. She has spent time on Loch Ness in Scotland. But the place she wants to be is Rockland.

    Curtis, 54, has a deep appreciation for the history, roots and culture of Rockland, and the work she does reflects that appreciation.

    "I knew I was going to settle in Maine because that's where I belong," she said on Jan. 2.

     Muriel Curtis. (Photo by Emily Sapienza)


    Curtis is the founder and director of Station Maine, a nonprofit organization that teaches local youth "to practice, share and encourage the rise of traditional skills of the sea, including sailing, rowing and seamanship," according to the Station Maine website. She was inspired to start Station Maine, in part because Rockland Harbor is the perfect location for such a program.

    But Curtis is also known locally for the Sea Ceilidh, a musical comedy performance that "put the history of Rockland on stage for the people of Rockland," she said. Curtis wrote, directed and produced the show for five years, starting in 1999.

    "The reason it was conceived was to put the history of Rockland on stage," said Curtis. "We are not about the frou-frou shops and the art galleries. They exist and we love them, but we also have the fish pier and the lobstermen, and Fisher [Engineering]. I wanted to celebrate that. I just wanted to do the show to let Rockland be proud of Rockland."

    The show, which was held in the auditorium of Rockland District High School, had approximately 72 people in the cast and took a lot of time to put together.

    "It was just glorious work," Curtis said. "The people were fun. I loved to do it. As Station Maine rose up, I had to stop the ceilidh. I can only stretch myself in so many directions."

    In 2002 Curtis started Station Maine, when the Atlantic Challenge international competition came to Rockland. The seamanship contest takes place every other year in different locations around the world. Young people between the ages of 15 and 26 compete in Bantry Bay gigs, boats that can be both sailed and rowed.

    "The local kids wanted to be part of it," said Curtis. "And they could have paid $2,000 to be on the U.S. team."

    But Curtis wanted to share the opportunity to participate with any young person who wanted to compete so she designed Station Maine to be free of costs to the participants.

    "I'd dreamed of this program for years," said Curtis. "I'd looked at Rockland Harbor. It was perfect. It's sheltered by Owls Head, it rarely freezes. And we have the heritage here of the lifesaving station, and people living their lives out of the sea, and becoming strong because of it."

    Curtis said that when she decided to start Station Maine, her thinking was, "If not me, who? If not now, when?"

    After Station Maine competed in the 2002 Atlantic Challenge, "I couldn't get the kids to stop," Curtis said.

    "We kept rowing because it was a good idea," she said. "The kids were ready. The harbor is perfect. The local population gets it. There just couldn't be a better place to do it. And it couldn’t have been a better time because of the contest."

    Curtis named her organization "Station Maine" after the many lifesaving groups that dot the coast. The Rockland Coast Guard Station, for example, is known as "Station Rockland" in Coast Guard circles.

    "I couldn't think of a better ideal for these kids," said Curtis. But she added that in hindsight, another name might have been better, since Station Maine is sometimes mistaken for a radio station.

    Station Maine is a free program that gets its funding through donations, Curtis said.

    "Again, it's Rockland," she said. "Rockland is such a great city. Most of our funding is local because local people understand." The group also has the support of adult volunteers, who are wonderful, said Curtis.

    When Station Maine traveled to France in 2007, "the kids earned every dime themselves," Curtis said.

    "We are not doing anyone a favor by handing these kids a free ticket to Europe," she said. So the Station Maine competitors worked babysitting, and raking leaves and painting houses to earn the money to pay their own way.

    "Now these kids know they can have anything they put their minds to," Curtis said. "They are not kids that want something handed to them. They want something more and they are willing to work for it."

    "You're not born with a work ethic," she said. "You have to be taught."

    Though it is still winter, Station Maine planned to put its boats back in the water on Saturday, Jan. 5.

    "We have a great group of kids," Curtis said. "And I can't wait to get the boats back in the water again."

    Curtis' goal is to see hundreds of Station Maines up and down the coast, she said.

    "I don't want to be a CEO," she said. "We need hundreds of organizations where kids can grow strong on the water. We have a great resource and heritage. We understand how the sea makes you strong. I want to see that utilized."

    During the summer, Station Maine has "no end of kids" participating in its programs. There is also a women's crew that includes 17 people, "some of whom are men," said Curtis. The women's crew, like the youth program, will row this winter.

    "Anyone who wants to row with us, come and be welcome," said Curtis.

    "I have found my bliss," Curtis said of her work at Station Maine. "I have no intention of stopping until I'm too geriatric to get into a boat, but that won't be for a while because I am strong."

    "I've had a killer good life," said Curtis. "I've never done anything as satisfying as Station Maine."

    "The kids and parents are incredible," she said. "The community understands us because it’s a working waterfront. I'm the luckiest person I've met and I have the sense to know it."  


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    Community News
    Curtis Receives Grange Award for Public Service

    The Knox Pomona Grange Award for Public Service was presented to Muriel Curtis on Saturday, February 3, at the Pioneer Valley Hall in Union in recognition of her commitment to and involvement with the community.

    Curtis, who is the founder of the Station Maine rowing program in Rockland and organizer of community musical events, received her award before an audience ranging from younger siblings of team members to boat builders, to senior members of the Rockland music community.

    Mariah Jones, a senior racing crew member, Cassady Schafer, a member of Station Maine’s first crew, and Ed Glaser, Rockland harbor master, gave tributes to Curtis while her faithful dog Sky slept nearby.

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    Knox Pomona Grange #3 to Present Award to Muriel Curtis
    By PSA
    Jan 26, 2007 - 9:52:16 PM

    UNION -- The Knox Pomona Grange #3 will present a Community Citizen Award for Public Service to Muriel Curtis on Saturday, February 3, 2007, at Pioneer Hall in Union, Maine.

    Muriel is recognized for responding to a request for leadership by Rockland area youth in 2001. Drawing from her formal training in education and the performing arts, as well as her tours at sea, Muriel created a significant community resource by subsequently founding "Station Maine," an organization of community members dedicated to offering boating opportunities to youth of all ages in the mid-coast area of Maine.

    "Station Maine" offers, among other things:

    * sailing and rowing opportunities in a growing fleet of boats.
    * local youth the opportunity to participate in local and international sailing and rowing competitions.
    * summer rows for both community members and summer guests.
    * hands-on opportunities to learn the timeless skills of the sea, including sail making, marlinspike seamanship, and boat restoration.
    * school groups the opportunity to row under the guidance of an experienced coxswain.

    The award celebration will be preceded by a traditional Grange dinner, at 11:30 a.m. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by contacting Shirley Green with their name, number of guests in the party, and a telephone number; she can be reached at 207-372-6104 or by email at sgreen@midcoast.com.

    The awards program will follow at 12:30, including tributes by members of the Station Maine community, and a presentation by Muriel.

    Where: Pioneer Grange; 110 Payson Road, off Rte. 17; Union, Maine 04862
    When: Saturday, February 3rd, at 11:30 a.m.


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    Speech by Mariah Jones
    2/3/07

    When I was asked to give this little speech, I was told just say what Station Maine means to me and what it's done for me. And so I sat down to think about what I was going to say when I thought what hasn't Station Maine done for me and that led to what hasn't Muriel done for me. And if this was going to be a speech about what Muriel has not done for me my speech would be done already.

    I first started because Muriel reached out and drew me in. She helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Over the years she's been a teacher, guide, life counselor, teacher, friend. She started Station Maine which gave me friends and courage and has made me strong, both mentally and physically, and given me confidence in myself and what I do. But I'm sure if I ever got over confident Muriel would remind me of all the mistakes I've ever made.

     

    Muriel would do anything for anybody. She's even been known to throw her cell phone overboard during a man overboard drill. It was in her life jacket and she forgot, but we can still tease her about it.

    She's spent hours in a car with us, driving us to the races all over New England. She's bought us bus, subway, and ferry tickets.

    She likes to demonstrate the enormous amount of trust she has in us by placing us in charge of the boat, putting a lot of responsibility in our hands, preparing us for life.

    She sets no low standards, only high ones, and with her behind us, pushing us and prodding us but never past our capabilities we can reach them and we do.

    But I was asked what Station Maine means to me too. So, what does it mean to me?

    To me it means challenges and friendships. It means hard work and fun. It gives us responsibilities and skills. And, to me, it also means gift wrapping books every Saturday for hours. Sleeping on floors in museums in strange places. Having the police barge in on us.

    When Muriel says we're going to row around Manhattan, she means ALL the way around.

    Having our van towed right before the race with all the stuff we need still inside it. Tire swinging. Catapulting off teeter totters. Throwing cherry bombs at each other (made of crab apples, not firecrackers). Finding out it's not OK to row out to the Statue of Liberty… Homeland Security frowns on it.

    Clearing a path for a nice old man, and losing our anchor while we were at it. And the seventeen mile row out to his path.

    After our races people who have never met Muriel before coming up to us and ask us if she's sane. Or if she's always that loud. Yes, she's always that loud.

    It means that Tuesdays are Devin's fault.

    It means when Muriel yodels you come, and you can hear Muriel's yodel up to a mile away. 

    It means seaweed fights and getting up close and personal with the seals.

    Seeing Devin dressed up as a hoola girl, and as Mrs. Santa Claus for the Festival of Lights.

    Raccoons eating all our bread, and that lunch is peanut butter licked off spoons. Raccoons hiding our dinner pots in the trees.

    It means rowing out to the Lighthouse. And Tristan dancing on hot tar. Layla with her Mohawk.

    It means leaving things better than we found them.

    It means finding out I can row as well as any boy on my team.

    It means making up new verses for our song. And Muriel going with us on the expedition from Liberty to Hope and leading us through two very wet swamps. When Muriel says we're going to rough it, she means really rough.

    Muriel there for all the races cheering on not only us, but also the other teams.

    Finding my own inner strength. Pulling on my oar til I think I'm gonna puke, then pulling harder because my team needs me.

    Learning to obey orders without question, unless the order is abandon ship, in which case you can say port or starboard, sir?!

    And I would not have any of these great memories or ideas about what Station Maine means had Muriel not reached out all those times and snagged me.

    Whenever Muriel is showing us off to other people she likes to tell them that, you know, you hear on the news all the time that this new generation is lazy and selfish, but I have a group of kids out rowing every day, working hard to succeed in life. And, you know what Muriel?
    It's all thanks to you.

     

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    The Community Network

    Station Maine, island rowers excel in Icebreaker Regatta
    By Ken Waltz
    Sports Editor

    HULL, MASS. (Nov 28): North Haven Community School, Vinalhaven High School and Station Maine student-athletes competed in the prestigious Northeast Regional Youth Open-Water Rowing Championships — or Icebreaker — Nov. 18 at the Hull Lifesaving Museum.

    North Haven won the Second Pilot Gigs division, while Station Maine of Rockland was third in that event. Vinalhaven was third for the First Pilot Gigs and the Vikings placed third in the First Sixes Nautical Mile. North Haven was second and Station Maine fourth in the Second Sixes.

     

    Rowers enjoy time on the water during the Icebreaker Regatta Nov. 18 in Hull, Mass. (Image courtesy of Heather White)

     There were more than 20 crews and 175 participants from Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts in the popular event. There were eight coxed fours and 15 pilot gigs. There were 24 crew master races, plus a nautical mile finale.

    North Haven, coached by Tammy Brown, includes Conor Curtin (stroke oar), Racheal Brown, Amilia Campbell, Brittany Cooper, Stephanie Brown, Mallory Brown and Tom Emerson. Missing from the event was Natalie Jones, "who helped to prepare the team for a great fall of rowing," the coach said.

    Jones is the coxswain of Recovery. She had to stay behind due to other commitments, the coach said.

    The Vinalhaven crew, coached by Heather White and Tristan Jackson, includes Chad Guilford (cox), Hillary Bunker (stroke), Morgan Boughton (second stroke), Sig Beckman (engine room), Ethan Warren (engine room), Willard Webster (engine room), Ginger Swears (bow), Katilynn Willis (bow) and Marcella Marzenell (bow).

    The Viking had won the Icebreaker the past two years.

    "This year was a little different," said White. "We had a different group of rowers. We won almost all of our races the whole season and felt very good about heading down to Hull. We entered into the First Sixes category (for the most experienced crews). Our team this year was mostly sophomores — half girls and half boys. In our category we were up against two other boats filled completely with high school senior boys. Our team raced extremely well and really held their own. They took third place for their division and we're very proud of themselves."

    Muriel Curtis is the director of Station Maine, located on Wharf Street in Rockland. Participating from Station Maine were Devin Walauski, Layla Gifford, Tristan Slaymaker, Cameron McCrae, Alex Jones and Mariah Jones.

     
    Boats sit on the beach waiting for the competition. (Image courtesy of Heather White)

    "The most glorious part of the open water racing is that everyone's a winner right from the start just by being there," Curtis said. "Station Maine's racers took real pride in training very hard, running a mile every day, and doing pushups for missed commands. They pulled with everything they had and were always at the front of the line when there was work to be done. They were superb ambassadors for the State of Maine, for their various communities, and for their families."

    Until 2004, North Haven had been the only Maine team to capture the Icebreaker title, winning in 2001. Then Vinalhaven won two years in a row.

    The results of the Nov. 18 Icebreaker races were:

    Novice Coxed Fours — 1, Vergennes (Vermont), 13:49; 2, Sound School (New Haven, Conn.), 14:15; 3, The Harbor School (Boston) 1, 16:04; and 4, The Harbor School (Boston) 2, 17:18.

    Novice Pilot Gigs — 1, Sound School, 14:07; 2, Middlebury (Vermont), 15:46; 3, Vergennes, 15:36; and 4, St. Albans (Vermont), 16:34.

    Second Coxed Fours — 1, Floating Apple 1 (New York), 30:50; 2, Saquish (Plymouth), 31:36; 3, Fenway High (Boston), 31:44; 4, Bridgeport (Connecticut), 36:36; and 5, Floating the Apple 2 (New York), 37:37.

    Second Pilot Gigs — 1, North Haven, 26:32; 2, Vergennes, 27:54); 3, Station Maine, 27:59; 4, Hinesburg 2 (Vermont), 28:40; 5, Hinesburg 1 (Vermont), 29:45; 6, Martha's Vineyard (Mass.), 30:47; and 7, South Shore (Hull), 34:03. In winning, the Hawks recorded times of 6:58 in heat one, 6:40 in heat two, 6:40 in heat three and 6:13 in heat four. In finishing third, Station Maine had times of 7:23 in heat one, 6:44 in heat two, 7:01 in heat three and 6:51 in heat four.

    First Coxed Fours — 1, Sound School, 42:39; 2, South Shore 1, 44:20; 3, South Shore 2, 46:02; and 4, Seaport MAP (Boston), 46:18.

    First Pilot Gigs — 1, Sound School, 37:46; 2, Saquish (Plymouth), 38:30; and 3, Vinalhaven (40:32). In finishing third, the Vikings compiled times of 10:41 in heat one, 10:48 in heat two, 9:44 in heat three and 9:58 in heat four.

    Nautical Mile First Sixes — 1, Sound, 11:48; 2, Saquish, 12:55; and 3, Vinalhaven, 14:24.

    Nautical Mile Second Sixes — 1, Vergennes, 13:29; 2, North Haven, 14:44; 3, Hinesburg 2, 15:51; 4, Station Maine, 16:19; 5, Vineyard, 16:25; 6, South Shore, 20:13; and 7, Hinesburg 1, 20:15.

    Nautical Mile First Fours — 1, Sound, 13:09; 2, South Shore 2, 15:19; and 3, South Shore 2, 15:23.

    Nautical Mile Second Fours — 1, Saquish, 17:03; 2, FTA 1, 17:34; 3, Bridgeport, 20:05; and 4, FTA 2, 22:45.

    Nautical Mile Novice Fours — 1, Vergennes, 20:45; and 2, Harbor School, 20:51.

    Crews in each division — First Sixes, Second Sixes, Novice Sixes, First Fours, Second Fours, Novice Fours) had to race four heats of the same course in different boats and then there was a nautical mile sprint.

    The difference between the First Pilot Gigs, Second Pilot Gigs and Novice is experience. "Any boat listed in First Sixes must be an all-student boat," coach Brown said. "That means that the boat must be coxed by a student and not an adult. That is why North Haven had to register in the Second Sixes. Ryan Lantagne, who graduated from North Haven Community School in 2004, coxed team Recovery for the icebreaker this year in Natalie's absence."

    The Icebreaker is made up of four round-robin events in which rowers rotate through other teams boat and end in their own boat for the final race of the day. After the four heats are completed all the teams and boats — regardless of ability — start at the same time for the nautical mile race to finish the day.

    This year's Icebreaker began at 9 a.m. and finished at 4:30 p.m.

    The sport of "fixed-seat/open-water rowing," once somewhat esoteric, is rapidly expanding into the mainstream, with the Icebreaker an exciting format for youngsters. The most skilled youth open-water rowers in the Northeast, from New York City, New Haven, New Bedford, Boston Harbor, Duxbury, Gloucester, Hanover, Lake Champlain, North Haven and Vinalhaven, converge on Boston Harbor late every fall to compete for the coveted "Key to the Harbor" and bragging rights for the rest of the year.

    The Icebreaker is more than a conventional race. The day is comprised of a series of grueling round-robin-style sprints, with crews asked to test their mettle against each other, the always-demanding winds and currents, and their own mounting excitement and exhaustion. During the course of this one event, youth crews cover greater distances than collegiate crews race in an entire season.

    Crews compete in three skill levels — first boat, second boat and novice — in two styles of gigs: pilot gigs and Whitehall Fours. Flat-bottomed barges are also used for exhibition events for younger competitors. The event is a display of youth skill, discipline and courage, and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the racing year. Strictly by invitation, all crews must participate in training specifically for the skills demanded in the event.

    Open-water rowing pits crews of four or six competitors against one another in gigs, a type of boat better equipped for the open water than the racing skulls used in crew. Each competitor mans one 12.5-foot oar and each boat has a coxswain to steer. Thus a six-oared gig has a seven-person crew.

    The sport of rowing is currently not recognized by the Maine Principals' Association. Given its growing popularity, however, such recognition may not be far off. Though labeled a "club" sport, it is no less competitive. Many of the crews competing at the Icebreaker are made up of students who have many years of rowing experience behind them.

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    As published in the Courier-Gazette

    On July 5, 2005, the young ambassadors of Station Maine set out to do what no one had yet done. We took Red Jacket, our new Scilly Isles gig, to Bangor to row 100 miles down the coast of Maine to Thomaston, staying along the way either with friends or camping out. We had to do it. If the mid- coast community is going to be so generous as to give us a Scilly Isles gig and trailer, how could we not show them off just a little bit?

    Or maybe this was my dream, encouraged by so many Station Maine supporters. We worried. Can the rockbound coast of Maine that we have loved since childhood be dissolving into "middle America"? Are courage and adventures to be seen only on reality TV and games of War Hammer? We felt the sons and daughters of Maine deserved a reality better than that.

    With a strong new boat and even stronger kids to pull the oars, we purposed to remove ourselves from the 21st century and row Maine's island studded coast in search of our own real adventures.

    We found, as we pulled along the coast, that the beauty of the Penobscot Bay is strikingly real. Diamond sharp mornings high-lighting dark spruce and white granite. Silver foggy evenings misting golden sunsets. It's all lovely beyond description. We lived it, and drank deeply of its beauty.

    We learned that when you're pulling an oar in an open boat against a stiff south wind, life becomes very real indeed. Your blisters are real, and they're rubbed raw. The ache in your back is real, but you keep pulling because you're part of a team that needs you. The cold, damp fog or blazing sun are real. Your hunger is real too, because some damn island raccoon tore through the food sack and got all the bread, so all we had that day for lunch was peanut butter on a spoon.

    The people on this coast are real, and they care. We met stunning generosity time and again along this coast. We've just come down from Bangor. May we tie up to your dock? Sleep in your museum or on your lawn? Explore your island? All along the coast dock masters waived the dock fees. Restaurants offered us meals.

    Groups gave us celebrations and pot luck suppers. Families offered us showers, then thanked us for the privilege of being a part of this wonderful adventure. Bucksport, Calais, Mussel Ridge, Gay Island and so many more names that were once only spots on a chart became memories of white capped waves or delicious meals or a soft pine carpet, lively music, and new friends.

    I came to understand that, for all my worry, not so much of the coast has changed over the past 50 years. Not really. What has changed is the appreciation that we as Mainers have for it. And for each other. The islands and coastline are being preserved, protected from fire and development. And many, many of those people who protect those islands and coastal areas are doing so so that they can share them with future generations.

    The young ambassadors of Station Maine never took for grantedthe generosity of our neighbors. They cheerfully held out the hand of friendship. They gladly posed for photographs, and never forgot to thank the neighbors who helped us along our way. And they left no trace of their passing, preserving the islands in turn for the next person.

    The unchanging reality of Penobscot Bay taught us that if you pull against wind and tide, through pain and hunger, you will eventu-ally arrive at your goal, be it a hot shower or a quiet island. And there will almost assuredly be a neighbor to lend a hand if you need help. Maybe a neighbor who sees himself in a young face, and who remembers pulling an oar in his youth and becoming stronger.

    We are the coast of Maine. All of us, who were either forged by this coast or drawn to it. Ours is the legacy of the sea which has strength- ened generations of Mainers before us. It is a legacy of which we can still take part, preserve, and pass on.

    Our coast is a reality that cannot be stopped from offering adventure to those with courage enough to reach for it. And as long as this coast continues to turn out kids as strong and willing as those who stepped off the Red Jacket in Thomaston with 100 miles of granite coast behind them and the future in front of them, I have no fear for that future.

    It is held secure in the blistered hands of the youth of the coast of Maine.

    Muriel Curtis
    Director, Station Maine


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    Row, row, row your boat... Station Maine director Muriel Curtis (left) waits on a floating dock as seven crew members finish rowing up the Penobscot River to Bangor on Sunday afternoon. They launched their Red Jacket, 32-foot Scilly Isles gig in Rockland on May 21. The Station Maine youth crew was making its way down the Penobscot on July 4 with a stop in St. George on Friday, July 15.

    BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS

     

     

    Rowing trip on Maine coast tests teens' mettle
    Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

    BANGOR - Senior Kendra Romer waited two years for her chance at the helm of the 32-foot gig she helped build. This past weekend, she got her chance.

    Romer, 16, of Vinalhaven and six other students, including one from France and another from Canada, are spending two weeks traveling down Maine's coast in a boat students at the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland built over two years.

    Romer was one of the students who built the rowing boat from Core-Cell foam, fiberglass and some wood, designing, measuring and fitting it with a lot of care.

    "I know every nook and cranny about that boat, and I get the chance to captain it down the river, you know, with a six-man crew. That's quite a privilege," Romer said.

    Romer and the others set up an overnight camp Sunday along the Penobscot River near the Sea Dog Microbrewery and Restaurant in Bangor, the starting point for their voyage. Monday morning, they rowed down the river toward Winterport.

    The trip is sponsored by Station Maine, a Rockland-based organization that encourages rowing as a sport and seeks to build confidence in youths and helps them to define themselves, Director Muriel Curtis said.

    The program offers a positive experience and team building at a time when youths face so many negative influences, Curtis said, and what better place than Maine's coastline to test their mettle and grow.

    "We are from the coast of Maine. This is our heritage. This is our home," Curtis said. "I think that's a fine place to start your identity as you are looking for yourself."

    The student from France teamed up with students from Station Maine last year in international competition.

    Serving as hosts and tour guides, the Maine students will have to explain to the international students what they are seeing. In the process, Curtis said, the Maine students may see the same things "through different eyes" and realize a greater appreciation for their state.

    Although there will be a motorboat following them to make sure they don't get into serious trouble, the 15- to 18-year-olds, once in the water, are largely on their own.

    "The kids are in charge of this vessel," Curtis said Sunday as she waited on the Bangor docks for the arrival of the gig Red Jacket, which the teens were rowing upriver from Turtle Head Marina in Hampden.

    Curtis drove from Hampden to Bangor in a few minutes, and though she knew it would take longer to row the gig the same distance, she thought they should have been in visual range sooner.

    "I think I see the problem," she said, scanning the water. "There's a good deal of current."

    A few minutes later, she saw a speck of red by the Veterans Remembrance Bridge.

    In addition to currents, the rowers will have to deal with larger vessels, the weather and the likelihood of navigating in fog.

    Romer, a sternman on a lobster boat in the summer, said she is prepared and looking forward to the trip.

    "Not very many kids get the chance to build a boat and then enjoy rowing it in the area that they live," she said.

    Doug Kesseli


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     The Launch of Red Jacket
    by Muriel Curtis

    Dreams to plans, plans to reality. Somewhere in the middle of that formula you probably want to throw in a lot of really hard work. And a generous and visionary community. Somewhere at the end of it we have the Red Jacket.

    The crew of Station Maine dreamed of the Red Jacket three years ago. A Scilly Isles gig with which we could race Vinalhaven, North Haven, Belfast, and beyond. We made a plan. Talked with some people. Key among those people was Tim Hathorne, director of the Midcoast School of Technolology. He caught the vision instantly, a boat in Rockland Harbor built by the high school students of Region 8. A boat in which members of the community can go to water. And a trailer to take that boat to contests as far away as Boston and Lake Champlain.

    More people joined us. The Marine Tech and Welding instructors. A building space was designed. We had to build her of core cell foam. That was Richard's idea. Richard Irving, the Marine Tech instructor at MCST. He is training kids for the 21st century and would settle for no less. Nor would he accept molds of boats that had been built before. He, to his credit, insisted that his students handle the whole process, lofting to launching.

    Money had to be raised. Grants, yes, from MBNA and the Maine Community Foundation, but with restrictions. These organizations showed themselves more than willing to help IF we could show that the community was behind this effort. To that end I guess I can report that if there is a business or individual in the mid coast region who hasn't contributed to Red Jacket or Station Maine it's probably because they haven't been asked. Businesses that couldn't make contributions outright lowered their prices significantly, often without being asked, when they heard of the project. Red Jacket began to be born.

    Fire laws, environmental laws. Special lighting and air masks. The school faced each obstacle and one by one overcame them. By now we were significantly behind schedule. Letters of apology to funders were met with warmth and understanding, all pointing to a single goal. Just build the boat. Build the trailer. Make this dream a reality.

    Red Jacket is a tribute not only to the Mid Coast School of Technology, but to the community that is represented by that school. The boat and trailer both represent a tradition of craftsmanship that defines the coast of Maine, and a tradition of giving that can only inspire. The Red Jacket, in the spirit of the original Red Jacket clipper ship, belongs to all of us. She is the latest chapter in a tradition of boatbuilding, craftsmanship, and maritime skill that is the heritage of the coast of Maine. Thank you all for your help in passing on this heritage.

    Red Jacket was launched at Snowe Marine Park on Saturday, May 21, at 10:30.

    For more information or to be part of a crew for Red Jacket please contact Station Maine at 691-2037.


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     May 18, 2005

     Local News


    Students' work to be launched

    ROCKLAND - The city's newest Red Jacket, a Scilly Isles gig built locally by Mid-Coast School of Technology students and Station Maine, will be launched Saturday.

    The launch will take place at 10:30 a.m. at Snow Marine Park on Mechanic Street in Rockland. The Red Jacket will be paraded down Main Street prior to the launching. A cook-out also will be held at the park following the launching.

    The gig, built by the marine tech class of the Mid-Coast School of Technology, and the trailer built by students in the welding and metal fabrication program, is the result of a two-year alliance between the Region 8 school and Station Maine, a youth-oriented rowing and sailing organization in Rockland.

    Mid-Coast School of Technology and Station Maine will launch the gig Red Jacket, built by students at the Region 8 school, Saturday at Snow Marine Park in Rockland. Working on the gig, front to back, are Derek Joanides of Lincoln Academy, Dan McKechnie of Medomak Valley High School, instructor Richard Irving, Kendra Romer of Vinalhaven Community School, William Lindahl of Rockland District High School, Tim Kerr of Camden Hills Regional High School and Max Vinal of Lincoln Academy. Photo courtesy of Mid-Coast School of Technology

    The original Red Jacket, a clipper ship built in Rockland in 1853, held the record for the fastest crossing from New York to Liverpool, England, under sail. The trip took 13 days, one hour and 25 minutes.

    The ship has been built by local shipwrights in Rockland using state-of-the-art tools and materials.

    "The school has been amazing" said Muriel Curtis, director of Station Maine. She said Mid-Coast School of Technology Director Tim Hathorne "couldn't have been more enthusiastic when I approached him with the project. The school has moved mountains to make this boat and trailer possible."

    There also were environmental safety issues to be dealt with, she said. Richard Irving, the school's marine tech instructor, insisted on building in core cell foam.

    "My job is to prepare these kids to take their place in the workforce. More than 50 percent of the boats built in America today are foam. These kids need to know how to use it," Irving said.

    Using that foam involved building a special shed and wearing special protection to keep dust particles contained. It also involved fire-safe lighting.

    "I shudder to think how much this school administration has gone through to make this happen," said Curtis, "but it worked out so well."

    "We make every effort to provide the opportunity for students to engage in real-world problem-solving and to ensure that they have the necessary skills to be successful in the 21st century," said Hathorne.

    Curtis said the Maine Community Foundation, local individuals, and businesses including lumber yards and MBNA all contributed to the project's success.

    "If there's anyone in the Midcoast area who hasn't given help to either this boat or to Station Maine, it's probably because they haven't been asked. The community response to this project has been overwhelming." said Curtis.

    To learn more about Station Maine, visit the Web site at www.stationmaine.org.


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     COMMUNITIES - February 2005
    Midcoast rowing competition continues to grow
    by KRIS OSGOOD

    In November, the Vinalhaven Vikings did their state proud as they placed first in the North East Regional Open-Water Youth Rowing Championship in Hull, Mass. Commonly known as the Icebreaker, this event is the biggest high school rowing competition in the east - perhaps in the country - attracting more than 20 teams from all over New England and New York.

    For the Vikings, the win was a dream come true. Their first appearance at the Icebreaker in November 2000 left much to be desired as they placed last. Subsequent appearances proved only slightly more successful. This year, coach Mark Jackson's young team went to the event hoping to win one race. Instead they won the whole shebang. We were feeling okay going into the Icebreaker, said VHS assistant coach Heather White, because we had gone back and forth with North Haven all season. Our main focus was to go and compete with North Haven. The island rivals had sparred several times during the regular season, trading wins and losses back and forth. North Haven placed second at the Icebreaker, giving that much more weight to Maine's representation at the competition.

     
    Members of the Vinalhaven
    middle school rowing team.
    photo: Kris Osgood


    "What makes this win so amazing," continued White, "is that our coed team of four eighth graders, a freshman and three sophomores beat teams made up of junior and senior boys." The Icebreaker uses a crewmaster format, which tests the skill and versatility of a crew, rather than the speed of a particular boat. Teams trade boats for four races, and race their own boat for one. Finishing times for all the races are then totaled for a combined time used to determine each team's final place.

    While the island schools, placings in the championship probably won't have a great affect on their place in the world of student rowing, they can't hurt either. Winning the Icebreaker only means good things for rowing, said White. "We are small schools along the coast of Maine. Those of us on islands are surrounded by water. Our lives are ruled by the wind direction and the tide charts. Rowing just makes sense as a sport in this region of the country. It gives kids a chance to get out on the water and feel confident about navigating the ledges and the other boat traffic. Winning the Icebreaker just lets other kids know that it is a serious sport, that it is competitive and has its rewards. I wouldn't be surprised if next year we see more students interested in becoming part of this sport."

    VHS head coach Mark Jackson has a more subdued outlook. "I think [our win] may help our own program here as kids who have never rowed before are saying they plan to row next year. Rowing in Maine will depend on whether we can get to a critical mass of teams in the Maine coast area. Teams in close proximity of each other will sustain one another."

    The "critical mass" of which Jackson speaks may be forthcoming. A number of communities in midcoast Maine have open-water rowing boats, called gigs, and have sustained some form of school or community rowing program for several years. Other communities are either in the process of building gigs, or are considering starting rowing programs.

    Vinalhaven and North Haven started the movement toward Cornish Pilot gig rowing in 2000 when both schools built and launched their first boats, VIXEN and RECOVERY respectively. Vinalhaven built a second gig, SIREN, the following year. At the same time, both island communities started school and community rowing programs. Vinalhaven's community rowing interest evolved into the Vinalhaven Rowing Club, now active in rowing events around New England throughout much of the year. North Haven often sends teams to the same events.

    Within a couple years of the islands' boat launchings, the Belfast community showed interest in starting a rowing club as well. Using the same mold that VIXEN and SIREN were built on, Belfast's Come Boating! group built its first gig, BELLE FAST. Since then, Come Boating! has maintained an active community rowing program, which includes sponsoring an annual regatta at the end of each summer. Come Boating! also sponsored a student rowing program last spring, but was unable to maintain interest through the fall. Jackson hopes Belfast will be able to field a student team again, bringing the midcoast one step closer to that "critical mass" of teams. Station Maine, a nonprofit group in Rockland, also rows gigs. Its Bantry Bay gig is much larger - a ten-oared boat, compared to the Cornish gig's six oars - which makes competition with the Cornish gigs exhibitions, at best. However, having rowed the Cornish gigs, Station Maine became smitten. Their new Cornish gig, the Red Jacket, is set to be launched May 21.

    Muriel Curtis, director of Station Maine, can't wait. Until now, "Station Maine has focused primarily on providing rowing and sailing opportunities to youth, but not exclusively," she said. "We have a waiting list for adults who want to row, and we are looking forward to starting a community rowing program."

    Come May, midcoast Maine will have five Cornish Pilot gigs in active use. There has been talk of Islesboro building a gig, and people in Thomaston have expressed interest as well. If open-water rowing continues to grow at this fast pace, Jackson may yet see his critical mass of teams emerge.

    -- February 2005


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    from The Courier-Gazette August 14, 2004

     Station Maine Reports from France

     

    By Muriel Curtis

    It began in Brittany on the rugged west coast of France. Our hosts, the crew of "Le Traict" run a program very similar to the one Station Maine has been running with Joie de Vivre. Mike Newmeyer, (formerly of the Apprenticeshop in Rockland and places beyond) had dreamed with me in years past of combining crews of different cultures and training together towards a common goal. That common goal became the International Youth Challenge for Seamanship in Toulon, France.

    Our hosts met us with a sardine roast at the campground that would be our home for the next two weeks. We were surrounded by green woods and hedges, but an easy walk away from the tiny village of Mesquer which boasted a small grocery, a stone church, a school, a pub, and a market on Sundays.

    We were taken on "tour" of this wonderful coast before our lives settled into an enjoyable routine. Mornings were generally free. Afternoons were about training on the boat. Two crews, two cultures, two languages all had to learn to work as one unit. We decided early on that the cox (French or American) had to speak in his or her own language and the mixed crew would make the appropriate adjustments and translations. Evenings were about food. Often I cooked. Simple fare always, but it was hot and plentiful. Often the young members of the crew, French or American, cooked. And shared. We never knew how many we were cooking for. Just make a lot, make sure there's lots of bread, and the guests will do their share.

    Twilight lingers in Brittany in the summer. Parties of one sort or another framed every evening. We were even made welcome at the home of an intrepid crew member who served a five course sit-down feast for 26 of us. The young ambassadors from America donned their best "dress to impress" clothing and manners, and rose to the occasion.

    It was hard leaving Brittany, even though we were leaving with all of our new friends. But after two weeks of serious training every day we were ready for the Cap Marseille. More friends. Teams to race against. We all sailed to a rocky island with water so clear that we could see the bottom, although it was more than 50' deep.

    We left Marseille for Toulon and the enormous International Challenge, a contest similar to the Atlantic Challenge seen here in Rockland in 2002,

    only bigger. Much bigger. Twenty six gigs, plus dozens of traditional boat, lateen rigs, yole de Ness, and others I'd never before encountered. Teams camped in airplane hangers on an old Navy base only five minutes from the little town of Saint Mandrier. The French Riviera is everything you've ever heard and more. Clear, warm water, beaches everywhere, brilliant sunshine, and truly warm people. Contests on the water alternated with parties ashore with growing numbers of friends from a widening circle of young gig sailors.

    How did we "do"? People ask me every day. I have to think what it is they mean. Oh yes, it was a contest. The French told us early on that the first rule was to have fun. No problem. Aside from that our mixed crew took third over all in Marseille. Toulon was more difficult to judge. I know our "Le Trait" near the front of the pack. I know that we placed first in the Captain's Gig contest because, apart from being the only crew who were applauded by the spell bound spectators, the judge showed me the scores, which were nearly perfect. The kids did so well.

    I basked in the praise that I hear on the dock. These Americans are so strong. They are so disciplined. They row with impeccable timing. They are so cooperative and so willing. I swell with pride. I think of the parents, the aunts and uncles, the teachers, the shop keepers, the friends and neighbors who have raised these kids. The people who reminded them that guests are served first. Please and thank-you. The constancy of table manners, of right and wrong, and the continual sense of caring for one another. These kids, these superb ambassadors, are the product of a community that still cares how we bring up our young. They were raised by all of us.

    If there is any hope for world peace, it rests on the sturdy shoulders of these kids who pull an oar at 6:00 in the morning. If these days and weeks in France are any indication, I can't help but believe that these young ambassadors will serve this world well. We wage peace.

    Station Maine would like to thank the Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Arts Commission, The Unity Foundation, and the mid coast community for their help and financial support towards sending the ambassadors of Station Maine to France.

    Merci.


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    Living The Good Life - by Brianna Shepard

    It's cold. It's dark. It's way to early. I'm vaguely aware that I'm on a very frigid, very icy thwart. I'm vaguely aware that my frozen feet are wedged in the corner of the ice filled hull. I know I have a 50lb oar in my mittened hands, and that's about it I guess. Well, I know how warm my bed was when I left it at five.

    By now my cold existence has fully registered in my numb brain. I look around. My team mates are slowly gaining consciousness. It's amazing how cold can do that. Here we are, ten teenagers, a dog, and one spunky, hero of a woman. Sitting in our gig. In Rockland harbor. At 6am in February 2003. That is the part we try to ignore, it's simply too painful to think about.

    We hear the command, "Come to oars!" Followed by "Pull you horrible adolescents!" Followed by "I love my life." It's generally something to that effect. This is what I mean by spunky. Somehow, I find myself smiling as I pull my oar out, and begin to chip my way through the frozen bay.

     
    Now, whenever I tell anyone about these morning escapades, they inevitably ask "why the hell would you do that?" This is the same questions we often ask ourselves. This question cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. Until someone actually gets out there and pulls on a hand made oar, and competes in a challenge, they will never understand why. Until they smell, taste, and feel the salt air, and hear the crowds cheering in all different languages on shore. Until they walk down the dock surrounded by flags from 20 different countries. People will ask why, until they live for 2 weeks in a school with 500 people from around the world. Until they have pulled their hardest, hurt so badly they feel they'll never move again, and cared so deeply that their world nothing beyond the race. Until they have felt their oar snap in their hands, and felt their breath stop as their body gets thrown back into the bottom of the Gig. Until they have cried, and laughed, and laid silently in the boat watching the stars at night. Until they have known 20 people so well that a lifetime couldn't break them apart. Until they have crossed all pain thresholds and dug down to unknown depths to finish a race. Until adrenaline is all they have left to power row to the finish of a 2 mile sprint. Until they have given it all, and then some to win. After they have screamed, and cheered, and felt intense joy, and excitement and thrill all at once. When the colors and noise have blended together into a fog of bone draining fatigue as they stumble from the boat. Maybe, after everyone has experienced what we experienced, maybe then they will understand why we row in the mornings. We're hooked. It's that simple. It is a part of us, and it's way too late to go back.
      Rowing is not just rowing, it is everything to do with the water. It is navigation, and charts, and geometry, and carpentry, and work, and joy, and dedication. It is for these reasons that we're here. And it is deeper than that, it is the feeling of perfect harmony and connection with a group of people. It's listening to guys from Wales, France, and Maine, sitting in the halls playing guitar and singing. It's being woken up at God awful hours to go out for a morning run before the day begins. It's canceling sailing race on account of no wind, and getting into a giant international water fight in the middle of the harbor. It's realizing that the Irish team are all olympic rowers, and thinking merely "Wow." It is the sound the oars make when they all clunk together at once, the power one feels when the boat surges forward.

     We're here because this is part of us. For the past year the hours we've spent together, working on, and rowing in this Gig are countless. It is such a huge part of our lives at this point, that it seems only natural to be on the boat, even at 6am. But by now it is past 6. It's seven and we're heading to the dock. We turn, to take a final look at the harbor. The sun is rising. The day is beginning. And us, well, we're cold, but were SO ALIVE.

    Brianna has been with Station Maine for two and a half years.
    She wrote this essay describing her experience for a school speech class.

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    Waging Peace - by Muriel Curtis

     No one knew quite what to expect when the young ambassadors of Station Maine arrived in Italy. We knew there would be gigs, the Bantry Bay Gigs used by the Atlantic Challenge last summer, exactly like the one on which we had been training all winter. How many or from where was anyone's guess. We knew we would be made welcome by our hosts. Something about a festival. Maybe it was because our minds, and our hearts, were so open that Italy had such an impact on us.

    Grazia. A simple word in Italian, one of the first taught to us by the Penobscot School, whose gift of an afternoon of Italian armed us with enough language skills to at least be polite. There were more. These kids from Maine never lost an opportunity to show the world that, although we don't exactly know their language or their ways, we want to fit in as guests.

    The purpose of our trip, officially, was to help Genoa to raise awareness of the Bantry Bay gigs, towards starting a gig program of their own. Genoa is one of the oldest and largest ports on the Mediterranean, yet boasts almost no traditional wooden boats to remind them of the great antiquity of that maritime tradition which has always linked Genoa to the world. To that end French, Italian, and American youth were mixed from the beginning to demonstrate the boats. I'd love to have been a fly on the rigging in those mix races, with the understanding of the boats and the sea as the only common language. But the handshakes and smiles all around when the young crews returned gave us on the shore strong clues as to how the race was run.

    Soccer was another universal language. Kids of three nations who had been on the water, rowing and sailing hard, found new depths of energy when the soccer ball appeared. I never found out who won. I didn't even know how the teams were divided. It didn't matter.

    Our hosts planned other adventures and excursions that didn't involve the gigs. We were treated to a tour of the largest aquarium in Europe, a view of Genoa from the deck of a square topsail schooner, and a day trip to Piza to see the famous tower for ourselves.

    Shall I pretend I wasn't nervous, taking twelve kids from mid coast Maine, other peoples' children, out into a world at war? But at the risk of sounding overly

     

    proud, these aren't just any kids. These are kids who got themselves up in the dark of the morning to row on a frozen ocean before school. These are the kids who give up their Saturdays to sail making, their Sundays to work parties, and their evenings to Ceilidh rehearsals. When, in my many sleepless nights preceding our adventure, I cast an inner eye over each young face, I knew I could depend on each one of them. They didn't let me down.

    Did we wage peace in this war torn world? Although our mission was markedly apolitical, still the flag of peace flies brighter every time the hand of friendship is extended across cultural and political barriers. The young French lad who held his good-byes to the very last moment said it best. Over and over again he said "I am so proud to know you. I am so happy to have Americans as friends. Whatever happens, now I cannot hate Americans, because you are my friends."

    Station Maine would like to thank the many friends and supporters in the mid-coast area who made this trip to Italy possible. Mille grazie.

     

    Muriel Curtis is the Director of Station Maine.


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