A boating family finds community at South Portland’s Port Harbor Marine
On Friday afternoon of July Fourth weekend, the pace at Spring Point Marina in South Portland is picking up. In the parking lot, eager boaters unload gear into carts and wheel them toward the docks, preparing for several days of blue skies and soft breezes—ideal Maine weather for being out on the water. Dock attendants in red polo shirts and khaki shorts greet familiar faces and offer to help carry provisions or fill tanks with fuel. Fanning off the pier are docks for various sizes of boats—mostly power, with a few sailboats on their own dock—accessed via combination-locked gates. Operated by Port Harbor Marine, the marina has permanent slips for 250 vessels, ranging from 20 to 70 feet in length, plus transient docking space for larger visiting craft. For many of these boat owners, it’s their second home.
Aboard an Albemarle 31, named the K&C II for sons Kevin and Cameron, Scarborough residents Scott and Lynn Smith, both fit and deeply tanned, call out greetings to neighbors stocking galleys and on-deck coolers with food, drinks, and ice. Tomorrow morning, the Smiths will set out for Boothbay Harbor, an hour-and- a-half trip up the coast, accompanied by six or seven other Port Harbor Marine–based power boaters. They’ll tie up at the Tugboat Inn, their home base for the holiday weekend. But they won’t just hang out on the K&C II. They’ll paddle the area in their kayaks, visit local restaurants, and explore the region’s myriad coves and islands.
“This is our pool, our camp,” says Scott Smith of the sport fishing boat on which the family spends most of their free time between April and November. “I did the golfing thing, but once we had kids we wanted to be out on the water.” A Coast Guard–licensed captain and registered saltwater guide, he also runs a small charter business, taking passengers out to fish or sightsee.
The Smiths met at the University of Maine in the 1980s. Lynn was a swimmer from upstate New York, and Scott was a hockey player from Minnesota, who had a brief minor league career. They chose to stay, drawn by Maine’s many opportunities for an active, outdoors- focused lifestyle and easy access to the ocean. The couple’s first boat was an 18-foot Boston Whaler, purchased when son Kevin was a baby. They traded up to a 24-foot Whaler, then a 28- foot Pursuit, which came with a slip at Spring Point. Having found their boating home, they bought their current boat at the marina in 2010. “The kids grew up here,” says Lynn.
Port Harbor Marine President Rob Soucy’s father bought the business in 1974, relocating it from a smaller spot on the Fore River to the manmade harbor at Spring Point, which he leases from the City of South Portland, in 1980. The company now has five locations, on Sebago Lake in Raymond, Rockport, Holden, and Kittery; South Portland is the largest and the only one on the ocean. Having the resources of Port Harbor Marine on site is what distinguishes Spring Point Marina, says Soucy. Boaters can buy bait, take a shower, do their laundry, or have a damaged boat hauled out and repaired. And there’s always a friendly dock attendant around to give them a hand. “When people come down here, it’s to have fun, and we’re here to accommodate them,” says Soucy. “It’s like checking into a resort.”
For Spring Point Marina regulars like the Smiths, it’s a community. “The people in F-run (the Smiths’ dock) have developed their own little culture and neighborhood,” says Soucy. “People here take care of each other,” says Lynn. “We’ve been to weddings, funerals, holiday parties.”
Scott, a benefits broker for Holden Agency Insurance in Portland, comes to the marina nearly every day after work when the K&C II is in the water. Lynn, a physical therapist at Maine Medical Center, joins her husband as her schedule allows, along with Kevin, a sophomore at the Maine Maritime Academy, and Cameron, a senior at Scarborough High School. Both boys are immersed in the boating life. Cameron plans to follow his brother to Maine Maritime Academy and Kevin, who has his commercial lobster fishing license, spends the summer hauling traps on marina neighbor Vinnie Olsen’s lobster boat, and from his own 21-foot Novi skiff, named Double Trouble.
The fifth member of this boating family is an enthusiastic two-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd named Bagger (short for Bagheera), who can often be found lounging in his favorite spot on the boat’s stern. “He was trained by North Edge K9 in Gorham for police work, but was too nice,” says Scott Smith. “He’s an unbelievable boat dog.” He’s also a vigilant lifeguard who can’t be held back from leaping into the water after the boys when they swim off the boat. Port Harbor Marine maintains six moorings around Casco Bay that members can tie up to; the Smiths’ favorite is off of Great Diamond Island in a sheltered cove, an ideal spot to cool off in the deep green water. “It’s a great place to watch the sunset,” says Lynn.
The Smiths all like to fish, catching stripers, mackerel, bluefish, and several varieties of shark, most of which they release. “We try to do tuna fishing, but I’m not very good at it,” laughs Scott. He is serious about safety, and relates an incident from a family tuna-fishing trip several years ago. “We were coming in at dusk, from about 12 miles offshore. Kevin was about eight or nine, Lynn was down below with Cam, who was little, and her mom was on the boat.” Scott was on the bow when he got caught on one of the boat’s outriggers and fell overboard. “I always told Kevin, ‘If Daddy falls off, shut it off,’” Scott says. “He immediately turned the boat off, in gear,” a critical boat-safety practice to make sure that no one in the water gets hurt by the engine. By then it was dark, but Kevin was able to turn the boat around so Scott could get back on the boat. “I was panicking and Kevin was the cool one,” recalls Lynn.
A favorite boating activity for the family is cruising the coast, with or without an itinerary, and often with friends aboard. “We go to Sebasco Harbor Resort quite a bit,” says Lynn. “You can get a mooring, have lunch, and swim in the saltwater pool.” Their guests sometimes include people they have just met. “We love taking people out and we’re lucky to be able to do it,” says Lynn. On this trip to Boothbay Harbor, the Smiths chat with a couple at a local restaurant and end up inviting them to go along for a day trip out to Monhegan,
Overnight trips can be a bit more challenging now that Kevin and Cam are lanky young men. The cabin of the K&C II sleeps just three in tight quarters, so the boys bunk down in the cockpit on overnights. When the boat is moving, though, it lulls Cam right to sleep. “Cam gets on the boat, he goes for six, seven minutes and he’s out,” says Kevin.
When I join the family for a weeknight trip around Casco Bay with a stop at Flatbread Company in Portland to pick up pizza, Cam indeed spends the return ride stretched out on a bunk, fast asleep. Back at the marina, a group of guys waits on the dock to help guide the K&C II into her slip. “Ronnie just wants to make sure I don’t hit his boat,” jokes Scott, referring to his marina neighbor Ronnie Flint, a Cape Elizabeth firefighter. Scott deftly backs the boat in, kills the engine, sits back in his captain’s chair, and invites everyone within earshot to join him for a beer. Just as on land, there’s no place like home.