Nestled in the foothills just outside of Augusta, Maine, is a hidden gem of a lake – Cobbosseecontee. About ten miles long with nearly thirty islands, Cobbosseecontee Lake is home to a small band of Woody Boaters who just like to have fun with their boats. While you won’t find an organized public boat show here, the locals have their own impromptu gatherings whenever the mood strikes them.
Cobbosseecontee is very unspoiled and uncommercialized, with just one fuel dock and no hotels or restaurants. Some islands are privately owned with beautiful camps that could grace the cover of Cabin Life magazine. There is even a restored lighthouse on the north end of the lake that is the only landlocked lighthouse in the state of Maine. Boating traffic is minimal any day of the week. The lake is known for excellent bass fishing.
But on days when the lake is calm and the sun is warm, a few short phone calls and texts summon enough boats for a mini show or lake cruise. While there are a number of wooden boats on the lake including two 21’ Cobras, a rare custom built twin engine Correct Craft, and a 23’ Barrelback that was once owned by Reed of Reed and Prince fasteners, only those in town and available show up.
When visiting my Woody Boater buddy Larry Jamieson last weekend, Larry gave a shout out to his local boating pals and within the hour, I was presented with a nice photo opportunity. Five boats gathered in a cove where an old marina used to be where I met a couple old boat friends and was introduced to several new ones. After some coffee and chit chat, it was time to take a ride.
As engines started to rumble, I climbed into the third cockpit of Larry’s 1932 Chris Craft 21’ with a couple a cameras and lenses. The boats idled out of the cove and throttled up in the open water. I started clicking the shutter…
Cobbosseecontee has many nooks and crannies – we wandered in and out of them as we circumnavigated the lake. Residents on shore watched and waved as the gleaming mahogany paraded around. Passing the girl’s YMCA camp, thirty or so young campers cheered as the Woody Boaters blasted by.
Jeff Timm was one of the participants in the impromptu run. He brought his 1929 HackerCraft triple “Moonglow”, that had a modern V8 for power. Jeff also owns one of the two 21’ Cobras on the lake.
Randy Gannett arrived in a sharp Grand Craft utility named “Art’s Obsession” with two of his grandchildren. The Grand Craft was equipped with a bow thruster making docking a cinch. The high freeboard kept Randy and his grand kids dry when powering through other’s wakes.
Charlie Hippler and his wife Stephanie ran his 1953 Racing Runabout “Rumblin”. I put a bottom and new sides on the boat for him a number of years ago; he finished the boat and installed the engine. Charlie is a bit of a motor head – when he’s not working on the boat, he’s restoring antique cars and hot rods – so he opted to pickle the original MBL and install a tweaked 350 instead. “Rumblin” will not only rumble, but get up and run just as well.
Jim Hippler, Charlie’s brother, is also a motor head. His Continental is now powered by a 440 Chrysler that makes his big utility one of the faster wooden boats on the lake. Charlie’s son rode on the boat with his uncle.
Larry Jamieson’s 1932 Chris Craft 21’ “Mi Piace” also sounds healthy on the small lake. It’s powered by a Marine Power 350 with four inch exhausts. If they don’t hear his motor a mile away, he can fire off the twin air horns that are louder than most trucks. “Mi Piace” is an Italian phrase meaning “she pleases me” and this boat certainly does. Riding with Larry are his fiancé Ellen and my wife, Marsha.
One by one, the speedboats carved their way through the bays and coves of Cobbosseecontee. Bracing myself in the third cockpit, I tried to keep track of where each boat was and we rounded corners and bends.
Suddenly, through my viewfinder, I saw spray flying from one of the boats as it twisted violently into a spin! It was Charlie in the racer, I had been rapid firing shots of his as he started to bank into a turn in a tight cover. Quickly, I dropped by camera to the seat and looked – sure enough, Charlie and Stephanie were fine….he was just playing around and had put the boat into a powered snap turn. Looking back at the sequence of eight shots, both Charlie and Stephanie are smiling during the event, however, Charlie did get soaked by the spray!
When photographing an unplanned event, and not having boat to boat communication available, you never know how your shots will come up. Each driver is just out there running around having fun. However, around one turn, as luck would have it, three boats lined up almost like it was planned.
For me, this cruise was the best 90 minutes of the weekend. Great boats, great friends and a great time. Many thanks to the Cobbosseecontee Crew for a great time, it made our vacation a true Woody Boater style one.