January / February 2022

The Maine Peapods

Small workboats with enduring and universal appeal
Maine Peapods

PENOBSCOT MARINE MUSEUM (LB2012.15.5133)

Orren Ames was still hauling lobster traps by hand in 1975, when National Fisherman published this picture of him working off the northern end of Ragged Island, just south of Matinicus Island, Maine. By then, he had a couple of decades on his customized Merrill Young–built double-ender, or peapod, now in the collection of Penobscot Marine Museum.

About 15 years ago, when I was the curator at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine, I received a call from someone offering to donate a peapod that had been used as late as the 1970s for lobstering. Peapods are Maine’s signature small boats, double-enders ranging from 12' to 16' long and especially common in Penobscot Bay. The caller, a descendant of one of Matinicus Island’s first settlers, had bought this peapod from Orren Ames, the last of the Matinicus fishermen to haul lobster traps by hand from a peapod powered by oars. It was an exciting find, so I flew out to Matinicus, which lies more than 20 miles offshore and is one of the state’s most remote inhabited islands, to have a look.

For many years, the boat had been stored in a barn. Although the owner had been eager to preserve the boat for family use, it needed to be moved because the house, one of the island’s oldest, was being sold. For 20 years, I learned, Ames fished from this peapod, built on the island in the 1950s by Merrill Young, a descendant of a family that first settled there in 1765. Young’s father, Leon L. Young, had also built peapods, and one of them, a lapstrake-planked boat, was already in the museum’s collections.

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