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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.

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.


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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