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Etiquette on the Water Panel

Etiquette is more than a fancy French word. It translates as “ticket” - a ticket for those who want to coexist with others in an appropriate way. This can apply to many scenarios including how to operate safely and respectfully on the water. For some community members interested in learning more about this topic, it involved a ticket to a recent panel presentation held at the Bailey Island Library Hall.


“Conversations with the Fishing Community: Etiquette on the Water” was the fourth in a presentation series organized by MCFA, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, the Holbrook Community Foundation, the Harpswell Anchor, and the Cundy’s Harbor Library. The series, “Living and Working in a Waterfront Community: A Conversation Series,” began in the fall with panels on the seasonality of fisheries, fishing families, and access followed by the most recent etiquette panel.

Monique Coombs and daughter, Jocelyne

The conversation was moderated by MCFA’s Director of Community Programs, Monique Coombs. Panelists included Coombs’s 17-yr-old daughter, Jocelyne, who captains a 21-foot Privateer lobster boat out of Orr’s Island that she operates along with her younger brother. Jay McGowan, the owner and captain of Westwind Lobster Tours also shared his point of view as did Jordi St. John, Maine Island Trail Association’s (MITA) Business Engagement Manager and an oyster farmer in the New Meadows River Shellfish Co-op.


Speed was a significant concern brought up by all of the panelists. As Jocelyne Coombs pointed out, “When a power boat comes by and makes a big wake, I have to tell my brother, 'Hold on' because it makes our boat rock back and forth a lot.” She added, “I try to keep my head on a swivel so I’m always aware of what’s around me - my traps, other buoys, and boats.”

Jordi St. John (left) and Jay McGowan (right)

Navigation was another major concern. Captain Jay McGowan referred to the area around the Cribstone bridge which can be a bottleneck for boats and can have a very strong current. “There’s a real need for additional marking for those who aren’t familiar with the area,” he said. “It’s a busy place in the summer time and people need to be careful around the ledges.” St. John echoed the need for education about the basic rules of the road.


Safety was also a consistent issue raised. In addition to having proper equipment on your boat like life jackets, flares and an anchor, you can also do simple things like make your boat more visible by putting a flag on your kayak or adding reflective tape to your paddle.


The overarching message from the evening was the focus on shared values between different members of the community that spend time on the waterfront.


To listen to recordings of the prior presentations, you can access them HERE.

This article was excerpted from an article in the July issue of the Harpswell Anchor.

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