Another people story from Maine

Stories about unusual characters doing unusual things in backwoods Maine was a formula that got stories into newspapers across the country.

Psychologist is happier as a boat builder


GEORGETOWN, Maine (UPI) – Sam Francis respects things made of wood.

He carved his boatyard out of the wood from the banks of the Back River, and he works on boats crafted from wood.

Francis restores pleasure vessels, many of them built in the first half of this century and each one becoming rarer with the passing years.

The work is primarily a hobby that provides a few dollars, and Francis wants to keep it that way.

“The boatyard doesn’t really have a name,” Francis said. “We’ve been calling it the Back River Boat Works, but sometimes it gets called the Back Yard Boat Works.”

Francis, 32, came to Maine three years ago via Massachusetts and Connecticut. He was trained as a psychologist. He was a psychologist in the service and a housebuilder in Massachusetts before coming north.

“It really started as a hobby,” he said. “My wife and I have been interested in boats for a long time, and I’ve done repair work here and there.

“At one point we bought a 40-foot ketch. It needed a lot of work and we re-built it. It needed sails and we learned sail making. We had to learn how to because we couldn’t afford to have someone else do it.”

That boat gave way to a 60-foot schooner, and Francis did the same with her.

“We sailed as much as we could, and I became sort of an itinerant boat worker,” he said. “We just sort of backed into it.”

The move to Maine first involved plans for self-sufficiency. But scratching a living from the earth in northern New England isn’t easy, with its long winters and short growing season.

“We originally came with an interest in homesteading,” he said. “We do grow most of our own food, and we have a greenhouse, we heat with wood, and we’re semi self-sufficient.”

“The boat works provides the cash flow. We’re doing alright, but from a purely business standpoint it’s hard to say. If we make money, we put it back into the shop.”

“I try to stay away from the hard business aspects of it. Mostly I don’t look at it as a business at all.”

Sitting in the yard now is a beautiful 67-foot yacht named “Hutoka.” Francis said she was built in 1904 and won the Bermuda race in the 1920s. The present owner, a Bath family, is having the boat completely re-fitted.

“When we’re done, possibly in the spring, we’ll have just about rebuilt her.”

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