Coastal Profile: David Norton
by Lee Wilbur
December, 1976. “My name is Dave Norton, are you around this weekend? I want to come up and talk about having you build me a boat. One of those Newman 32s.”
Dave and my paths crossed again this spring when AJ and I went down to Boothbay to see friends Dick and Brenda Woods. Happened to mention we’d built a boat for Dave and wondered if they knew him. Come to find out he lived just across the river and they knew him well. During a lobster cookout on Cabbage Island that Sunday, Dave and I had a chance to pick up where we left off after launching his boat Suzanne B in March, 1977. He’s still lobsterfishing the same boat 34 years later.
“You should be a poster guy for boat upkeep,” said his insurance appraiser, “This is the best kept, cleanest boat of this age I’ve ever inspected.”
I asked Dave why he’d never built another boat or gone larger.
“You know, I’ve kind of kept track of the 32s. Very seldom ever see one for sale. They’re a great boat. I found that I didn’t need to go bigger. If a Bruno 42 could go, I could go. Why would I need a bigger boat. I know a guy that had one built up by J. Ervin Jones who put 104 (3’) traps aboard just to see what she’d carry. I’ve repowered three times. Started with the 4:71 you guys put in. Ran that for 24,000 hours. Had it rebuilt and used it for another 12,000 hours. Then I put in a 300 hp John Deere for 5000 hours which was really not a good engine then repowered again with the 375 hp John Deere which I’m running now with 4300 hours showing. If my wife outlives me she’ll be the one selling the boat.”
Dave added, “Today, if I were just going into lobstering I’d probably need a bigger and faster boat. Some of the fishermen down here, (because of the trap limits and smaller catches), are going out 40-50 miles with their gear and staying there, just fishing there.”
I knew Dave had graduated from Maine Maritime Academy, but I asked him why he’d gone lobstering having a degree such as he did.
His eyes crinkled in a smile as he told a story not dissimilar to my own. “I graduated from high school but couldn’t get in to college so took a year of prep school in New Hampshire. Then I was accepted at the University of Cincinnati in accounting. Went to summer school, then got suspended for a year so I went to Boston and worked. Got in to Northeastern for night school, studying to be a criminal lawyer. Friend of mine that I’d graduated with from high school, tremendous athlete, suggested I look into Maine Maritime. He’d graduated from there. Sounded kind of good, especially when he showed me the $1600 dollars he carried in his wallet. So he took me up to Castine and I applied. Four days later I got a letter of acceptance.”
“I spent four years in the Maritime. Shipped all over the world. Came home one year with 4 months’ vacation time and was headed for Vail to do some skiing. Vail was just starting up then. Decided to stop in Boothbay and see a friend and have a few drinks with him. Two weeks go by, I meet my future wife, Sandy, and I’m having a great time and thinking this is a great town. I finally get in my car and head for Vail. Get down to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and going around the Portsmouth circle I’m thinking all the time about Boothbay. I kept going around the circle and headed on back.”
“Next year I came back again with another four months’ vacation and took a job bartending. All these lobster fishermen used to be in there drinking in the afternoons. I thought this must be a good way to earn an easy living. Little did I know they were the “Slackers.” Anyhow, I met this old guy who wanted to sell his boat, traps, and gear so I told him I’d buy them if he’d show me how to lobster. I kept the boat until the oil embargo came along and figured it was time to get serious. Boat had a “455 Olds” gas engine and was expensive to run. So that’s when I came up to see you. You know, you people really put together a rugged boat.”
We talked of our respective age, of the aches and pains in the “Golden Years.” “You know,” he told me, “Lobstering is an occupation where you need to take care of yourself. Lot of things start to go to pieces after you’re out there pounding everyday. Especially the knees. I go to the gym just about every day when I get in, and work out. The lady chiropractor I go to suggested the elliptical bike which has been a great help as well as Deer Antler for bone strength and rebuilding which I’ve just started taking.”
A friend of Dick Woods told Dick, “You know Dave Norton loves lobstering so much he starts thinking about going out again tomorrow when he’s steaming back today. Can’t wait to go again.”
There’s just something about fresh crabmeat on a warm evening in the summer to get the taste buds cranked up. This is a recipe I’ve enjoyed for years with family and friends.
* R E C I P E *
1 cup crabmeat 1/2 half and half cream
Dollop of unsalted butter Medium garlic clove, pressed
1/4 cup black olives coarsely chopped
Pinch of cayenne (to taste)
2 TBS minced fresh parsley 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar 8 ozs. bowtie Pasta
1 TBS paprika
Cream the butter, paprika, cheese and cream to warm so cheese is melted. Put the pasta on to boil with a spoon of butter in the water. Add remaining ingredients to the cheese sauce and bring to warm. Very important not to boil!! Add Cayenne to taste. Cook pasta to Al Dente (to the tooth), drain, allow to cool just a bit and pour sauce over...Serves 2.