HULL CREEK

By Jim Nichols

Down East Books, 2011

242 pages, $24.95

ISBN 978-0-89272-915-9

 

Writer Jim Nichols, of Warren, is an award-winning author of short stories, including the collection titled “Slow Monkeys.” This is his first novel, however — a tightly-wrapped, gritty story that reveals his exceptional talent as a writer.

HULL CREEK is the colorfully visceral, coarse and profane story of the changing Maine coast, where fishing villages are rapidly disappearing — replaced by expensive waterfront estates — where fishermen are displaced by retirees and wealthy outsiders, and where such change results in tension and conflict.

Troy Hull is a third-generation lobsterman, one of just two fishermen remaining in the little coastal town of Pequot (near Rockland and Owl’s Head). And Hull is in big trouble financially. “I thought it was pretty amazing how close to the edge you could be without knowing it. A couple of years ago I’d had a new boat, a happy wife, money in my pocket.” Fishing has not been profitable lately, and Hull has an old boat, no wife, no money and a mortgage he can’t pay.

He owns a large parcel of prime waterfront land in town and the rich fat cats at the bank want that land for development. Before he knows it, Hull is being set up for a default and foreclosure, forcing him to take some desperate and illegal risks to save the family property and his way of life. And he knows this will probably end up badly for him. But what else can he do?

Nichols is a masterful storyteller, creating a gripping tale of suspense, vividly exposing the social and economic divisions between locals and outsiders — and the good and bad decisions they both make — with sharply defined characters, snappy dialogue and an exciting, satisfying conclusion that really isn’t a happy ending at all.

WITH RECKLESS ABANDON:

MEMOIRS OF A BOAT-OBSESSED LIFE

By Captain Jim Sharp

Down East Books, 2011

272 pages, $19.95

ISBN 978-1-60893-000-5

 

In Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s story, “The Wind in the Willows” (1908), Rat proudly declares: “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” And no Mainer knows that better than Captain Jim Sharp.

WITH RECKLESS ABANDON is Sharp’s hilarious memoir of his more than 50 years messing about in boats — owning boats, restoring, carrying passengers and cargo, cruising and even skippering tugboats. In fact, Sharp has owned 35 boats, not counting numerous skiffs, dinghies, canoes and one floatplane. At one time, he owned and captained two of Maine’s famous windjammer schooners, the Adventure and the Roseway, as well as Admiral Donald MacMillan’s legendary Arctic exploration schooner, Bowdoin. Jim Sharp knows a thing or two about boats.

With wry humor and unvarnished honesty, Sharp tells how he always knew he was not cut out for a desk job — he loved boats and could always make a living on the water. Remarkably, he contracted polio as a child and endured years of painful therapy and determined recovery to regain full use of the affected leg, but that did not stop him from buying, fixing, sailing and selling boats big and small.

He is particularly drawn to old boats — boats with charm, character and history. He admits he truly loves boats (this three wives would probably agree). He tells wonderful stories of sailing windjammers full of passengers, operating tugboats, converting part of the Camden waterfront into a lucrative enterprise, cruising the Great Circle, chartering in Florida and the Bahamas and puttering in the canals and rivers of Europe.

To read this memoir is to marvel that one man with vision, ingenuity, energy and “reckless abandon” could accomplish so much and be so successful — despite the annoying interference of the U.S. Coast Guard.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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