MOUNT DESERT — Five generations and 50 years ago, the Causette was launched with the Richardson family at the helm. Every year since, the family has lovingly cared for its 36-foot wooden picnic boat, built by Ronald Rich of Southwest Harbor. With her distinctive clipper bow and 3-foot draft, Causette is a fixture in Seal Harbor where she’s been moored since her christening.
This year, led by Paul Richardson and Paul’s son Peter, the family is giving her a new coat of varnish.
“She goes maybe 8 to 10 years without it,” Paul said from the wooden storage building on his property where Causette is stored. “I’ve had this boat in my possession for probably 25 years. And this year, the varnish just needed to be done.” It will take six coats in all.
When Paul Richardson’s father, Gerald G. Richardson, died in 1993, Paul was named caretaker of Causette, the maintenance of which is entirely a family affair. Paul’s son-in-law John Gannon, a former Hinckley Company employee, and Paul’s nephew Tommy, are currently hard at work on preparing Causette’s mahogany brightwork for varnish.
“Thank God I have all this help,” said Paul. “See, this boat was built back in the period of the Hinckley picnic boats. They were beautiful, but the summer people didn’t use them the way we did. This one, you can stand up in the cabin and there’s four bunks that you can sleep in there. Dad wanted this boat with a deeper draft, not as flat of a boat as they made.”
Paul and his father would duck hunt out of Winter Harbor and spend the night on Causette.
“Sometimes it was rough, but with that 3-foot draft she holds well,” he said, smiling.
Mr. Gannon, who married into the Richardson family 22 years ago, says that the family spends on average 120 hours each year readying Causette for the water.
“There’s a whole host of family members who’ve put time in this boat,” said Mr. Gannon. “There’s a lot of mundane work, but when the call goes out that on Saturday, we need help – we need to sand this, sand that, we’re under pressure – almost inevitably almost everybody shows up. It is a point that brings the family together.”
For more maritime news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.