A Rare Travel Story

Editor’s Note: My first paying job was in high school –15-going on 16. That summer, I was in summer school at Bakersfield High School taking typing in the morning and my friend’s (Bette Lou Kane) father was the publisher of THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN He got me the job taking classified advertisements in the afternoons until I could be full time once summer school was over. However, it was Mr. Partridge, my immediate boss,  who literally taught me how to type, requiring I type the ads directly from the phone conversation with the client instead of writing it out and then typing. Somehow I did it, but that’s another story maybe for another time.

The job I really wanted was upstairs in the newsroom, but it took a career of teaching 4th graders, then high school English, then radio, TV, etc. etc. and moving to the Central Coast before I worked for a newspaper writing stories about the people and events that happened in Morro Bay, Cayucos and Los Osos.

Early in my journalistic career my husband and I vacationed in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. I was excited about finally writing for the newspaper and picked up all the local free papers along the way to glean ideas. I was working for The Bay News at the time in Morro Bay and found a way to adapt our vacation to my new home town.

Might Morro Bay’s Sister City Be Kennebunkport, MN  By Judy Salamacha

Central Coast to East Coast – from sea to shining sea – people and places are so different yet so much alike.  While traveling the south-central coast of Maine recently, I noticed a New England accent couldn’t disguise the parallel lives shared by new friends met with friends back home on the Central Coast.  In particular I found three individuals that instantly reminded me of a Morro Bay counterpart.

Named the “Best Family Restaurant on the Maine South Coast,”Mike’s Clam Shack and Fish Market is located in Wells, MN.  Owner Mike McDermott has been in the family business forever and his philosophy and operations reminded me of Giovanni’s Fresh Fish Market.  Not just because Gio was awarded by the Morro Bay Harbor Festival “Best Clam Chowder” for three year’s running, but both Mike and Gio are popular with locals and tourists. Both pride themselves on featuring fresh fish and family friendly prices.  Walk in either restaurant and you’ll hear “Where’s Mike?” – “Can I talk to Gio?”

Mike has expanded four times growing from a 20X20 clam shack serving 125 on a good night to over 2,000 a night at the height of the summer season.  Gio is currently expanding again and likely serves almost as many on a good summer day.  Mike buys fresh daily at the Portland fish market, while Gio often buys direct from the fisherman right off his dock.  Mike and Gio cater to locals, who in turn recommend their restaurants to tourists.  Mike’s Clam Shack is well known for their Haddock & Chips, Lobster Rolls and, or course, like Gio, award-winning Clam Chowder.

Then there was Harbor Master Lee McCurdy of Cape Porpoise Harbor in Kennebunkport.  Like Morro Bay’s Harbor Master Rick Algert, McCurdy manages the dock and reports to the local advisory board.  Both supervise the harbor patrol and harbor leases. McCurdy handles the fisherman’s day-to-day off-loading of lobster traps while Algert is more involved in harbor management.

Although lobster fishing is still going strong in Maine, legislation is continually hampering the working fisherman. Both McCurdy and Algert are advocates for the shrinking number of fisherman still trying to survive in an overly regulated environment.  Just as Morro Bay’s fisherman continually fight for their right to fish, so it was with the latest issue for the lobster fishermen.   Due to two incidents of whale entanglements in the last couple of years, the fisherman might have to re-engineer their float ropes at thousands of dollars to the fisherman.

McCurdy, a former gill netter, enjoys being close to the water and industry without his livelihood tied to the sea, but with shrinking numbers of fisherman in his harbor he, like Algert, share concerns about life as they’ve known it.

The Noonan family was a local dynasty reminding me of the Tognazzinis. Richard Noonan, like Mark Tognazzini was a fisherman’s fisherman.  Richard works 800 lobster traps. Richard’s daily catch went directly to their restaurant, Noonan’s Lobster Hut, in Kennebunkport, just as Mark fishes for Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant when allowed to fish.  And just like the Tognazzinis, the entire Noonan family, including the patriarchs George Noonan or Wilmer Tognazzini, is involved in the restaurant.  And just like Mark, Richard works closely with other fisherman promoting fishing and consumption of fresh-caught fish and seafood in Maine and on the Central Coast of California.

Hoping to continue the family tradition Richard’s son, John, loved lobstering with his dad. He had just completed his first full year with his own traps and it was a good year.  At age 20, he hoped he could survive in the business, but was realistic enough to take construction management at the community college just in case times got leaner.  Another son, Ben, was a master boat mechanic.  His biggest client was the Secret Service based at former President Bush’s Kennebunkport estate.

Sister-city programs foster sharing commonalities and better business practices. The Central Coast could learn some tricks of the tourist trade from Maine’s tourism-based communities. Maine has many more than the two lighthouses in San Luis Obispo County, Maine, however, has preserved, protected and endowed their lighthouses in order to attract the tourists by car, tour bus, trolley or harbor cruise.  Portland alone offered multiple harbor cruises with picture-perfect views of five lighthouses.

Both coastal communities had a familiar variety of gift shops, shirt shops, art galleries, and nautical museums. One entrepreneur we visited had found his niche. The Lighthouse Store in Wells attracted busloads of tourists, which had basically the same products for sale as Central Coast gift shops, but it was marketed on-line and around the tourist communities as the “ultimate lighthouse destination” boasting 12,000 lighthouse products.  Tourists had to stop just to see if the shop really had 12,000 lighthouses.

Like Morro Bay, Maine had harbor dinner cruise vessels similar to Morro Bay’s Papagallo II or The Chablis.  Whale watching and sport fishing tours were comparable to Virg’s Landing.

However, the Central Coast might be missing one cruise opportunity.  Non-fisherman, most likely tourists, pay the lobster captains big bucks for a chance to crew on a lobster boat.  On the other hand, not this land-lubber. No, thank you,

In fact, Gio or Mark, can you take the lobster meat out of the shell before serving me, please?

 

 

 

 

 

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