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Tuesday, November 24, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 48


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6/14/2013 5:19:00 PM
South Bristol Celebrates Tradition at Boat Launch
J.W. Oliver

The five boat-builders of the South Bristol School eighth-grade class launched two skiffs today without a formal blessing, but with plenty of community spirit.

The entire student body and many audience members were wearing T-shirts in the school colors, red and white, reading "It is tradition."

Immediately before the launch, Bittersweet Landing Boatyard owner Mike Nyboe let loose a loud sneeze of questionable authenticity and the crowd, in unison, shouted "Bless you!"

"I've been a little sniffly all week," Nyboe said after the ceremony. "[Local meteorologist] Kevin Mannix said the pollen count was up a little bit this morning."

The boat launch was the first after school officials agreed to discontinue the blessing of the fleet, long part of the annual ceremony, following a stern warning from attorneys with a Washington, D.C. organization.

Lawyers with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said the blessing of the fleet violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Nyboe and Mark Preston, father of eighth-grader Julianna Preston, raised money to make the T-shirts, which were free for the students and available for a donation to everyone else. The donations will benefit the boat-building program.

"We wanted to make clear our feeling about an organization in Washington, D.C. messing with a tradition in our little town," Preston said, yet at the same time he did not want a noisy protest to overshadow the work of the students.

"This was our subtle rebuttal," Nyboe said.

The Rev. Peggy Dunn Davis, a local pastor who traditionally gives the blessing of the fleet, delivered the final speech before the launch.

"The particulars of tradition change with time," Davis said. "Five thousand years ago, part of the tradition was to sacrifice an ox as a new boat was put into the water."

The community can still celebrate the launch and recognize the students' work "even as we aknowledge that time and political pressures cause change," she said.

"We acknowledge that the water is big and your boats are small. We wish these little boats well, we wish them good adventure and safe harbor, and we wish each of you well as you move from elementary school to high school.

"The world of high school is big and you may feel small. We trust that what you've learned while building boats this year will serve you well as we trust that we have all learned about how our national laws can influence our choices.

"This is good learning, as we respect our laws and the character of our nation as well as boat-building and community here today," Davis said.

The class, Thalia Eddyblouin, Jordan Farrin, Tyler Giles, Jillian Page and Julianna Preston, christened the boats Nichols and Dimes and Tradition.

Nichols and Dimes bears the name of the late John Nichols, a former staff member of the school and school liaison for the boat-building program. Nichols died in November 2012.

"As I stand here, I think about how proud Mr. Nichols would be that these students chose to dedicate this boat in his memory," said SBS Principal Scott White. "Mr. Nichols was, without a doubt, the most intelligent, yet humble, man I have ever met."

Nichols and Dimes is unique among all the vessels in the 17 years of the program, said Kurt Spiridakis of the Maine Maritime Museum Boatshop.

The students, at the suggestion of a South Bristol School Committee member, built the skiff to accommodate an outboard motor in case the boat should make its way into the hands of a young lobsterman.

The name Tradition represents the historic significance of the boat-building trade, White said.

"Tradition is born from within a culture and repeated as a means of celebrating something worthwhile and important enough to pass on to future generations," he said.

White called for a moment of silence "to wish these boats the best of luck and the passengers ... safe harbor as they go out to sea and return from sea."

A group of people on a nearby wharf fired a cannon salute during the launch.

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