HARPSWELL – The celebratory Captain Morgan was long overdue. By the time it was poured, the Hate Me Rose had lined up, crossed the line and already made its captain proud.
But the truth is boat builder Stevie Johnson was proud of his newest floating creation before it crossed the line at the Harpswell Lobster Boat Races.
When you’re racing a Tiki-bar boat, it’s a victory before the starting flags fly.
“We made it to the starting line before the flags started flying. That’s a big thing,” said crewmate Randy Dunphy.
John Billings, who has worked for Johnson at his boatyard on Long Island for 12 years, said Johnson just keeps outdoing himself with strange and fantastical boats, most built on the very same hull.
But the floating Tiki bar is something different, and a week earlier drew looks of amazement from the Casco Bay Ferry passengers as it floated by, the crew members all perched on bar stools.
“The blender is a weedwhacker. The bar stools came from Old Orchard Beach. They’re pretty great. They even bounce,” Billings said.
Dunphy recalls the time he and Johnson had an engine so powerful, they built it into a 36-foot lobster boat that lifted to a speed of 59 mph.
“It was awesome. Only one guy could touch us. He got so scared, he cut the wheelhouse off his boat,” Dunphy said.
The tiki-bar boat, by comparison, is slow but colorful. She’s got charisma.
“I’m totally impressed. He’s outdone himself. It’s in a class by itself,” Dunphy said.
Wooden signs celebrate life on the Tiki with: “Make it a Double,” “I’m in Paradise,” “Aloha” and “Big Kahuna.”
The Tiki’s most-impressive feature, by far, is the mixed-drink blender, an old gasoline weedwhacker.
But after the pina colada fixings finally are delivered and dropped off, the blender lid has gone missing. And everyone drops everything to find it.
Things are not always so organized on the Tiki.
Johnson hangs his head over the bar railing, reaches toward the ocean and retrieves it.
“Almost lost it. Give that a rinse. I think someone peed down there,” he booms as he hands the lid toward the bar sink.
No one seems fazed. Life on the Tiki goes on.
“I’m impressed this has a working sink,” Dunphy says.
Johnson then pours rum and pineapple into the blender, fills it with ice, and the audience seated around the bar watches. Then the captain fills plastic cups with the frothy concoction.
The lid comment a moment ago is forgottten.
“My grandmother, God rest her soul, she had a recipe. This is close,” Dunphy says to no one in particular as he sips his drink.
Sometime after the pina coladas are passed around, another boat joins on the homemade barge that consists of four boats strung together, with the Tiki in the middle. Young bikini-clad women fill the Tiki’s bow.
Someone nods toward the marine patrol and mentions life preservers as the crowd on the Tiki bar ebbs and flows.
But Johnson has stowed a large collection of cheap lifejackets in a hatch. He’s prepared, and maybe even mellowed from his early boat-building years.
Then again, as he ferries a passenger to shore on his skiff, he mulls over his next creation, probably a year or two away.
“It will have to be better. Need to go forward, not back,” he says with a grin.
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: