Sam Coolidge’s daughter, Hazel, aboard their replica of the Tidely-Idley. Contributed / Sam Coolidge

A shared passion for the ocean inspired Sam Coolidge and his 9-year-old daughter to build a replica of the boat Tidely-Idley from famed Maine author Robert McCloskey’s children’s book, “Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.” Now, the pair hope to write about their boat in their own children’s book using the Burt Dow character and the adventures they had replicating his double-ender.

The adventure actually got its start when Coolidge was a child. At his family’s camp in Harpswell he developed the affinity for boats and the ocean that he has nurtured in his daughter, Hazel. Nowadays, he is a Merchant Marine on a tug boat, spending two weeks on the boat and two weeks at home.

Robert McCloskey’s “Burt Dow” is just one of a number of children’s classics penned by McCloskey, which include “Blueberries for Sal” and “One Morning in Maine.”

Coolidge, who lives in Scarborough, said he’s “thought for a long time that it would be cool for someone to actually build the Tidely- Idley.”

Three years ago, Coolidge found a boat for sale in Bass Harbor that seemed like a good fit. He and Hazel, then 6, took the long drive from Scarborough to check it out. He was excited to discover the affordable boat was once used by the U.S. Coast Guard. 

“My dream since 2 years old was to join the Coast Guard, but I couldn’t pass the medical exam, so it was serendipitous getting the chance to drive an ex-Coast Guard boat,” Coolidge said. “I had no idea how long it would take to fix it up.” 

Repairing and painting the boat ended up taking 13 months. 


He shared photos of the ongoing project online and was motivated by the excited response from those following along.

“I would post progress reports on Instagram and as people started following it and getting invested, it got more encouraging,” he said. 

Some parts of the boat came from the Butch and Teeter, a lobster boat owned by Coolidge’s friend, the late Charlie Bibber, who, Coolidge said, was his “real-life Burt Dow.” 

In McCloskey’s book, Maine fisherman Burt Dow uses his Yankee smarts to survive a storm at sea aboard the leaky Tidely-Idley  by getting a whale to swallow them and then spit them out.

Hazel Coolidge paints the Tidely-Idley in the family’s garage. Contributed / Sam Coolidge

Coolidge met Bibber in Harpswell when he was Hazel’s age, he said. He helped him paint the inside of his lobster boat and Bibber shared his stories.

“He was a fisherman who could fix and tinker anything, and a fun guy to talk to. When he passed away, the boat he’d named after his kids was beyond repair and sold to a salvage company in Portland,” Coolidge said.


Coolidge came across it in his search for parts and decided to incorporate some of the Butch and Teeter into the Tidely-Idley.

The process took a lot of problem-solving and consulting with other boaters.

“A lot of commercial lobstermen helped me with the project, and they always had common sense solutions to complex problems,” Coolidge said.  “There are nuts and bolts on the engine that I could talk about for an hour.”

The father-daughter team referenced the “Burt Dow” illustrations in crafting the boat and incorporated many details – even including a seagull statue on the back in honor of Burt Dow’s pet seagull in the book. The seagull is Hazel’s favorite detail  on the boat, she said.

As for their own book, Coolidge has gotten approval from Jane McCloskey, the author’s daughter, to use the Burt Dow character.

Coolidge said the book will start with him as a kid meeting Burt Dow and learning of his stories, then fast forward to him sharing the stories with his daughter and inspiring their mission to recreate the Tidely-Idley. Along the way, they will meet other characters McCloskey created. 


Coolidge asked Massachusetts artist Pamela Pittsley to illustrate the children’s book after commissioning her to paint a portrait of him and Hazel aboard the Tidely-Idley.

“I’ve been an artist my whole life and thought it was a great opportunity, and he’s a genuinely nice guy,” Pittsley said. “I really wanted to do something for him and his daughter.”

Any profits from the book, which still needs a publisher, will be donated to Deer Isle Public Library, in the town where the McCloskeys are from. 

Coolidge said it has been “really touching” to see the joy that he and his daughter’s Tidely-Idley brings to people.

Other boaters often recognize the boat right away, Hazel said.

“One time someone said, ‘hey, Burt’ to my dad while we were driving it, and that was really funny,” she said.


That’s what it’s all about, Coolidge said.

“We’re not going to try to make any money on the McCloskey name – we just want to spread joy and make memories together,” he said.

Pamela Pittsley’s painting of Sam Coolidge and his daughter, Hazel, aboard their boat. Contributed / Sam Coolidge







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