Jarvis Newman’s boat shop on Main Street in Southwest Harbor, Maine, is a living museum of the early fiberglass construction of Down East boats.
Part of the appeal of the shop is a regular visitor, a neighborhood boatbuilder named Steve Spurling, still going strong at 92.
Spurling, who lives with his wife, Arlene, two doors down from Newman’s shop, has been a boat captain and boatbuilder all his life. He still builds small craft, including Whitehalls and dinghies of his own design, in a shop behind his house.
“He keeps the rowboats out there for sale,” Newman’s daughter, Kathe Walton, told the Bangor Daily News. “He keeps building them. That’s what he does. And Arlene sews. They stay so busy. They’re both remarkable.”
Spurling grew up on Great Cranberry Island. As a young man, before World War II, he rode on Raymond Bunker’s boat every morning from the island to Southwest Harbor, and back in the late afternoon, so he could work for Southwest Boat Corp. The first boat he worked on was a 90-foot wooden dragger, which was being built outdoors; the crew had to work in all kinds of weather.
From there, Spurling began a career odyssey that had him working with some of the legendary Maine boatbuilders of the 20th century.