Short film chronicles decline of Maine’s working waterfront.

Tom McGlinn’s nine-minute doc at New Bedford festival in Sept.

By Gabriella Burnham - Inquirer & Mirror Staff Writer

Tom McGlinn’s nine-minute documentary film “Maine’s Disappearing Working Waterfront” acts more like a metaphor for changing times, with relevance to many different towns, than simply a short film about a declining Maine wharf industry.

In fact, he had Nantucket in mind when shooting the film.

“I was interested in working waterfronts because of Nantucket. Nantucket had a working waterfront when I grew up, and then the three docks were bought by Walter Beinecke, a developer who purchased and renovated the majority of the island’s waterfront properties during the 1950’s and ‘60s) and turned it into a marina,” said McGlinn. Whose film will screen at the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford in September.

The festival strives to commemorate those who toil in the maritime industries – the fishermen, scallopers and members of the Coast Guard, among others – whose “office” is the North Atlantic.

McGlinn’s film contains interviews with Maine Senator Dennis Damon as well as boatmen who work in Maine communities, which, like Nantucket, said McGlinn, are being bought up by developers and gentrified into more appealing tourist destination spots with restaurants, hotels, private homes and condominiums.

He also interviews a vacationer who interjects that if not Maine, there are plenty of other picturesque waterfronts up and down the East Coast and in Canada that he can enjoy and photograph.

“The trick is to get access to the real people. Often the ones who will talk to you aren’t the real thing. They’re the people with a chip on their shoulder,” aid McGlinn, who runs GreenFlashVideo on Nantucket and worked on the documentary with another filmmaker, Ricardo de Gracia Moreno, he met at a filmmaking workshop in Maine.

“The key to the whole deal was this particular senator. We met him in this little restaurant in Maine. He took us to these wonderful people and since we were with him, they thought that we must be OK,” he said.

McGlinn talks to family-owned companies that rely on their waterfront businesses – lobster boats, sailing charters, freighters – for a means of living. Out of 5,000 miles of Maine coastline, only about 25 miles are still being used for waterfront industry, which has been an essential component of Maine’s economy for over 200 years.

Again, the relevance to Nantucket rang with McGlinn, an accomplished sailor who has witnessed the evolution from fishing shanties to art galleries and clothing shops along Straight Wharf and Nantucket Harbor while growing up on the island.

“When I grew up here, we were all involved in the history of Nantucket. It was part of us. Those were the same docks that the whaling ships had left from. And I grew up on those docks. They were full of all kinds of little businesses, and they would hire me as a kid. Here’s a quarter: Pump out the water, put on the ice.”

Now he said those working businesses are either being eradicated or moved into the mid-island area, like Nantucket’s boatyards, because it has become too expensive for most local people to rent space in town.

While McGlinn was filming in Maine, he said a few of the men working on the waterfront referred to Nantucket as “a place where the working waterfront is just erased.”

It was like a wedge was chunked right down between the town and the docks. Straight Wharf used to be Main Street carried on. There was a gas station there. The whole town was extended so here wasn’t a barrier (between the waterfront and the town), so that everyone on the docks could see what was going on in town. Now it’s a private marina. Now people on Nantucket don’t have that working waterfront to associate with the past. Nantucketers don’t even see the harbor anymore. They don’t see the water,” McGlinn said.