ROCKLAND, Maine — Noah Curtis said the people, the exercise and friendly competition is what he enjoys most about being part of the rowing team for Station Maine.
Curtis, a junior from Camden, has been rowing for eight years and has been part of the Station Maine team for three years. He has risen to be the captain, directing the efforts of the six rowers who power the long rowing boats around Rockland Harbor and other ports throughout the school year.
While the competition is friendly, the young people from the Midcoast take their sport seriously, devoting two hours an afternoon, three times a week for practice. The practices are held, rain, shine or fog.
“Kids are hungry for real responsibility,” said Muriel Curtis who founded and has run the Station Maine program since its inception in 2001. “We’ve almost lost that in this country.”
The training is serious, she said.
“After they are trained, they are ready to command vessels. They have real responsibility and gain real respect,” Curtis said.
Curtis earned a master’s degree in creative arts and education and was a music teacher for 10 years. She practiced the same philosophy in her music classes as she does with her rowing students — letting them learn through experience. As a music teacher, she forewent teaching reading notes and had students participate in contradance and other activities.
She decided on a career and life change and became one of the first crew members of the Spirit of Massachusetts, a floating classroom aimed at bringing maritime experience to young people. She sailed for 10 years along the East Coast and Europe, earning her captain’s license.
In 1993, she came to Maine. In 1995, she moved to Rockland.
The program has evolved and now has a relationship with the local high schools. There are a combined 16 students from Oceanside High School East in Rockland, Oceanside High School West in Thomaston, Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport and Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro.
The Station Maine team from the mainland and squads from neighboring islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven had the final local meet of the season on Saturday morning off Snow Marine Park in Rockland Harbor.
This event tested their speed and ability to maneuver their boats around markers.
The students also travel to other ports to compete. A few weeks ago, the Station Maine crew competed at a meet on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt. On Nov. 23, Station Maine will travel to Hull, Mass., to compete against teams from around the coast of New England. In that meet, teams will see who can complete a one-nautical mile course with the fastest time.
Nicole Prentiss, a parent of one of the students, praised Curtis and the program. She said it serves many young people who do not fit into other sports activities.
Nick Prentiss, a freshman, joined the team last year. He said some of his friends were rowing, and their love of the sport attracted him to it.
“None of my family are fishermen or have boats,” he said, noting this was his opportunity to get out on the water.
Kat Howard of Rockland is spending her first year on the Station Maine team and said she has enjoyed it.
“This is the best choice I have made. I like the physical activity. It’s amazing out on the water,” Howard said.
Greg Ricciardi was helping out by trailing the racing boats in a motorboat. His daughter Lily VanSteenberg participated in Station Maine throughout middle and high school, he said. She then was appointed and accepted to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. where she was on the school’s rowing team for two years.
Station Maine taught her more than rowing, Ricciardi said, but also leadership and teamwork.
Station Maine is a small nonprofit organization which depends on the generosity of the community, Curtis said. The organization is in need of donations to help maintain and insure the boats, as well as the vehicle used to drive the young people to the meets.
Donations can be made through the website stationmaine.org or mailed to the office at 75 Mechanic St., Rockland, Maine 04841.