Twenty-three years ago, Hargy Heap, of Yarmouth, who was then in the paint business in Massachusetts, decided to sell the beloved family catboat, a twenty-two-foot Crocker keel model. Two growing Heaps were disenchanted with the cruising scene and Hargy and his wife, Judy, decided their cruising days were over. No sooner was the boat's sale accomplished, however, than Hargy panicked. "I just had to get out on the water," he recalls.
A sailing friend suggested that Heap go see Arthur Martin, the Boston naval architect and sculling enthusiast who was just then moving to Maine to manufacture ocean rowing shells in a labor of love that was to make him widely revered as the father of modern recreational rowing. After delivering his old catboat to Rye, New Hampshire, Heap took off on a four-mile row in Martin's wake.
"Like a lot of others who went rowing with Arthur," Heap reports, "I was hooked!" Within a couple of months, he had purchased one of Martin's Alden shells and had become sufficiently accomplished to enter Martin's annual, seven-mile, open-ocean Isles of Shoals race. He's been rowing Alden shells and participating in the race, which he has won four times, ever since.
In 1975, Heap transferred his rowing full time to Maine after he bought a decoy-making business in Freeport, later moving it to Bowdoinham. He sold that business in 1990, and the following year combined avocation with vocation when he took over an Alden dealership, selling shells from the top of his car and taking them to the Yarmouth Town Landing for demonstrations. Car-top selling proved frustrating, however, he reports, so the next year he made a deal to install a float and a runway in a shallow portion of Ralph Stevens' Yankee Marina in Yarmouth, creating the Casco Bay Rowing center. The center, now with two floats and room to stow a growing fleet of shells, fulfills a longtime dream of rowers in the Portland area, making it easier for scullers to launch their boats. From May through October, Heap offered rowing lessons, rentals, and sales at the center to a growing clientele of rowing enthusiasts of both sexes and all ages. For many, he says, rowing has become an important part of their fitness regimen as well as a relaxing pleasure.
A couple of years ago, Heap tried taking his shells south to Florida for the winter, but he has decided to discontinue the practice. "I'm a cross-country skier," he says, "and I missed skiing and the Maine winter," This past winter in Maine suited him just fine, but Hargy and a lot of his clients are getting itchy right now for those first mild days of May.
By: Marjorie (Martin) Burgard
After the 2nd IOS race (1974) some of us gathered for dinner, sharing thoughts about the race. Most of the thinking was "What fun that was! and yes, I never rowed that far before, but can't wait until next year!"
One of the sailors in the group suggested we should form an association for Alden rowers. Arthur picked up on that idea knowing one design racing should be mandatory. He had thoughts of designing more Martin Marine shells and believed no race would be fair if a longer and narrower boat could race against the shorter or slower ones. The association would also discourage membership to different manufacturers who designed boats that were faster than the Alden.
Ernest Bayer, better known as "Papa bear", won a sliver medal in the 1928 Olympics. His wife Ernestine was called "Mama bear" and their daughter, Tina, became known as "Baby bear". They were and still are legends in all the rowing circles. Ernie, with the full support of her husband, started women's rowing in this country. She formed the Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club in 1938 and continued to work tirelessly, never taking no for an answer, taking our American women to their first Olympics in 1976. She was behind title IX battle and finally, her American women won the "Gold" in the 1984 Olympics.
Ernie, with her total rowing knowledge, her connections within the racing circles, plus her amazing enthusiasm and unbounded energy just leaped in with both feet to help form the budding new Alden Ocean Shell Association. No one but Ernie could have put so much into that organization. She wrote personal letters to every inquiry, encouraged the first time rowers, sent brochures to help in sales. She saw to it that the Aldens could register up to 80 boats and participate in the Head of the Charles regatta. There was no stopping her, she took the ball and ran with it.