At the end of September, David Etnier gave the Museum an interesting stone artifact about 4 feet in diameter, one of several he has found in Old Cove, Harpswell.

Somewhere, I have read a description of how these were used, and someday I will find that description again. It involves a tree trunk or pole being driven through the hole in the stone. When the stone is set in not-very-deep water, the pole sticks up out of the water enough to tie a boat to. The attachment that the boat’s mooring line is actually tied to is made of wood, so that it floats up and down the pole, with the tide.

As reported in the latest Harpswell Anchor, fisherman and fishseller Dain Allen has more complete memories. He has a similar stone which formerly belonged to his grandfather. The local name for the system was a spar mooring, implying that the pole was more carefully shaped than I suggested above.  Mr. Allen says that the spar was inserted through the hole in the stone, and pinned in place with about two feet of spar sticking out beneath the stone. The great weight of the stone would drive this protruding tip of the spar down into the bottom mud, making the mooring more secure. His grandfather used the spar mooring close to shore, as a haul-off or out-haul. A loop of line ran from shore out through a block (pulley) on the spar and back to shore; the boat was tied to that line, and could be pulled in to shore when needed.

I found this illustration of boats riding at stake (spar?) moorings in Fish and Men in the Maine Islands by W. H. Bishop, published by Harpers & Brothers in 1885. Neither the system of stake moorings nor this picture is described in the text of the book, but the implication is that this shows a harbor in Maine which uses this form of mooring for a batch of similar-looking fishing boats. Each stake has a board or stick attached near its upper end; perhaps this is to keep the floating attachment point from coming off the top at an extreme high tide or unusual swell situation. Still looking for more information, but I thought this was an interesting bit of historical trivia. Doesn’t seem trivial when you try to lift the stone.