Category Archives: volunteers

For Pete’s Sake – PIC Alumnus Builds Us A Sixth Pine Island Skiff

In the 1990’s boatbuilder and designer David Stimson collaborated with director Ben Swan to create the perfect rowboat to serve the venerable Pine Island rowing program and named it the Pine Island Skiff.  Very generous donors funded the construction of four of the skiffs and they were named John, Paul, George, and Ringo.  Just a few years ago, PIC acquired another Skiff and named it Stu, after Stuart Sutcliffe, often called “the Fifth Beatle.” 

Recently, PIC alumnus and super-volunteer Rob Whitehouse, a retired engineer living in Brunswick, ME, brought it to Ben’s attention that the Skiffs were aging and, in spite of the meticulous care given them each fall during the Sloan Critchfield Memorial Boat Maintenance Weekend, might need to be replaced.  Unfortunately, we never had a set of plans made and the pieces needed to construct one of the boats had been lost.  Rob undertook the (to most people) mysterious and math-laden process of taking the lines off one of the Skiffs so that we could build another Skiff and make reproducible plans for future builders to use. 

Rob Whitehouse with the plans he created using Ringo’s lines

Many, many, hours later Rob produced not only plans, but the digital files needed to have a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine cut all the pieces needed to build a Skiff.  The next step was for Rob to build a Skiff in his well-appointed shop at his house in Brunswick. Rob’s time (over eight weeks work!) was all volunteered, and the results are really beautiful, a sixth Pine Island Skiff for the boys and staff of Pine Island Camp, and complete plans, including thumb drives from which one could build a Skiff of one’s own.  Several very generous alumni responded to an appeal from Ben and covered the considerable cost of materials and CNC cutting for Pete.  

Rob with Pete under construction

So, what to call her?  Pete, of course…Pete Best has also been called the Fifth Beatle.   He is a drummer who was replaced by Ringo Starr. Rob will launch Pete sometime this spring and the newest Pine Island Skiff will join the fleet this summer.  No doubt the gleaming and brand new Pete will be a favorite among the rowers this summer.

Thank you, Rob, and all the generous donors who paid for the project!      

Pete complete!

Campfire: Pine Island’s Musical Tradition Highlighted on Hit Album

The following article is featured in the current edition of The Pine Needle. Please visit our website to download your copy of CAMPFIRE: The Album. Your purchase supports the Lovett Scholarship Fund. Thanks!

As long as campers and counselors have been sitting around the campfire down in the cove they have been singing songs. It would be fascinating to be able to hear a recording of the songs they were singing around 1910 and to trace the evolution of campfire songs at Pine Island over the years. No doubt some of the songs sung years ago would sound dated, some in pretty uncomfortable ways, but the mere fact that boys, men, and women have been singing songs together virtually every night of every one of Pine Island’s 118 summers is remarkable. 

During the past 30 years or so, in addition to the traditional campfire songs such as “The Titanic,” “Mountain Dew,” and “Charlie and the MTA,” a new tradition has taken root in which campers and staff rewrite the lyrics to popular songs to make them specific to Pine Island. This hybrid form of songwriting fits well into the PIC schedule, in which creative energy tends to suddenly erupt without a great deal of time to produce or practice. Since the late 1980s, in addition to singing traditional and currently popular songs, Pine Islanders have written Pine Island-related lyrics to well over 30 songs. Ten of them, plus two traditional songs, make up an album now for sale with all proceeds going to the Sidney Lovett Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

Making CAMPFIRE: The Album happened as the result of a number of stars aligning plus a lot of hard work. Toby Bregar, from Bainbridge Island near Seattle, was a new camper during the summer of 2017. His tent counselor, Noah Brodsky, discovered that Toby played guitar and eventually convinced him to perform at campfire. Toby was great! For the rest of the summer Toby frequently borrowed director Ben Swan’s old Gibson acoustic and played a number of times, including at the Final Campfire on the last day of camp. Turns out this was the first time Toby’s parents had ever seen him perform. They were delighted and moved, and this led to a conversation in which Ben learned that Johnny Bregar is a record producer and professional musician who runs Brick- yard Studio on Bainbridge Island. Not long after Toby and his family returned home from Pine Island, they recorded “My Sweet Pine Island,” a Matt Clarke/ Ben Swan rewrite of the Ryan Adams song “Sweet Carolina” that has been featured as the last song of the summer for about 15 years. 

The Henchmen recording backing vocals at PIC parent Johnny Bregar’s studio on Bainbridge Island, WA

Hearing this professionally recorded and mixed version of a song Ben had only heard in various forms on the sandy stage in Pine Island’s campfire circle prompted him to ask Johnny if it might be possible to record more campfire songs and make an album. Johnny’s response was quick and simple: “Come on out. We’ll do it. It will be fun.” Ben began what turned out to be a two-year effort to pull some PIC musicians together for a weekend all the way out in Washington state. At a couple of points it seemed too ambitious to attempt, but with Johnny’s encouragement and some financial help for air fare for some of the younger musicians, it all came together on a weekend in October when five Pine Islanders flew to Seattle and took the short ferry ride to Bainbridge Island where they were welcomed and fed by the Bregar/Ahearne family. Ben arrived Thursday afternoon to help arrange the weekend, Pope Ward arrived Friday afternoon along with Mark Pierce, Robert Brent arrived Friday night, and poor Sam Chester ran into a few delays on his journey all the way from Middlebury College and finally caught the last ferry in the wee hours of Saturday morning. 

Sam Chester, banjo player extraordinaire, in the studio

Both Ben and Pope recorded songs Friday, but it was after the “varsity” musicians Mark and Sam arrived that production both sped up and became more complex. Over the course of the weekend, thanks to Johnny’s incredible experience, technical ability, and musical talent, the group recorded a dozen songs, ate a lot of good food, and had a ton of fun. Pine Islanders Nicky Isles, Ted and Will Siebert, and Charlie Krause visited the studio, and Nicky laid down a verse of “Mountain Dew” and was a member of the Henchmen, who performed the backing vocals on several songs. Two songs were recorded elsewhere. Edwin McCain, former counselor, current camp parent, and successful singer- songwriter, generously agreed to record “I’m a Camper at PIC” at his studio in Greenville, SC, and Corinne Alsop, Natalie Burr and Mark Pierce recorded “We’re Women at PIC” at Columbia University in New York. 

Thanks to Johnny’s generous donation of hundreds of hours of work, Tom Yoder’s assistance with air fare, and John Alsop’s gift of the cover art, all proceeds from the sale of the album will go directly to the Lovett Fund. Our hope is that CAMPFIRE: The Album will both raise significant funds for scholarships and inspire the next generation of writers and rewriters to keep the musical tradition at Pine Island strong and growing. You can order an album download or a CD at the PIC website: www.pineisland.org, where you’ll also find all the lyrics and detailed background about the production and songs. 

Mark Pierce’s smiling face – On the Cover of the Pine Needle.

Sloan Weekend & Volunteer Week

The second weekend of September brought us great weather and a whole lot of generous volunteers who made their way to Pine Island to enjoy time on the lake, Amanda Pulver’s great meals and Sandy Holland’s amazing cakes and cookies, and to put in a lot of hard work to be sure that Pine Island’s fleet of beautiful wooden boats is ready for the opening of the 2020 camp season. Mission Accomplished! Thanks to crew boss Abe Stimson, all was ready by Friday so that everyone who showed up had something useful to do. We sanded and painted the Pine Island Skiffs, sanded and varnished oars, paddles, masts and spars, and did some boat repair too. A full moon was on display Saturday night and there was plenty of wood for the Dining Hall fireplace. Some volunteers stayed on for most of the following week to complete boat projects and take on a few new projects, while the First Cabin Crew (Satchel Toole, Cole Gibson, Dawson Loewen, and Sam Bristol) worked long hours on the reshingling of the Dining Hall and the north side of the kitchen building. 

Alumnus John Alsop put in several days with Ben Swan refurbishing the east side of the Pumphouse and rebuilding both the log structure and the steps to the kitchen. John completed two bonus projects: a cedar bench incorporated into the log structure in front of the Pumphouse and a 12-foot long pine bench that replaces the much-loved but well-worn hanging bench. Doug Handy worked all week on various projects, one of which allowed us to transfer all the Sloan Weekend supplies from Magoon to the boathouse. Emily Swan and Barb Swisher arrived at the end of the week to do a thorough job closing the kitchen for the winter.

Our thanks to everyone who made it up and worked so hard, including Gene Brown, Rob Whitehouse, Ron Lieber, Ben Herman, Jack Reed, Doug Handy, Mark Powers, AJ Powers, Adam Joyce, Madron Joyce, Cecily Pulver, Rip Swan, Barb Swisher, Josh Treat, Miles Frank, Natalie Burr, Kevin Hubbard, John Alsop, Sawyer Carson and Tanner Carson, and staff members Sumner Ford, Emily Swan, and Ben Swan.

If you have not attended a Sloan Critchfield Memorial Boat Maintenance Weekend, come on up next September! It is well worth the trip and it is of great importance to Pine Island to renew the fleet every year. 

Meet our Volunteers

John Alsop, Legal Lecturer for Staff Week, Mower in Chief at York’s Crossing, and Builder Extraordinaire

We’re in full swing getting the island ready for opening day and we couldn’t do it without the help of many volunteers, including former camper and counselor John Alsop. John is headed out to the island next week to help Ben finish up some crucial building projects, and he’ll be back the following week during staff orientation. John, a recently retired assistant attorney general for the State of Maine, generously joins us on the island after lunch one day each year to give an extremely helpful and enlightening short lecture to the counselors about to embark on six weeks of caring for 90 boys.  He covers Maine law in general and as it relates to caregivers in particular.

In addition, John has volunteered for the past several years to execute a crucial step in preparing both the campsite and the game site for the War Game.  John readily confesses that he is something of a heavy-equipment junkie.  He owns and operates his own skidder and more recently has become owner of a commercial-grade riding mower, the perfect machine for mowing the War Game campsite, access roads, center of town, squadron paths, and the roads running out from each gate.  A couple of weeks before the game and a week or so before the site is used for the Maine Woodsman/Junior Maine Woodsman testing trip, John comes out after work and mows acres of grass that has been growing since play was off the summer before. The result is something approaching an English park, and each year the grass gets more lush and beautiful.  John and director Ben Swan have been discussing possible further improvements to the site.   

Finally, John was part of the “A Team” who came out the Whitehead Light Station last fall to build the new workshop. Ben was awed by the speed and craftsmanship of the crew, and now that John has retired, Ben can’t wait wait to snag him for more building projects.

John is seen here in the middle – part of a crew that constructed the North Perch in 1999.