My good friend Dan McCarthy stopped by over the weekend, driving up from the coast to visit me and my surgically repaired knee. Dan brought a growler of Snow Cone ale from Marshall Wharf Brewery in Belfast, always good for what ails your knee or any other body part. We chatted about our usual topics: books, beer, politics, family. But it was when we were talking boats that Dan dropped a bombshell.
Dan is the proud owner of a Maine-built Morgan Bay 22 center-console power boat. He keeps it at an island off of Mt. Desert where he and his wife Connie and their family have a home and spend their summers. Dan is a serious boat guy and we were talking motors, his summer’s boat adventures. “You know,” Dan said, “my boat used to be owned by Janvillem van de Wetering.” My jaw dropped.
Van de Wetering, for those who might not know but should, was the Dutch mystery writer best known for his Grijpstra and de Gier novels. He set most of his books in Amsterdam and in his hands it was an eerie and dreamy place, full of opportunistic criminals and philosophical cops. The novels are existential mysteries, short on action and long on mesmerizing conversation. I’ve read all of them (as has Dan) and they are as interesting as van de Wetering himself. He’d lived in a Buddhist monastery, and had been a former Amsterdam cop, an artist, among other things. I met him a couple of times on my book rounds and we had good conversations, with van de Wetering tapping his wealth of experience and me offering insights into rural Maine.
After living all over the world, he settled in Surry, Maine, at the head of Blue Hill Bay. He was a big deal in Europe but less known here and my guess is he liked the anonymity. He also liked the ocean and boats, and had the Morgan Bay 22 built by the boatyard down the road from his home. He named it Toshiwonikti. Dan thinks it’s from the Native American name of a stream in the Blue Hill area but he’s not sure. I tried to look it up but couldn’t find it.
Van de Wetering (who died in Surry in 2008), sold the boat to a fellow on Swans Island, moving up to a lobster yacht. Dan and Connie bought the boat, renamed it Medric, after a fictional island and character created by Ted Holmes, professor of literature at University of Maine, and a writer. And Connie’s dad. It’s a name that the writer van de Wetering, who cruised beautiful Blue Hill Bay, might appreciate.
So that’s today’s installment. If you haven’t read Van de Wetering’s books, I recommend them. If you haven’t taken a boat cruise on the Maine coast, I recommend that, too. And the Snow Cone ale from Marshall Wharf.
Maine, the way life should be. Indeed.