James A. Martin
The Perkins Cove wooden footbridge, overlooking one of the loveliest little harbors in the Maine coast and spanning the narrow entrance to the port, is perhaps the only double-leaf draw-footbridge in the United States. It can provide, with both leaves raised, a clear waterway width of over 40 feet, while a vertical clearance of 16 feet at high water permits many of the smaller craft to enter and leave the harbor without raising the bridge at all. Until recently the longer section was the only one being used and had to be raised by hand. The second half was added because so many larger vessels were soon seeking entry into this snug, sheltered harbor.
The drawbridge has a two-part span, either side of which can be raised independently of the other; the smaller of the two “draws” is cranked up and down by hand. The bridge was originally built at a cost of $12,979 and was financed by the Ogunquit Village Corporation, which appropriated $1,000 from its Perkins Cove account; the remainder came from unappropriated surpluses.
The design of the bridge is simple: two main piers composed of creosoted wood piling, bolted and bound together with steel cable. Extra independent pilings are placed upstream of the main piers to fend off heavy cakes of ice, which come down the Josias River in winter. An icebreaker has been maintained by the village to keep the harbor clear year ‘round.
Operation of the drawbridge is the duty of the harbormaster or his deputy, but if neither is at hand, any available lobsterman or fisherman is glad to do the job. Actually, many a summer visitor has accommodated boats entering or leaving by operating the drawbridge with a button located on the bridge itself. Children, especially, race to the center of the bridge, their fingers at the ready on the control button, hoping a high-masted boat will necessitate the raising of the bridge.
Occasionally bridge operation is left to itself when the lobster and fishing boats arrive from a day’s work laden with catch. Maine boasts of having the best lobster in the world, and lobstermen harvest over 56 million pounds a year (2007 statistic). Many say that lobster preparation in Maine, and especially in Ogunquit, has been raised to a fine art.