Lying on her back, out of breath and looking exhausted, 10-year-old Dinah Routhier clutched a long rope with two hands.
On the other end of the rope was bulky wooden lobster trap, almost as big as her, which she had been working for the past few minutes to pull out of a barrel of water.
“That’s hard,” she said, letting the rope go and the trap fall back with a splash. “Really hard.”
After a few minutes of watching a 1950s film clip about the day in the life of a Maine lobsterman, Dinah had caught her breath and was outside, exploring the rest of the Maine Maritime Museum.
The museum, with a dozen or so structures scattered across 20 acres on the site of a historic Kennebec River shipyard, let Dinah use both her mind and her body on a recent visit.
Dinah, the daughter of this reporter, got to see exhibits in the main building about wooden ships and Maine as a center of seafaring trade. She also got to visit the various buildings where tradesmen worked on them, learning a little about blacksmithing, cutting timber and various other jobs. She learned that masts had funny names, saw a boat-building workshop still in use and posed next to a whimsical full-sized carving of a man that once decorated the front of a ship.
She also got to run around outside, pull lobster traps, climb on a pirate ship playscape and see some wildlife along the river.
Here then is what Dinah thought were the highlights of her visit, in her own words:
What were some of your favorite things about the Maine Maritime Museum?
I liked all the boats and the boathouses where you could see the boats and stuff about lobstering and fishing and stuff. In the lobster exhibit, there was a bucket and a rope and a pulley, and you could pull the rope and pull a wooden lobster trap out of the water. And it was really hard because the trap was really heavy.
Besides lobster boats, what kind of boats and ships did you see?
There was a skeleton of the Wyoming which was some important boat or other. (Built in Bath in 1909, it was the largest wooden sailing ship ever built in the U.S. The “skeleton” is a sculptural representation of the ship, featuring six, 120-foot-tall masts.) There was just the front and the back and the masts. The masts had names, there were boring names like mainmast and driver mast, but there were funny names like the mizzen mast and the jiggermast and the spanker mast.
Was there room to run around, things to do for exercise?
There were some games on the fields between all the houses and stuff. There was a game where there was a board of wood (painted with images of ocean waves) sticking out of the ground, and then there were lobster traps with plastic lobsters in them that were connected by long ropes to buoys, and you could pull the buoy to see if you could (drag) your lobster trap to the board.
What did you learn about ships or shipbuilding?
There was a lot of shipbuilding in Maine, and it was important.
Were there parts of the museum where you could see what life back in the days of the wooden ships was like?
There was a room in the museum that was full of wooden bunks and wooden chests. But there was no ladders for the top bunks, so I just stood on a chest and climbed up to the top bunk. It was fun, but the bunks weren’t exactly comfortable.
What were some of the things you saw in the gift shop?
There were kaleidoscopes that sort of looked like stained-glass windows, but the outsides were decorated with maps. And there was candy. There were chocolates shaped like lobsters and stuff, and I got a chocolate bar that was covered in candied ginger. And that was yummy.
What was the scenery like there, along the Kennebec River?
The river was very beautiful. Also, we saw a little mink (or at least we think so), and it was really cute. Maine is (one place) where minks live but I’ve never seen a mink before, except in zoos and stuff.
WHERE: 243 Washington St., Bath
WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; Percy & Small Shipyard closes at 4 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $16 for adults, $14.50 for seniors, $10 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children under 6.
MORE INFO: mainemaritimemuseum.org
WHAT ELSE: Saturday is Community Day at the museum, with free admission to all exhibits for anyone arriving between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Special events include the annual raising of the flags on the Wyoming sculpture, with cannon fire, as well as a children’s lobsterman’s relay race, paper jellyfish crafts and face painting.