You could say the real winners of Beverly Homecoming's 15th annual Lobster Boat Races yesterday were the lobsters.
About nine lobster boats spent much of the afternoon off Woodbury Point spewing smoke and kicking up a salty spray instead of hauling traps full of the tasty, bottom-feeding crustaceans.
In one of those races, Dave Deinstadt of Beverly captained his blue-hulled, 38-foot lobster boat, the Jennifer Anne, to victory over the Riley Too, which was skippered by commercial lobsterman Rich Malewicki of Beverly.
The crew on the Beverly harbormaster's boat waved the checkered flag as Deinstadt's boat raced by the small buoy that marked the finish as water splashed his family and friends onboard.
"The adrenaline's flowing," said Deinstadt, after the boat with a 300-horsepower engine literally roared to victory. "It's nice to win."
Crewing for the race for the first time was Deinstadt's daughter and the boat's namesake, Jennifer Anne Vigeant. Joining her was husband and local tattoo artist Todd Vigeant, their sons Tyler, 10 and Markis, 6, their friend David Soucy, 7, of Danvers, and Deinstadt's friends Karen L'Italien and Patricia Allen, both of Beverly.
Deinstadt, who is retired from the Essex County Sheriff's Department, had the wooden-hulled boat built in 1998. He used to catch lobsters to pay for the boat's upkeep, but he hasn't done that in a couple of years. It's become too expensive, he said, given the low price lobsters are fetching. Boat owners also have to pay for bait, fuel, maintenance and "back men" to help them haul the traps.
"You have to fish 600 to 800 traps to make a living at it," Deinstadt said.
During a ride-along with Deinstadt during the race, one could see how the boat owners formed a tight, on-the-water community as their vessels bobbed near one another before the start. Before the race, John Morrison and Wanda Crosby of Beverly motored by in their recreational boat to show off four bluefish they had just caught.
The lobster boat races have been part of Beverly Homecoming since the mid-1990s, and they were the idea of Harbormaster Dan McPherson.
During the race, boats are categorized by length, hull type and engine size and then they race together. There are also head-to-head competitions and free-for-all races in which all boats churn up the ocean, regardless of type. Prizes include lobster pots or even a free hauling, Deinstadt said.
The lobster boat captains readily admit lobster boats are not cigarette boats. Deinstadt's boat's top speed is 16 knots, and he normally cruises at 10. None of the captains wanted to brag about their chances.
"This boat here is faster than I am, I know that," Deinstadt said, motioning to one of his competitors. One of the boats, Farrah & Ryan, blew away its competitors even after some boats were given a head start. Another fast boat was the Sea Anchor, captained by Therese Sauvageau, which had an easy victory in the second heat.
"This isn't a fast boat," said Rich Malewicki of the Riley Too. "I just come out to participate."
Malewicki's brother, Mike, the captain of the Janie M. and a commercial lobsterman, also downplayed his chances.
"My boat is a little bit sick," he said. He also said it has been tough to make a living lobstering.
"The last five years have been tough," Mike Malewicki said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by e-mail at email@example.com