This is the last issue of the Coastal Journal that will be published in Bath.

Next week the paper will begin publication from its new address – 3 Business Parkway in Brunswick – which it will share with the Times Record.

Since the Coastal Journal and the Times Record are now owned by the same company, RFB Enterprises, it makes sense for these papers to collaborate and eliminate redundancies as much as possible. Sharing resources – and rent – is just the latest in a 52-year history of these newspapers’ service to the Midcoast community.

And anyway, what was always a skeleton crew at the Coastal Journal charted new courses for themselves in the past few months.

The reporter moved on after five years in March for a job closer to his home in Portland. The long-time Brunswick sales rep retired the first of May after 24 years. Annie Merry (14 years) and Irene Mower (40-plus years) are retiring June 29.

The Lincoln County rep set off on a late-in-life adventure in April. We heard she bought an RV.

The sales assistant … well, that’s been a “revolving desk” for years.

And the lease is up at BathPort, our 97 Commercial Street address, at the end of the month.

The Coastal Journal crew in 2016, just before the newspaper’s 50th anniversary. Daryl Madore photo

Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan.

It’s not Little Caesar’s Pizza, so don’t say it like that. It’s French and should be said like “pahn-pahn.” It means something is not going right on your ship.

Repeated three times at the beginning of a distress call when you are on the water, “Pan-Pan” means your boat is in jeopardy. You might not be going under – that’s the mayday call (also from the French “m’aider,” or “come help me”). But you might.

As captain of the CJ, I had to make a Pan-Pan-like call in April.

For storytelling purposes, I’m oversimplifying a complicated situation and a confluence of contributing factors. Those narratives are not mine to share.

I can only tell you what happened on this ship from my vantage point in the wheelhouse.

You can’t sail a ship – or make a paper – without a crew in key roles.

Don’t get me wrong. We have plenty of deckhands.

In addition to our regular contributors—Rick Bisson, Zac McDorr, LC Van Savage, Karen Schneider, Lorry Fleming, Tamara Lilly, Steve Raymond, Jill Wallace, Susan Olcott, Carolyn Maunz, Bob Kalish and Susan Sorg—we have the stalwart offshore crews in South Portland (Daryl Madore, Marla Pastrana, and Matt Sonia) and the creative team in Central Maine.

After all, the Coastal Journal is part of a great navy of newspapers.

But we took on some new crew during our time of distress, as well.

Jason Pafundi, who lives in Topsham, but worked the Hallowell beat for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, was pressed into service to temporarily cover the Coastal Journal’s reporting duties.

Jason showed up loaded with a sea chest of news tools he immediately employed for the Coastal Journal’s best interests. Coming from a great ship-rigged daily schooner like the KJ, I worried he’d feel working on the weekly tug line was beneath him.

But Jason quickly became my first mate, excited by all that’s happening in the Midcoast. His work plan was full of new ideas to develop, angles to explore, and questions he wanted to answer every week.

A true reporter.

Jon Wiley came back to take over Brunswick sales when that long-time rep retired.

He sailed with us before (selling in Lincoln County from 2012 to 2015) and the value of bringing someone on board who knows the ropes can’t be over-estimated.

Every now and then Jon and I would run into each other at the Kennebec Tavern, and on one such occasion, I said, “Hey, I think we might have an opening.”

“You tell me when, and I’ll be there,” Jon said.

Coastal Journal sales team in 2015. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

And Cindy Morgan, who retired last year after 35 years as business manager at Hyde School where she worked with my mother for 20 of them before my mother died, came on board as the part-time sales assistant.

I’ve known Cindy since I was a child – in fact, she was one of my first bosses when I worked at Hyde as technology director in my 20s. She’s one of the most competent, responsible, honest—and tough (in a good way)—people I’ve ever known.

When she approached me to say she was interested in being the sales assistant if the position could be part-time, I knew she’d put an end to the CJ’s “revolving desk” problem. In half the time.

There’s a special place in the ship’s log written in my heart for these people who jumped into the Coastal Journal just before the rough seas. They never wavered in their support, commitment, and desire to do their best work.

The fierce Coastal Journal team at the 2016 So You Think You Know Bath, sponsored by Main Street Bath. File photo

Even when we were on the rocks. Even when we took on water. Even when we were afraid that waves beyond our control would toss all of us into an uncertain sea.

Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan.

It’s a tough call to make. But a captain can’t wait for a mayday situation to evolve. Mayday means you’re in serious trouble and all could be lost.

I owed it to the Coastal Journal, it’s staff, readers, and advertisers not to wait that long.

Sad? Yes.

I am so sad that the Coastal Journal will no longer be published in Bath as it has for the last 52-and-a-half years.

But I would feel even sadder if it were not to be published anymore at all.

We needed help. We got it.

So long Annie

Annie Merry is looking forward to retiring with her husband of 22 years, Mark Merry. Annie Merry photo

I will always remember the day after the Great Wind in October last year. The office had no electricity and I had stayed up all night rebuilding that week’s issue of the Coastal Journal file by file from home in my miraculous bubble of undisturbed power.

I looked out my front door around 2. The sun was out, and you’d never know a small natural disaster struck the Midcoast within the last 12 hours. I stood in my doorway in baggy black pajama bottoms and a flannel shirt, blinking in the bright light.

Shielding my eyes, I saw Annie Merry with her laptop walking down one end of my street. From the other end, came Irene Mower.

We sat around my dining room table finishing the paper together. I don’t recall what there was left to do, but it meant so much to me to have them there.

Annie started at the Coastal Journal in August 2005. The sales manager at the time was a friend, and she said he’d been bugging her for over a year to join the team.

“I figured why not give it a shot,” she said. Her youngest daughters – twins Georgia and Maura – were in middle school, so the timing was right for this mom of three and step-mom of two to transition from being home to a full-time job.

Plus, she said she always loved the Coastal Journal.

“It was my bible. I moved up here from Massachusetts during my divorce in ’93 – the twins were 3 and David (her son) was 5. I got the Coastal Journal at Wilson’s (Drugstore) every Thursday. I had to get it before noon because if I waited they’d be gone.

“That’s how I knew what was going on and what there was to do with my kids. I don’t know what I would have done without it. I just didn’t know enough people to know what was happening, even though my family summered here for generations.”

Once she decided to take the job as the Greater Bath sales rep, she said, “I never looked back.”

Coastal Journal champions of Main Street Bath’s Front Street Feud in March 2018. File photo

Second only to knowing the ropes is knowing the local waters.

“I was very active in the community already. I volunteered for everything,” Annie said. “I knew everybody.”

Those relationships helped her build a strong sales base in Bath, sustaining and growing it for almost 14 years.

Annie’s husband of 22 years, Mark Merry, retired last year from a 36-year-teaching career at Morse. The couple bought an Airstream and named her Eunice, and adopted a Boston Terrier they call Stella.

In October, they’ll set off on a 10-month cross country trip.

Once again, Annie is not looking back.

“It’s time,” she said. “I’d say I’ll miss my customers, but I still live here, and I’ll still see them. They’re my neighbors and friends.”

I’m happy to say I’m one of them, too.

Good night Irene

Irene Mower puts some finishing touches on the Coastal Journal float for the 2016 Bath Heritage Days parade. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

This is the really hard part.

My navigator, my look-out girl, who worked alongside me whether it was well into the night or Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Always beside me when I needed her.

My beacon, waving sales flyers at me, making sure we made the waypoints of special sections.

My depth finder, ensuring every single lake paddle, book talk, flute concert, blood drive, bean supper, high school musical, and food pantry fundraiser made it into the calendar.

Irene Mower keeps odd hours, working afternoons and weekends (but rarely on Wednesday and Thursday). But when you’ve worked at a place for over 40 years, am I going to tell her how to do her job? Or when.

I was just grateful I didn’t have to do it.

I’m not a micromanager, but if I don’t see Irene by about 2:02 p.m. on the days she works, a mild anxiety rises in my belly.

When she inevitably comes in, explaining she had pigeons to shoo, or stray cats to feed, and she’s sorry she’s late, the wash of relief I feel is proportionate to the tick-tock panic that mounts with each movement of the clock’s little hand.

Everything is OK. Irene is here.

Showing off the holiday pullouts the Coastal Journal produced in 2017. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

I used to fall asleep when I was a little girl at parties my father’s family had listening to the adults play guitars as they drank well into the night.

They went through all of what we now call “American roots” tunes until the lyrics began to slur and laughter replaced whole verses.

I always listened for my favorite, usually sung by my Uncle Lendall, because that was usually the end of the party. My mother would be coming to rouse me from a tangle of sticky-faced, rough-kneed cousins, and we’d get in the car and drive home.

“Irene good niiiight … Irene good night … Good night Irene …”

Good night Irene.

I’ve said those words at the end of my workday for the last (almost) five years, waiting for her to call her response before turning off the lights and locking the door.

It hurts so much to say it for the last time.

Time and tide. They wait for no one, so they say. But if I could stop them – for a little bit longer – I would do it for many more days, ebbing and flowing with Irene Mower beside me at the helm, as able a seawoman as ever there was, keeping the CJ on course.

But there’s a port waiting for the Coastal Journal. Calm seas always follow the stormiest ones. And these sails will fill with new directions.

And Irene will shine for me always, a lighthouse in my heart.

“Good night Irene, good night Irene.”

“I’ll see you in my dreams.”

Bath Heritage Days Parade 2016. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal


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