Featured, The Women of Maine


October 2014 | view this story as a .pdf

She catches superyachts: Not many slip past Jill Blackwood without being snapped.

By Jill Blackwood

Gotcha!-OCT14Meet Jill Blackwood of South Portland. The retired former principal of the Portland’s Riverton Elementary School photographs and catalogs visiting watercraft passing her house on their way north into Portland. She’s a hobby photographer with a hawk eye and a healthy streak of curiosity–think Jimmy Stewart, keeping an eye on things with his camera in Rear Window… 

I live in the Loveitts Field neighborhood. It’s on the ship channel, about halfway between Spring Point Light and Portland Head Light. I take pictures from our patio. You can see the entrance to Whitehead Passage between Peaks and Cushing islands.

I use my husband’s Canon EOS 5D MarkII with a Canon L lens, 100-400mm zoom. I don’t use a tripod, but I have to lean against the door jamb to steady my arm. We leave the camera on the dining room table at the ready. Not just for yachts, but for anything interesting that passes by here–the Google barge, the tankers, a dog on a stand-up paddle board, a baby on a lobster boat, the cruise ships…and the ever-changing sky over the bay. I grew up in the middle of New Jersey, and I am still awestruck every day by Maine’s beauty.

Once I retired and was around the house more often to see the ships that pass, I asked myself, Who are all these people, who can afford these enormous yachts? And then I got hooked on looking the yachts up on the web. It takes about 30 seconds to find all the info you’d ever want on the ship itself (deck plans, stats, tours of the interior, ports of call), but it’s a cyber-sleuthing game to find the owner.

I photographed the 129-foot Patti Lou flying a Cayman Islands flag passing Cushing Island. Checking online, I learned the boat spent two months in Baltimore before coming to New England.

Then an article in the Baltimore Sun surfaced on my screen. It was a hoot–they described trying to find the name of the owner of Patti Lou and made the discovery that the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent makes a revenue source out of revealing yacht owners’ names for the price of $100, which the Sun paid!

The owner is listed as Michael A. Guerrieri, 71, trustee of a revocable trust and husband of Patricia “Patti Lou” Guerrieri. And who is he? He’s a former chicken magnate from the Eastern Shore. For decades, the Guerrieris owned Showell Farms, at one time the country’s tenth-largest poultry operation, processing nearly three million chickens a week. Its roasters sold under the Cookin’ Good brand name. In 1995, Perdue Farms bought out its smaller rival. The price was never disclosed, but that sale likely helped turn a chicken farmer into a mega-yachtsman.

There are some huge yachts out there on Casco Bay that I see on the live online map of ship traffic. I missed the biggest one this summer, the Archimedes, which was at DiMillo’s, because it entered and left the harbor by a northern route. I have photos from other years. The largest thus far has been David Geffen’s 453-foot Rising Sun.

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