Candlepin Bowling in Ellsworth
Oh what to do with our last Saturday night in Maine? We’re not big into going out on Saturday nights (any night for that matter, we're lame!), but since this is our last one in the area, we decided to make plans with our friends, and fellow workampers at Acadia Bike & Coastal Kayaking, Jay and Karen. (Don’t worry, not many other people would find our idea of “going out” that exciting!) Having done the touristy stuff in Bar Harbor throughout the summer, we decided to head in the other direction towards Ellsworth, ME. In the town of Ellsworth was a bowling alley, but not your typical bowling alley. Yes, we were headed to test our skills at a Candlepin bowling alley. Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that is played primarily in the Canadian Maritime provinces and the New England states. Candlepin bowling was developed in 1880 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the main differences between candlepin bowling and the more common tenpin bowling style are as follows:
- Each player uses three balls per frame, rather than two;
- The balls are much smaller (11.43 cm or 4½ in diameter) with each ball weighing as much as only one candlepin and without finger holes;
- The pins are thinner (hence the name "candlepin"), and thus harder to knock down;
- The downed pins (known as "wood") are not cleared away between balls during a player's turn.
So our destination for the evening was the Eastward Family Fun Center, the center of the universe for candlepin bowling in the Ellsworth area. When we entered the building it was no different than any other bowling alley across the country. Inside the front door was a counter to pay and acquire a pair of everybody’s favorite shoes for the evening, yes, bowling shoes! The day’s special was all you could bowl for $12. Sounded like a pretty good deal. And since it was Saturday night, we were all excited to see it was also Glow Bowling night! The young lady at the counter asked us if we wanted “bumpers” for our lane. We all chuckled at first and gave her a look like we were all seasoned bowlers. About that time a man leaving the lanes sensed our laughter at the bumper question and shared with us, “I wish I had asked for the bumpers”. Ignoring his advice we made the decision, bumper-less it would be! We were instructed that we would be on Lane 3 for the night. Approximately half of the lanes appeared to be in use when we arrived. Our names were already loaded into the system by the girl at the front desk so once we shoed up, we were free to bowl . . . candlepin style!
The first unusual thing to us rookies was the size of the ball. At 4.5 inches in diameter, it was only slightly larger than a softball. With that size it was not necessary to have holes in the ball like a typical bowling ball, it could be held in the palm of your hand. The candlepins themselves are 15 3⁄4 inches tall, have a cylindrical shape which tapers equally towards each end (and therefore having no distinct "top" or "bottom" end, unlike a tenpin), giving them an overall appearance somewhat like that of a candle, and have a maximum weight of 2 lb 8 oz apiece. What do all of these numbers add up to? Since the ball and the pins are of similar weight, you don’t get near as much pin action as tenpin bowling. It is almost impossible to roll a strike with one ball. With the fallen pins not being cleared after each ball, the fallen pins have the possibility of helping or hurting your remaining balls.
After two games we all decided we had had our fill. It proved to be a fairly entertaining game to play and we all decided it was something we would try again if we came across another candlepin bowling alley. Yes, we kept score, but keeping score wasn’t really the point here. Our scores ranged from 60 to 100, which really isn’t that bad. At least that’s what we thought! In hindsight, we may have tried the bumpers for one of the games to slightly improve our scores (and our morale!). The company was great and overall a pretty good way to spend our last Saturday night in Maine.