Caring for a schooner takes way more than ever meets the eye. Schooners are built from wood (oak primarily in the case of Mary Day) and steel (or iron). Mary Day has an 80′ long cast iron ballast keel bolted to the bottom of the wood keel with very large galvanized bolts. In the salt water environment these steel and iron bits get “eaten” up by what amounts to minute electrical currents created in a number of different ways. Preventing that “galvanic action” requires sacrificing “softer” kinds of metal to protect the keel and the keel fastenings. Zinc is a tried and true kind of metal that unselfishly sacrifices itself. Every year we bolt zincs onto the ballast keel and every year we have to renew them as they slowly get eaten away. Zincs aren’t cheap but then again neither are keel bolts.
I spent yesterday creating a mold and melting down leftover zincs to pour some new ones by recycling leftover bits of zinc. This project was inspired by Captain Doug Lee who started doing this years ago with his forge at the North End Shipyard. I created the mold using 3″ channel stock. The ring burner worked quite well but I have improved on that by making a “smelter” using an old propane tank lined with concrete. You can see I use a cast iron teak kettle that makes pouring the molten zinc quite easy and accurate. In the second image you can see the mold and the finished product. The straps come from used zincs. The holes drilled in the straps fit bolt holes tapped into the cast iron ballast keel on the schooner. In the third image you can see the shiny molten zinc along with two old zincs that were formally bolted to the keel. Watch this video showing a little bit of the process.
We must have 50+ of those used zincs that I have been holding onto for years knowing such an occasion would arrive. New zincs retail for $29/piece. We use 7 each season. That is $210….well more than the $14 cost of the propane used to melt the old zincs. These are the kinds of projects that keep me awake between midnight and 4 AM.
Have a great day. And as always….be well. Do good!
Good morning everyone! Yesterday morning we took a walk in the woods to find the perfect tree to decorate the mast head of the schooner. We have a number of balsam firs in our woods most of which fit best in a Charlie Brown cartoon. After careful consideration we found one that, after careful trimming, fit the bill. We brought it down to the the harbor on a trailer and proceeded to string it with 250′ of white lights. Oh, don’t forget the bells at the tippity top. I have this image in my mind of someone standing on the town landing and hearing tinkling bells coming from the sky above. Santa must be close by!
“Hey, Jen, I am no rocket surgeon but something isn’t quite right here.”
Rigging a 20′ tall tree at the masthead is not as simple as it might first appear. If I were a fly on a post watching from the town landing I would question the wisdom of sending a tree aloft upside down. But it really is the easiest way to get it off the dock and up aloft with do too much damage. Once the gantline attached to the “throat” of tree is two blocked a second line is used to right the tree. We use three stout seizings to lash the tree in place against the gale force winds that will undoubtedly whistle down through the Camden Hills at some time during the next month.
As the light continues to fade for the next month we hope that everyone in Camden who sees the tree at the masthead all lit up will pause for just a moment and feel a little bit of joy for the season. We do!! Have yourself a great day. Be well. Do good.
Good morning everyone. What a difference a few days make. From sunny, palm trees, 70s, pink flamingoes and white sand beaches we are now sailing in brisk no’west winds. Autumn is finally here and the first few maples are showing the true colors of autumn. We burned 15 gallons of dinosaur bones during the last cruise. I am guessing we will scarcely burn just a few gallons during this cruise. I like it when the yawl boat comes up and we don’t have to put it down for days at a time.
A few weeks ago I spied a big ship coming in off the horizon bound for the cargo terminal at Searsport in Penobscot Bay. In broken English the master of the ship requested the pilot meet him at 0915 at the appointed pilot boarding area just east of Matinicus Island. The pilot responded by confirming the arrival time and requesting a boarding ladder height 1.5 meters above the water, boarding speed 8 knots and a heaving line for the pilots bag. The weather was quite calm, clear and sunny, a day I am sure the pilots must be thankful for. Considering that pilots are available 24/7, 365 days a year you can just imagine the conditions they potentially face at each boarding. Fog, wind, snow, sea smoke so thick you can’t see the ship beneath you.
The Maine Pilotage Commission reported that in 2015 over 13.5 millions tons of product was carried. That cargo includes petroleum products, wood products, sand, salt and gravel and other miscellaneous items like wind turbine blades up to 150’ long. And then there are the thousands of folks who arrive in Maine by cruise ship. That makes Maine the second busiest waters in New England behind Massachusetts. Amazingly the pilots conduct themselves with a steady demeanor at all times, under all conditions including yachting traffic that departs from harbors like Camden and Rockland. By the conversations I hear on the VHF some of these yachts have absolutely no clue about the handling characteristics of large ships. Let’s just say these ships can’t stop on a dime or run up the bay in slalom course fashion. Pilots have to drive defensively at all times. For those of you that have been with me getting out of Camden you know things can get a bit dicey and how excited I can get. But that is for another blog. Thanks to the Penobscot Bay and River Pilots who keep our gas tanks full and our homes warm all winter long.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.
Good morning everyone. Finally we have received a little bit of meaningful rainfall here in Maine. This has been one of the driest summers I can remember so Monday’s rain felt quite welcome. I call Monday an “appreciation day.” After so many months without rain we could all appreciate a little moisture falling from the heavens.
Since I seem to be on the “perspective” kick in recent blogs I thought I would throw one more in for good measure. (Probably not the last.) Last week we had the chance to visit and hike one of my most “favoritest” islands out on the edge of the bay. I don’t believe anyone has ever come back from that island the same as they arrived. It is truly one of the highlights of sailing in Maine, viewing the bay from the top of an island that would better fit into the Shetlands than Penobscot Bay. To hold one of its soft storm tossed stones in your hand is to understand how time and tide work their magic. How can a rock be described as soft? I guess it takes about 400 million years to earn that distinction. Maybe people react the same way to the time and tides of our short life span? Boots please. It is getting deep around here.
Anyhoo…. I certainly am in awe of any experience that helps me see myself a little more humbly and my world as a little more beautiful. That my friends is what we hope happens for guests on every cruise. Windjamming is a chance to gain a little perspective on the world from which we arrive. Maybe we go home a little softer on the outside, maybe a little more determined on the inside or maybe just a little bit more relaxed and rejuvenated from living to the rhythm of wind and tide.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.
(Warning: Do not bother clicking the above image unless, and only unless, you think the Blues Brothers is one of the finest cinematic events of all time. I apologize if you are subjected to any advertisements posted by YouTube.)
Pharologists Ted and Jo Panyatoff are back aboard so you can be certain we are seeing lighthouses this week. Yesterday we saw Curtis I Light, Indian I Light and the Rockland Breakwater Light before crossing the bay to the Fox Island Thorofare to see Browns Head Light and the “Spark Plug” at Goose Rocks. Most of this was in the fog so those lighthouses proved especially reassuring. We never did see the Owls Head Light. Conspicuously absent from several of those lights were their fog horns which the Coast Guard has taken one step further into obsolescence. The Coast Guard’s new MRASS system has been put into effect requiring the mariner to key the microphone on their VHF radio 5 times on channel 83A to start the horn sounding. I have yet to figure out why this was necessary but someone in the Coast Guard brain trust down in D.C. thought it was a good idea. I have always said that GPS chart plotters and VHF radios are one twenty five cent fuse away from quitting at any moment. Then what? We keep a 50 lb. sack of spuds on the foredeck just for such an occasion. A deckhand with a strong arm and a well calibrated Aroostook Kennebec can sound the way ahead at least 100′. Plenty of time to hear whether the potato makes a splash or a thud. “Thud….ready about?” You get my point (if there is one). Sometimes the old tried and true is hard to beat. And that is why lighthouses are so important to keep alive. And besides that the preservation of lighthouses brings all kinds of people together and that kind of light is the finest kind.
I hope you have a great day. Be well. Do good.
Ground spider nests on a Maine island
Good morning everyone. I think we will finally get some rain this afternoon and over the weekend that we need badly. I apologize to those who are here for a weekend getaway but the stream that our dogs like to wade in is all dried up making it very tough for them to cool off.
A ground spider nest seen up close.
Yesterday morning we awoke to a very thick fog. We could barely see any of the boats around us making it difficult to find shore. I knew the fog would burn off as the sunny blue skies overhead warmed the air temperature above the dew point. I have also learned to look for the signs that nature gives us. One of those signs are the ground spider nests and yesterday they were out in full force. People ask me questions all the time about this, that and the next thing. I can usually pull out (make up) an answer that sounds good out of somewhere. But why ground spider webs… I really don’t know. Does any one out there have any good wild a#@ guesses?? All I really know is that nature’s signs seldom fail me and that the Nile river pilots are often a great source of weather wisdom. “Fog at seven, gone by eleven,” they used to say. Well yesterday the fog didn’t actually clear until 1116. Fog on the Nile must behave a little differently.
I hope you all have a great day. Be well. Do good.
Good morning everyone! Summer is half way there here along the Maine coast. If you haven’t been “down east” for a visit you really owe it to yourself to get here. This has been quite an unusual summer. “Drier ‘an a boot” as some would say. The weather has just been spectacular. I feel for the folks in the cities where the temperatures and high humidities are just sweltering. That heat has reached the Maine coast as well but only to warm the waters enough for very comfortable swimming. Funny how every harbor we go to is the “harbor of warm waters.” We have had lots of swim calls.
Another unusual occurrence here along the coast has been the prevalence of wildlife. Nature seems to be putting on quite the show for us this summer. Up in the bay we have seen numerous razor billed auks, something we don’t normally see. Auks being pelagic birds are usually found outside the bays in the open ocean. My guess is that there must be something to feed on. “Tinker” mackerel are in abundance but they would seem to be a little big for an auk to choke down. I don’t really know what they are feeding on but the herring gulls are right there with the auks instead of hanging out at the local landfills. We fondly call these gulls “dump ducks.” Porpoise seem to be all around as well. I wonder if they feed on the same thing the auks are eating. I have been doing a lot of my photography with my iPhone but the wildlife have me reaching for my trusty old camera once again. My advice: grab your camera and come on “down east” for the greatest show on earth. You won’t be sorry.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.
I was pawing through some images from last summer and found this one of Eagle I. Lighthouse. Being the keeper of a lighthouse was no easy feat during the 1800s. The pay was minimal, food was not included and the seclusion of some lights meant homeschooling, if a keeper’s family could be together, was a necessity. Many keepers fished, kept gardens, really lucky ones might have a milk cow and basically lived off the land and sea with only a few chances to get provisions like flour and lard. That a few keepers, like Howard Ball at the Eagle I lighthouse, managed all of this and also acted as Audubon wardens is admirable to say the least.
First lit in 1838 with oil lamps and reflectors this light happens to be atop a large cliff (80’+/-) and lies at a tight little passage where Isle Au Haut Bay meets East Penobscot Bay. The tidal current really hums between Eagle and the largely inaccessible Hardhead I. It wasn’t until 1858 that a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern atop the rubble stone tower. Today the light flashes white every 4 seconds with a luminous range of 9 miles.
Keeper Howard Ball, an Audubon warden, who served the light from 1898 to 1913 is quoted twice in the 1909 ornithological journal The Auk:
Keeper Ball’s brief notes are interesting to see given what was already on his very full plate. I can only guess that he must have made these observations while tending lobster traps since both Channel Rock and Sloop I Ledge are on the opposite side of Eagle I than the lighthouse. I have noticed abundant terns around neighboring Grass Ledge over the past several summers which makes me wonder if the terns hop from one nesting place to another to avoid overuse of particular nesting sites.
Eagle I. with its year round community would have been a more socially forgiving place to tend a light. The one room school house still stands on Eagle I. The east facing meadow around the light would have provided some garden space although the larger south facing meadows around the neighboring Quinn house would have been more suitable. As I have been working these past few weeks getting in firewood I am amazed by the challenge it must have been for Keeper Ball to keep his family warm and fed through the long winter months in addition to the many other responsibilities he would have had to manage. I have no complaints in comparison.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.
The herring carrier Jacob Pike as seen passing Mary Day, a Maine windjammer.
Good morning everyone from the global headquarters of the schooner Mary Day. It is a blustery rainy morning outside. The power is out, again, so I write this thanks to a small generator humming away in the woodshed. Times like these make me think of warm summer days on the bay. This image is of the Jacob Pike, now a lobster smack working the Maine coast under the ownership of J&J Lobster out of Rockland. These folks have been putting her to work buying lobster in distant harbors and bringing them into Rockland at the end of the day. I believe I have seen her sitting in the Fox Island Thorofare just off North Haven village buying lobster. You can see the derrick with its boom for getting 100 pound crates of lobster aboard. She has a pile of lobster crates on deck at the ready to receive the days catch just forward of the main hatch.
Built in 1949 by Newbert and Wallace in Thomaston she carried herring to the sardine factories in the day. Later on she carried herring for use as lobster bait. Just 80′ on deck she can carry up to 90 tons of cargo and still slip along along at 12 knots which suggests a streamlined hull form and a strong diesel power plant. Folks often wonder why the “pinked” stern. I have been told that a double ended hull allowed such a vessel to back right up to a fish weir’s gate for ease of loading herring. It also allows the stern to split a following sea which may be more to point since having the stern get lifted up and tossed about by the swells certainly wouldn’t help her handling. You can see that she hardly leaves a wake as she steams along.
Anyway, she is a handsome vessel, no matter how you slice it. If I ever grow up I could imagine spending my days cruising the coast in a boat like the Jacob Pike, although that is not what she was meant to do. She is a classy working vessel and ought to stay that way as long as she makes her owners a living. I just love seeing her out there.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.