Sailing In Your Blood


Good morning everyone! You‚Äôll never guess…0 degrees. We are gonna have braggin‚Äô rights here pretty quckly if this keeps us and according to the weather folks we are in for a stretch of cold Arctic air. Our fire department was called out late last night for a minor fender bender (car vs tree on an icy road) and the cold temperature just doesn‚Äôt seem to matter when you have some reason to be out. Now heat on the other hand…I can‚Äôt do heat. I wilt in the humidity. How you folks from warm climates do it, I will never know. So I guess it just comes down to what you are used.

Which makes me think, not that I do that alot but….. I received a phone call from a local teacher yesterday afternoon asking if I might be willing to talk to her alternative high school class about what I do for a living. Just talk about how you got in to the business and how you learned about boats and sailing, she says. Well I grew up around boats as a wee little urchin. I spent the first years of my life in Marblehead, MA. My Dad always had boats. We had the forced family sailing vacations to Cape Cod and the islands. I used to take a small daysailer out solo at the age of 10 or 12. Perhaps as formative as any part of my experience growing up was my first lobster skiff. I set 10 traps out in the bay and hauled them religously pulling up with them not only crazy stuff from the bottom of the ocean but a host of experiences in all kinds of weather. As I ate my catch the sea was working its way into my bones. And it is not to say I can‚Äôt be comfortable in the woods I love to work in when I get a chance. I get that my grandfather who was a farmer and woodsman and who I had the pleasure of working alongside. But I have a theory that the place you grow up in becomes a part of your soul. I would feel as out of place on a midwestern farm or in downtown Manhattan as the proverbial fish out of water.

So I was looking at the accompanying picture of Sawyer in a pea pod. Last summer he pushed the pea pod off the beach and off he went rowing fisherman style, facing forwards. I had rowed with him 2 or 3 times, hands together on the oars, but what he did last summer was a quantum leap from anything I had ever done with him. I guess he picked it up through osmosis or something. I was a proud Papa, of course, but I was also in awe of this little man who had that spirit of adventure in his blood and a feel for what made sense in a boat.

I hope your day is filled with whatever it is that is “in your blood”. Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Sailing Vacation Memoirs




Good morning everybody. 0 degrees in the door yard, again. -10 with the wind chill but who’s counting. Am I sounding like a broken record yet. Remember, the cold is my friend. As I tell non-believers from other parts of our beautiful country, stick a banana out on the sidewalk on a hot summer day and it just won’t last long. Stick a banana out in our door yard this week and the skin may turn brown but it won’t go bad inside. Of course it will be hard as a rock too. So think of us up here, turning brown perhaps, but we are still good on the inside.

On the last days of this cruising memoir we find ourselves anchored off Castine, July 15, 2005:

Friday morning the wind came NW behind the front while we are walking ashore in the nearby town of Castine. This historic community dating back to before the Revolution is also the home to a great stand of Elm trees that never caught the wrath of Dutch Elm disease. We drifted off the anchor and up the bay in a dying northerly breeze. After a patient few hours of ghosting, the onshore breeze gave a wonderful afternoon sail. We sailed through dinner (roast pork with rosemary, sage and garlic, mashed potatoes, fresh peas, Parker House rolls, and stuffing) anchoring up in time for hand cranked ice cream (vanilla and mint chocolate chip). A beautiful sunset was all that consoled us as we thought about our Saturday morning arrival back at the dock. And as we parted company on Saturday the sentiment was shared among all our guests that the stresses of the world had been left far behind for this short time together, a feeling we all knew we would cherish for some time to come.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good. Or as my grandmother used to say, hands to work, hearts to God.

Windjammer Cruise Memories



Good Morning everyone. 0 degrees out in the dooryard. Yahoo! The cold is my friend. For one, the cold of winter makes the heat of the summer sailing all that much sweeter. And the skating is great. The kids and I played hockey on our home made skating rink yesterday. Sawyer’s Zamboni efforts with the garden hose paid off big! Today we are back in to the office, the kids are off to school, I am on call on the ambulance, and we are in for clear sunny skies. These are the days I dread the office and just want to play outside.

But I remember July 14, 2005. Another beautiful day windjamming on Penobscot Bay:

Thursday morning the fog broke in the Eggemoggin Reach as it often does. We visited the Wooden Boat School ashore before getting under way. We had a wonderful sail down the Reach passing under the Deer Isle Bridge; a tricky feat when the schooner is 100’ tall and the bridge is only 85’. How do we do it, you ask? The taller windjammer in the Maine Windjammer fleet have permanently arranged “housing” tackle allowing us to lower the topmasts about the 20’ or so necessary to safely pass under. Any miscalculation on the spring tides would have serious consequences. We cheered as we passed under the bridge and back into Penobscot Bay. The wind and tide carried us up to the Holbrook Island Sanctuary off Cape Rosier where we got ashore before dinner. That night in Holbrook Harbor an anticipated cold front passed over bringing a few light showers. We were dry and cozy under the awnings and enjoyed an unexpected sunset. Our deckhand Seth took time that evening to teach our guests to tie Turks head bracelets, a fancy piece of knot work that kept many of us busy through Friday.

We wish you all a great day. Be well. Do good.

Sailing Vacation Memories




Good morning all. We have a heat wave hitting us right about now. A balmy 8 degrees above and the overcast sky is carrying with it the promise of a little new snow today. There is a very light snow falling in the door yard as I write. There is no wind to speak of. Sunday mornings are a lazy time. Sawyer is building with his magnets while Courtney is putting on a play with her paper dolls. As soon as I am done with this I will make us all pancakes drizzled all over with our own homemade maple syrup. Yesterday I stacked wood in the shop as promised and Sawyer and I skimmed coated the ice skating rink in the afternoon. He makes his own Zamboni out of a garden hose and a sled. He and I also took a walk in the woods “hunting” squirrels. They have nothing to fear, believe you me. Jen spent the day stitching doll clothes for an upcoming auction. her doll creations are quite amazing.

Meanwhile, back in time, it is July 13, 2005, sailing the Maine coast:

‚ÄúWednesday a lite southerly wind forced us to tack out of the Western Way with the last of the outgoing tide. The warm moist southerly flow was fueling the fog machine offshore but we managed to stay clear of most of the thick of it by hugging the islands. Still it was a day for sweaters and a great day for a picnic. We anchored that afternoon early enough to get ashore to explore a small island with the biggest fern meadow I have ever scene. Hay scented ferns cover the top of this island and fill the senses with their fragrance and lush vibrant green. I couldn’t help taking a million pictures of them for everywhere I turned their patterns changed and flowed between the spruce trees and granite ledges. We feasted on lobster on the beach until we could eat no more. Back aboard we play music and cribbage and watched the fog quietly roll in once again.‚Äù

Have a great day! Be well. Do good.

July Windjammer Cruise




Good Morning everybody! Clear blue skies here today and the thermometer is reading 8 below. The breeze died down so the wind chill isn’t nearly as vigorous as it was yesterday (15-20 below in the wind!) We spent yesterday morning with the accountant. Jen has been working furiously to get our year end books closed out. I spent the afternoon in the office catching up on correspondence and answering the phone while Jen attended a school meeting and picked up the kids and went shopping for office supplies and food while we were in town. Today we need to get firewood in to the house, a chore that warms us once a week as we make a big stack in the shop attached to the mud room. I have to fix the wood stove in the barn.

So where were we….Oh yes, our July 11th 2005 cruise. So Monday was exciting. Here is Tuesday July 12, 2005.

“Tuesday morning was sunny and calm so we went ashore at Stonington where we enjoyed the Granite Quarrying Museum and some of the neat little shops. Stonington is predominantly a fishing community with a large fleet of working lobster boats and a few big draggers. The afternoon breezes carried us east through the Deer Isle Thorofare, across the lower end of Blue Hill Bay and up the Western Way into Mt. Desert where we anchored off Little Cranberry Island, home to the fishing and artist community of Islesford. We had a wonderful sunset walk ashore with spectacular views of Cadillac Mt and Acadia National Park. “

The lobster boats come in all sizes. This one in particular struck me…”Family Tradition.” Pretty much says alot about an island fishing community. Windjammer vacations are about family time as well giving time for dad and daughter to just sit and talk. And arriving at Mt Desert at days end with breathtaking views of lighthouses and Acadia National Park. The lighthouse is Bear Island Light. Very lovely.

So have a great day. Stay warm. Be well. Do good.

Remembering a great cruise




OK…Good Morning…It is some wicked cold out there. 8 below zero. I would tell you about the squeaking snow under foot but the sound actually froze before it could reach my ears.. This is the cold we live for and I love it. I can hear the trees snapping and the popping sound of the deck posts being heaved by the frosty ground. Sawyer and I went aboard the schooner yesterday afternoon while Courtney was in dance class and had to row our way through the skim ice just forming at the head of the harbor.

I was looking through some pictures last night and came across this write-up of one of our windjammer cruises in 2005. I will share this cruise in installments. I remember this one because of the 2 thunderstorms that passed down the bay on the afternoon of the first day. It was a strange weather phenomenon because the heat was actually being pushed back against the land from an off shore front causing the storms to form on the immediate coast instead of over land. Passengers were quite invigorated by the whole thing (Daddy, daddy can we do it again?). We had to take the sails down and anchor twice in one day before reaching our final destination. It is amazing how being so close to the elements helps us feel so alive. Thunderstorms and freezing temperatures have this “clap in the face” way of bringing me in to the present. The clouds that afternoon had a particularly surrealistic layered puffiness about them and the sunset was just stunning.

“July 11th Cruise, 2005

Another beautiful cruise! I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think of how lucky we are to live here. The bay was especially exciting this week. Monday we had a couple of thunderstorms roll through which is actually uncommon for us. We anchored up for both events and rode out the winds and rain which only lasted a few minutes each. We anchored near Stonington Monday evening and were able to get ashore to explore one of the smaller islands as well as do some rowing explorations after supper. “

Stay tuned….more to follow….

Busy Windjammer Family


A chilly morning once again as cold weather returns. 2 degrees above and the familiar squeaking snow was under foot as I walked out to empty the ash bucket in the early morning darkness. The stars are just amazing, yes, diamond like. The almanac predicts a series of storms moving in from the southwest these next few days but I don’t see it in this morning’s heavens.

Kaitlyn finished the schooner firewood yesterday. Yeah!. She has been working diligently after school each day to get that pile off the ground before the almanac is actually correct. Thank you Kaitlyn. Jen and I spent yesterday in the office pounding away at the keyboards trying to get our year end chores done. I am glad the year end only comes once a year.

Today is our crazy day of the week. Winter schooner life is about family time. Jen will be back in the office for the day. I have to get aboard the schooner this morning. For better or worse we have clustered several after school activities in to one afternoon. School gets out at 1 o’clock and then it is few minutes rest before dance class for Courtney and swim class for both. Jen usually puts a crock pot on to simmer for the day and we will eat only minutes before it is time to get ready for bed, get a nights sleep and start it all again tomorrow.

So may this picture of summer windjamming get us all through the day. Hold these thoughts in your mind; sails set flying, sheets eased, we are heading ‚Äúdown east‚Äù through the Merchants Row surrounded by granite islands covered with spruce, you are at the helm of 90 tons surging along under a pile of canvas as the Camden Hills disappear in the background. Blue Hill Bay and Acadia lies ahead. The aroma of fresh rosemary focaccia bread wafts up form the galley. Holy cow…did you see that seal pop up right next us! I think it was as surprised as we were. Windjamming at its best. We are living a very beautiful dream.

Photo by Jim Dugan.

Windjammer Birthday




Happy Birthday Mary Day! 45 years ago this week the first coasting schooner was launched here in Maine since 1938. Well wishers filled the Harvey Gamage boat yard on a snowy January day to see this graceful schooner slide into the waters of the Damariscotta River. Capt Havilah Hawkins her designer and captain for her first 20+ years must have been filled with immense satisfaction to see how beautiful she was floating there, right on her lines. Built in 6 months she was a combination of traditional lines and some innovative thinking on the part of Capt Hawkins. Mary Day was also the first passenger carrying commercial schooner launched in the 20th century specifically to be a windjammer.

Mary Day herself christened the schooner and continues to wish us well each season from her home here in Camden. Both schooner and person continue to inspire us with their grace and beauty.

Have a great day!

Windjammer Crew ~ A special breed


New snow fell last night, about 1 1/2 inches on top of the boiler plate ice in the door yard. Yesterday Kaitlyn just about finished splitting the schooner wood and Paul sanded windows in the shop. I spent my day showing Paul around the global headquarters, rust busting deck lanterns, answering phone calls and e-mails, went on 3 ambulance calls, and meeting with our dear friend and former crew member Brad about building a new centerboard for the schooner. Brad has become one of this area’s trusted shipwrights. He spent the better part of a bitter winter during our 99/00 rebuild staring at and rebuilding our transom shoulder to shoulder with an older shipwright who learned his trade the same way. Brad has that rare combination of honesty, talent, self-belief, and grit. He doesn’t talk, he just does. And he has that rarest of skills, the ability to share his talents without making me, or anyone else, feel like a complete moron (which I may be by many accounts). But at least he gives me the benefit of the doubt and let’s me work with him without saying, “Why’d ya do it that way?”

Our crew, past and present, are some pretty amazing people. We could never repay our crew for what they give to us, our kids, our guests, and the schooner. Not that this gig is all about money but we always feel a debt of gratitude to those crew who we have the privilege of working beside. We have seen many budding young sailors and a few older ones that wanted to sign on for the dream. Some make it, some don‚Äôt. Working aboard a schooner is very tiring, the days are long, the ‚Äúold man‚Äù is not always easy to get along with. The passengers have diverse interests and needs and the boat has its many demands that can‚Äôt be ignored. There are watches to be stood and sails to be furled and paint to be spread and decks to be washed and on and on and on. I tell people that, under the best of conditions, boats (and wooden boats especially) will ask for a full level of commitment unlike anything ashore. And even when we are ashore we are thinking about projects on the boat. So I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that it does take a special breed to be a schooner sailing crew. These days we are interviewing hopeful crew. Just yesterday, I talked with an excited young woman who just might be a part of our crew this summer. She has hopes and dreams and so do we and only the future knows how the dance will be danced.

Have a great day out there folks! Be well, do good, put on clean underwear, and the rest will take care of itself. I should explain the accompanying picture by Jim Dugan, again? We have this thing called Flair Friday. We have seen a few other boats where the captain and crew wear formal dress on Friday. This particular crew felt the need to have a little fun with that idea, and, well, you can see the result. Yes that is mild mannered Mary, the cook, in the devil ears at the end.

Fit for Sailing


Good Morning! 2 degrees above out there in the door yard. I just got in from starting to heat the shop. I love to hear the snow squeak under foot as I walk on these cold mornings. I had to hike up to the crew cabin to find something and the woods were black yet at this early hour but first light should be here by the time I finish typing. Hunt and peck, hunt and peck, typist I am not. We usually get up at 0530 just to find a quiet hour before we get the kids up.

This morning feels especially busy as we start in earnest getting spring fit-out under way. Kaitlyn, a special young woman who attends a local high school, began working yesterday. She is some tough and spent the afternoon splitting firewood in a biting wind. She and I were on a run on the ambulance yesterday morning. In addition to being a high senior she has just finished her EMT license exams and anxiously awaits confirmation of her success.

Paul starts today. Paul has been around wooden boats for a while. He built his own boat, a small one which took countless thousands of hours and which he actively sails out of Belfast to points far and wide here on the Maine coast. Paul wanted to get a glimpse inside the dream that is these large sailing vessels. Windjammers seem to attract people of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds for reasons my simple mind can’t fathom. You can call it lure of the sea but it goes far deeper than that from what I can see. Our human choices seem to go deeper on a personal level that any one who isn’t us will ever know. The scary part for me is sharing the “man behind the curtain.” As Paul and Kaitlyn will soon find out there is a whole lot more to the dream that anyone can imagine. So there are my random musings for the day. Stay warm, be well, have a great day!

I am not sure who to credit this photo to but it is a beautiful shot of the schooner anchored in the Fox I. thorofare between North Haven and Vinalhaven.