Happy Birthday Mary

Good morning everyone. Blockfest 2008 continues on this week in the barn. Alex and Elisa have been sanding and overhauling the last batch. We are taking extra care with the footblocks (the one attached to the deck through which the halyards fairlead so that everyone can pull in a line along the deck). Those foot blocks have only been thoroughly overhauled a few times over my 16 year tenure. We give them the annual greasing and paint but this process on the bench in the barn gives us a chance to use the fine toothed comb. So far all of the blocks look great. (No mice in the rigging this year!)

On the birthday front we are celebrating 2 very special birthdays this week. Mary Day was launched on the 21st of January 1962 just 2 days under six months after her keel was laid.

Our lovely and gracious executive chef de la cuisine was launched on the 23rd of January 19?? We aren’t telling you the year but, for the curious, you can find out without asking only you have to come sailing. Do you need any other excuse to go for a sail on the coast of Maine? Both Mary’s are an inspiration to us. How do they keep going year after year? Both Mary’s are loved by many. We could make comparisons between their grace and beauty and they both come out tops in our book. Happy Birthday to both Marys! Thanks for the many years of joy you both have brought us all and long may you both sail the Maine coast.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Spreading Good Manure

Good morning everyone. I have typed those words 231 times in the past year. Can you believe it? I can’t. How could one person write so much in a years time and yet not really have any point, except maybe to share a little insight into what it means for this family to be absorbed by a business of doing something a little out of the ordinary, sailing a windjammer. For any of you that have had the courage or stomach to read more than just a few of these blogs you know that this blog has been about a whole lot more than just sailing. For me this has been a year of lessons in learning to appreciate and share this wonderful world that revolves around a humble little schooner here on the Maine coast. And to have folks actually send comments back to us is heartening. But shouldn’t you really be doing something better with your time than reading this???

We could never do this sailing vacation thingy ourselves but our biggest thanks goes to the wonderful man who works in the shadows, seldom seeking the limelight but who got this whole thing started. No not Al Gore but our dear friend and web mentor Jim Dugan. There is some great cosmic connection here. Who would a thunk that a guy who 20 years ago was driving a John Deere tractor with a manure spreader for a tailgate around the fields of Pennsylvania would someday encourage this half literate sailor without a soap box (they rightly took it away) to start sharing more manure with the poor unsuspecting souls that happened upon this still obscure blog that has 231 entries about god-knows-what. But as fertile crops from the manure rise so have risen some very fertile thoughts from all who have shared in this blog.

So Jim, thank you for getting us started down this road of rack and ruin. I no longer feel compelled to write every day as I did for the first 90 or so entries. Jim has tried to help me become a better writer and better photographer and in doing so has helped me actually think a little more positively about myself and this crazy Camden windjammer that is such a focal point in our lives. Most importantly what Jim has helped us do is stay connected with the guests that we absolutely can’t thank enough for giving us this opportunity. We will keep on writing and sharing to be sure. I wish we had time to do more sharing but with alas time is not one thing even Jim can generate. As always your thoughts will be appreciated. So let’s see where we go from here. It can only be good…very,very good. Thank you Jim Dugan.com, for all the many gifts that you have given to us and all our schooner friends.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Blockfest 2008

Good morning everyone. Spring made a surprise appearance here in Maine this last week. With temps in the 40s these past few days the snow was melting fast and gravel driveways had become something of a “mud run”. The alignment shops are rubbing their hands together with thoughts that these ruts will be freezing solid in another week. Ball joints and tie rods beware! We have been moving quickly to pick up everything that to date has been buried under several feet of snow. Today winter returns with another nor’easter tracking through the Gulf of Maine. We are projected to receive 6+” of snow.

The crew has been hard at it with Blockfest 2008. As you can see the block process has many steps: disassembly, cleaning, sanding, priming, painting, packing the patent bearings with grease, and reassembly.
The crew have asked how old these blocks are and I am certain that many of them date back to the 60s. The Hawkins family experienced a barn fire early in the schooner’s history and I am not sure any blocks were lost then. All of the blocks I have replaced have come with oilite bearings (oilite is oil impregnated bronze that never needs greasing). Pataent bearing have been around for a long time and with an annual overhaul will serve many years. The bearings do wear over time and I fear ours will not last forever. There are a few blocks I know by sound, hearing the familiar clickety click of the larger throat block bearings as as the mainsail is lowered. I guess the ideal would be to have all oilite bearings. That would save us quite a bit of labor but the patent bearings have certainly stood the test of time. How many things are built to last 40+ years these days?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Why Maine?

Good morning everyone. Another balmy day in the state of Maine. I am not a huge fan of these thaws. I was just saying to Alex yesterday that if we are going to have winter then let’s have winter. Let it snow. Keep the temperatures down in the teens, above or below zero, doesn’t much matter. Now I know all this brave talk sounds a little crazy to folks from warmer climates but I do like the cold and this is Maine after all. Just last week we had sea smoke rising from the bay and this week we have humid air turning to fog over snow covered fields just like it does over the cold ocean water during the summer.

Any of you who have watched the comments on this blog have undoubtedly seen comments from Ed and Al. Now you need to understand that Ed and Al keep the lights on in most of Alabama so what they are doing reading this blog is concerning on many levels. Why they would let these fellas out of the state is also beyond me but Ed was recently in Florida for a “conference” and here is what he wrote:

“Sandestin is a resort located on the Gulf along the Florida panhandle. We had a good time being with friends and colleagues we don’t often see. The presentations were of some interest and were kept short enough to limit the boredom. I even spent yesterday afternoon out on the Gulf on a charter fishing boat. The weather was great, cool and clear, the water was calm. No wind to speak of so probably a good day to be on a power boat. The fishing wasn’t great but any day on the water is better than playing golf (the other “activity” choice). Along with me on the boat were four others from the conference. My best guess is that each of them is slightly more than half my age.

While we were cruising out into the Gulf one of them asked me about my stylish tee-shirt. I explained that it is a limited edition shirt specially designed by Jen Martin for the 2007 sailing season aboard the Mary Day. Inevitably, I was asked about the Mary Day. After four trips aboard and being asked about the trips more times than I can remember, I’ve got my Mary Day spiel down pat and I spouted out some of the vital statistics like length, beam, gross tonnage, sail area, etc. I always point out that the schooner has no engine and then have to explain about Arno. These are engineers, after all, and are more impressed by the numbers than anything else. I know how to answer the questions, “What do you eat?”, “What do you do?”, “Do you have to work on board?”, and my favorite, “Where do you go?” But then a new one was thrown at me, “Why Maine?” “Why Maine?” I responded in my usual snappy comeback.
“Yeah, why not the Caribbean?” suggested my young friend.

I told them, that for me, Maine is a source of serenity, beauty and magnificence. Maine’s summer can be enjoyed without Southern necessities like air conditioning. It’s a place I can go and spend my entire waking day outside and feel alive, rejuvenated and refreshed not worn out, dirty and bedraggled. I’ve never slept better than after a glorious day out of doors in Maine. The summer sky in Maine is a different blue and has whiter clouds than in the South. The quality of the daylight is special and paints the landscape with the vibrant colors of the trees and wildflowers.

No experience on the water can surpass the magnificence of being on the deck of the Mary Day her sails filled, the wind pulling her through the swell on Penobscot bay. I find joy on board in simple things like helping to tack the ship and doing my small part handsomely. My spirit is lifted by the sight and sounds of eagles, loons, dolphins, seals, and wildlife I can’t name. Each trip I hone my novice sailing skills. I learn from every member of the crew. It is wonderful to me that a young teen aged girl (Jenny) can teach me how to make a baggy wrinkle.
Every morning I’m up with the dawn anxious for another day’s adventure. Not wanting to miss a minute of the experience I stay on deck throughout the day whatever the weather. It’s all part of sailing.

So, “Why Maine?” Because that’s where the Mary Day is.”

Thanks Ed. Have a great day. Be well. Do good. Ed and Al, keep those Alabama lights burning bright.

Gearing Up

Good morning everyone. Well the new year is off to a great start. I feel like things are really starting to get geared up here at our global headquarters. With a little bit of an early winter thaw upon us we can balance some of our indoor projects with some outdoor work. Already it is 30 degrees and the sun is shining brightly from a clear blue winter sky.

We are so pleased to have Jake, this past summer’s assistant cook, here for a couple of weeks on school break. He is giving us the jump start on fit-out that we really need. Last week Elisa, Jen and Jake busted out cabin windows and the paint has had the weekend to “kick” up stairs in the barn. This week we will be stacking some more wood, prepping and painting the buff cabin skylight covers, and starting “Blockfest 2008”. All 77 of the wooden blocks will get overhauled and painted. It is a big job but with numerous folks we should be able to finish it off quickly. In the office Jen and Elisa have their hands full turning over the end of the year book keeping and tax responsibilities. So another full week is upon us and I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.

A new employee Alex will be joining us this week to test out the waters of the schooner world. Alex is excited to learn about windjammers and comes to us with some great experience working on and sailing small boats. He has done a little sailing here in Maine but I find it difficult to fully describe all the wonders of windjamming. Not until you feel the first wind fill the sails can one really comprehend the magnitude of what we are preparing for. I have to remind myself that soon (and not soon enough) we will be sailing and looking out over the freshly painted rails at all the natural beauty of the Maine coast.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

For the Love of Rowing

Good morning everyone. We have shoveled out from another 10″ of snow. The snow banks are as big as I have seen them in years and with the temperatures dipping into the single numbers we are experiencing that winter cold that makes me feel so alive. I absolutely love it. No one moves slowly in this kind of cold. It is called brisk because that describes how quickly you walk between the house and the barn keeping the wood stoves fed, which by the way, are going through wood briskly. The wind chill this morning is well below zero.

So getting out for exercise, besides shoveling, is not easy. Going for a run takes on a new reality when one is dodging the town plow truck. We take the kids skiing at the Camden Snow Bowl which has a great covering of snow and from which we can see the Bay. But through the grace of good friends we have inherited a rowing machine. And I do love to row. Now the rowing machine in the barn loft is nothing like the real thing but we do enjoy the workout. Seems it runs in the family. Sawyer and I went out to the schooner the other day before it snowed and he chose to row instead of come aboard. I think he got a real kick out of rowing through the ice and snow. I remember last summer when he and Courtney returned from an island foray towing a log. (Where did he learn that trick?) Rowing is always an adventure. But winter rowing has a very different feeling. The ice and snow just magnifies the excitement. Being on the water in the winter is an adventure. Everything in your bones tell you that this could be dangerous. It isn’t really any different than summer except that the water is a lot colder but the rowing itself is no different. Sawyer had a blast just dabbling around the schooner while I banged the heavy snow off the cover. Besides which Sawyer kept the skiff from filling with snow while tied alongside.

I am reminded of a story I heard about a yogi who once did a head balance on the edge of Yosemite Falls. When asked if he was scared he replied with the same thought process. Why should I be scared when I practice serenely head balancing every day. So I am sure there is some hole that can be shot through this but why bother. Just go with it and believe that life really can be a function of mind over matter sometimes. For us that applies to cold and snow, rain and fog, mosquitoes and black flies; everything except heat and humidity. I have yet to make friends with the Zen of that combination quite yet.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Auld Lang Syne

Good morning everyone. We hope all of you are enjoying a good start to the new year. We arrived home Sunday after the grand(mother) Christmas road trip. We are enjoying the fruits of yesterday’s wonderful 10″ snow fall and bracing for yet another snow storm slated to start this afternoon. We have had more snow in the last month than all of last winter. It is just beautiful outside. Santa dropped some new snow shoes and skis under the tree for the kids out of which they are getting some serious mileage.

We have been hearing from many of you these past few weeks. We love the many holiday cards we have received and hope our fall newsletter and holiday calendars are arriving at your home through the holiday mail rush. If you have not received a calendar or newsletter please let us know and we will get one out to you in the next pony express.

We hope that through the holidays you have been surrounded by the warmth of friends and family. I know that is not always easy to feel amidst all the gift giving and traveling and holiday chaos. Hearing from so many of you has given us much warmth and reminded us of happy times sailing on the bay. Many of you have heard me sing Auld Lang Syne and that song is obviously close to my lips this time of year. Funny, in the summer I am thinking of friends ashore and this time of year I dream about all of you. While Burns wrote this song reminiscing of friendships past this song also gives me cause to dream of the friendships to come. I won’t dwell on the friends who have passed on during the last year but that sadness does motivate me to re-connect with a few friends I haven’t touched base with for a while. That is the holiday spirit that enriches our lives throughout the year. So don’t be alarmed if I am singing Christmas carols on the quarterdeck this summer.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.