Monthly Archives: March 2009

Against All Odds

Good morning everyone. I am home at last after two weeks in Galveston, TX sailing aboard the barque Elissa. Frequent flyers on this blog know this is an annual trip for me. The barque Elissa is a very special ship, a “project” of the Galveston Historical Foundation and the Texas Seaport Museum. When I saw pictures of the devastation left by Hurricane Ike I had very strong doubts about how the volunteers who sustain Elissa could ever put the boat and the docks back together in time for her annual spring sea trials. Well, they did it! Once again determination and will win against all odds.

And that is the story of boats. Late this afternoon a new crew will come together for the first time aboard Mary Day and fit-out will begin in earnest. As I look at the work list ahead of us I am just a little over whelmed. There are always more things to do than there is time to do them. The weather this next week doesn’t look as warm and sunny as I would like so working and living aboard will be challenging. But somehow we will pull it off with some combination of will, determination and luck. Come Memorial Day weekend Mary Day will glisten as usual. We will be more than ready to cast off her lines and feel the wind in the sails. The blog for the next few months will keep you updated on progress and introduce you to the crew. I am excited to meet them and watch the mystery of a new season unfold.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Admiring Winter Ducks Moon

Good morning everyone. Tuesday was the full Worm moon, the last full moon of winter. Supposedly named because in some areas of the country worm castings became visible around this time of year. A worm in Maine would have to be tougher than a five pound bag of hammers to get through the frost that is just starting to come out of the ground. This moon seems to have many names according to where you live; the full Sap Moon, the Lenten Moon, the Full Crust Moon (in reference to snow, not Mary’s pies), and the full Crow Moon. And why shouldn’t a full moon be named according to what is going on in your reality. The full Let’s Get Ready to Go Sailing Moon. That works for us. Does that mean that April 9th will have the Full Bore Linear Panic Tax Deadline Moon. Take it easy Cap. What natural seasonal ritual is happening in your world that would name your March full moon?

We could certainly call ours the full Sap Moon. The sap is slowly coming to flow in our taps (see last blog) but there is a decided nip in the air this morning on a strong NW wind. It will be a few days yet before we are emptying buckets twice a day. We could also call this the Admiring Winter Ducks Moon. I was down at the schooner the other day when the ducks pictured here were paddling the harbor. The ice has receded back far enough so that they can dabble for small crustaceans close in to the shoreline. Mergansers (both common and hooded) along with buffelhead are winter residents here. You have heard me say it before and I never tire of it… these ducks are cool. They tickle something in my primordial brain that speaks of wild places in the North where I traveled years ago by land and by sea. Photographing them takes patience and a long lens that I honestly need way more practice with. I hope you enjoy these as much as I relished that moment. The reflections are from the masts of the windjammers. Oddly enough a former passenger who lives nearby came down to photograph these same ducks while I was there and we reminisced about happy memories sailing the bay aboard Mary Day and talked about how lucky we are to live in this amazing world.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

How Sweet It Is

Good morning everyone. Well we hope you enjoyed as fabulous a weekend as we had. The weather was just incredible with the thermometer reading near 50 degrees for the first time in many, many months. Surely spring is not far off now.

As the seasons turn another annual ritual is at hand and that is the quest for “liquid gold.” Each year we hem and haw about when to tap the maples but this weekend there was absolutely no question about it. Warm days and cold nights are required to get the sap flowing and the forecast for the next week looks perfectly sappy! The energy of sap rising in the maples is the same energy we feel as we get ready for another season of sailing.

Tapping maples is a vernal ritual for our family. Sawyer likes drilling the holes and Courtney enjoys hanging the buckets. Both kids enjoy tasting the first drip of maple sap straight from the tree. On a good day it only takes a few moments before we hear the tink, tink tink, sound of sap dripping into the buckets. Since we do not have many sugar maples we tap red maples, quite abundant in our dooryard. We drill a 7/16 inch hole several inches into the tree and carefully spaced away from previous year’s taps. We have found the most productive taps on the south side of the tree placed just below a large limb or just above a large root. Each bucket holds about 2 gallons of crystal clear sap. We have food service plastic trash cans buried deep in the still very large snow banks to hold the sap until we have time to boil it down. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. While the bulk of the evaporation takes place outdoors we finish the last of the boiling, filtering and canning in our kitchen.

There is nothing fancy about our operation. We made our stove out of an old boiler that we found in the woods. The pan is stainless steel welded together from scraps we bought at the local metal fabrication shop. The entire operation did not cost us more than a hundred dollars, fancy buckets and spiles included. The years of family time and the enjoyment kids get from being a part of such a New England seasonal ritual is more than worth it. The real payback comes when we get to share the fruits of our labor and watch as guests drizzle warm Maine maple syrup over stacks of steaming blueberry pancakes straight from the griddle. How could life get any sweeter?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Signs of Spring

Good morning everyone. Though morning temperatures have been in the single digits for the last few days we know spring is near. For one Drew, our chief mate, arrived this week and he and I have been building new paint floats in the barn. More on those later. Jen went down to the harbor yesterday to photograph some more of our unique winter ducks and was instead greeted by robins. I don’t know what birds are unique to the place you call home but here in Maine robins give us hope that a new season is right around the corner. This particular robin seemed most interested in our anchor chain. I have a theory. As you can see, the part of the chain stack that faces south certainly gets some solar gain and provides about the only open ground one is likely to find here. I am not sure how the worm hunting is on the granite bulkhead but who are we to argue with a robin. That bird must have one tough beak!

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.