Monthly Archives: July 2009

Trial By Fire

Good morning everyone. Today we finish another Wooden Boat Sail Training Course. It has been an amazing week. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I am once again in awe of this week’s participants and how much energy they have put forth. Yesterday our final exam was more of a trial by fire than anything else. A brisk nor’easter blew through during the late morning and early afternoon. With a reduced sail plan and teams at the ready we beat out into the waves and had quite the sail. We never did get to our final destination but instead anchored earlier than anticipated in the lee of North Haven. I think most folks had their fill of excitement.

We were singing sea shanties on deck Thursday night and so many of the songs dealt with the hardships of life at sea. What we have experienced, surging through the waves, and feeling the salt spray hit our faces, was better than any shanty. We have lived the 21st century version of the real thing this week. I don’t think the sailors or yore would have had food like this or a fire to dry their clothes by.

Yesterday afternoon we challenged students to put their skills to work by building their own vessels and racing them. In very windy conditions most of the boats flipped at the first start. We gave students 20 minutes to rebuild their boats and try again. The second round saw boats more heavily ballasted and reefed down. And the results were exciting. The team “Red Right Returning” built a very unique vessel that cleaned house on all the competitors. Their design is already at the US patent office so don’t get any ideas.

We have had a blast this week and will be very sad to say goodbye.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good

Sail Training for Big Kids

Good morning everyone. This week we are in sail training mode once again as we invite a group of adults to live as deckhands aboard the schooner. So if you ever wanted to work aboard a large sailing vessel when you grow up this is a chance to try it out without having to clean heads or stand night watches. In conjunction with the Wooden Boat School we are exploring “Schooner 101” with a varied group of sailors from all over the country. Some folks have plenty of small boat sailing experience and some are completely new to sailing. The challenge to being a deckhand is learning the ropes and learning how to work as a team to handle sails. Participants get a chance to get their hands dirty learning navigation and knots, sail trim and steering. At the end of Day 1 the students smartly tacked the schooner up into Mackerel Cove here on Swans Island and even learned how to sail a schooner backwards. (Backing the schooner three boat lengths under sail was performed in a closed course by professional drivers wearing proper safety equipment including helmets, gloves, knee pads, and parachutes. Please don’t try this at home.) After the anchor was dropped the student at the helm turned to me with a very big smile and said, “How cool is that?” Very cool. Very, very cool!

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.


Good morning everyone. We are out on the second of two three day trips we are offering this week. These quick getaways are a fun change from our normal six day trips. We came in from a glorious first trip on Wednesday and greeted new guests that afternoon. The Indy pit crew changed over all the bunks and with time to spare. We sailed an amazing 90 miles that first trip with good winds and sunny skies.

These three day trips seem to draw a number of families and this cruise is no exception with fathers and daughters, nieces and uncles and aunts. Sharing this kind of family time is quite a trip down memory lane for some and a time to share without the distractions of life ashore. We even have a newly wed couple hitched in the Amphitheater by yours truly before the trip.

A twist for me aboard during this trip is having Sawyer and the son of some very dear friends who we met 17 years ago during our first season with Mary Day. It is not just a little cool to see the boys take Rosey out together last night for a sail. A thunderstorm chased them back to schooner with Sawyer pulling on the oars and Aidan steering with the tiller to a perfect landing. I am not sure if pride is the right word but something certainly stirred in my heart to see these young sailors working together, just like their parents did 17 years ago. Now that is cool!

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Highly Variable

Good morning everyone. Well it has been a soggy last few days up here with a cold easterly wind. As usual we have made the best of it in fine fashion with mittens and hats and lots of layers. Is this really July? For those of you that have been living in blistering hot temperatures a trip to Maine will cool you off in short order. By the time you read this it will be sunny and warm again with rebounding temperatures and more normal Maine summer weather. The sun’s golden light is already warming the decks. And so it goes here in New England. The weather is highly variable. But one thing is constant and that is great guests. We have a fun mix of seasoned sailors and folks who are new. I think the age range is from 15 to 80. Folks are here from California, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, and more. The people are as variable and wonderful as the weather.

Yesterday we enjoyed a special treat when we visited Frenchboro, Long Island. As is normal I gave passengers a homework assignment to discover how may residents winter over on Long Island and more importantly how many kids are in the school. That number in particular tells more about the health of any island community. 12-14 students was the number many walkers came back with for the Frenchboro school. On Tuesday morning we visited Isle Au Haut and learned that there were 6 in the school there. Resourcefulness is the name of the game for island schools and no better resource can be found than the children in the one room school houses who grow up teaching each other and learning together. They invented the idea that no one, ever, would be left behind. How else could you have a lunch time soccer game?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Great Windjammer Racing

Good morning everyone. I apologize for the long hiatus in this Maine windjammer blog. Frankly I have been overwhelmed these last few weeks with so much going on that I can’t even begin to stay up with it all. This past weekend was the first time in weeks that I have actually had a few hours to get a project done at home. The busyness is all good but it is very busy. Our cruises have been wonderful and the crew is settling in nicely with each other and with the boat. I am delighted with each of them.
This week we are participating in the annual Great Schooner Race hosted by the Miane Windjammer Association. The race was yesterday. I try to keep the perspective that this is just supposed to be fun… although there is a twinge of excitement when the winds favor us and Mary Day has a chance to show her stuff. The starting line ran east/west from Holbrook Harbor where we all rafted up Monday night. The raft up was a hoot with 11 windjammers present that we could climb aboard and tour. More than few folks admired Mary Day’s wide open decks and the fireplace that kept the chill of the damp night air at bay. Tuesday morning we started at 1030 to race up wind in a very light southerly that took us around Cape Rosier and the islands. The wind died for a while so we decided that rowing would help us keep momentum. Out oars and with tow line attached to the bob chains we managed to gain a tenth of a knot and keep the bow pointing in the right direction.
Again the wind came up and away we marched through the fleet. Even with a longer course to steer we managed to keep up and pass vessels that started 20 minutes before us and sailed a course that was a full mile and half shorter. In the end it was only Mary Day and Stephen Taber left standing. With a comfortable quarter mile lead in the dying wind we finally dropped the yawl boat and called it quits for the day. Most of the fleet anchored up in a nearby harbor together but I was yearning to put some distance on a fine day of racing in the fog. We motor sailed under the bridge and down the Eggemoggin Reach to anchor in Brooklin for the night.
Mary Day showed her stuff once again and we are pleased to hang on to the trophy for our class for another year. Kudos to all of the windjammer captains who deftly sailed their vessels in very limited visibility and such light airs. I figure any one can sail in a gale of wind but sailing in light conditions takes real a fine touch. The captains of the Maine windjammer fleet demonstrated that, when properly handled by passengers and crew, these vessels are able to gracefully glide on a whisper on wind.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.