Interesting stories, events and random musings from Captain Barry King about windjammer cruises aboard the historic schooner Mary Day of Camden, Maine.
Author Archives: Capt. Barry
Barry King and Jennifer Martin own and operate the schooner Mary Day. They are both Coast Guard licensed masters and have extensive sailing and educational backgrounds. Barry has voyaged to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and along the Canadian maritimes to Newfoundland.
Barry is a Registered Maine Guide, and a Nationally Registered Wilderness EMT. During the winter Barry volunteers with his community fire department and ambulance service. Jen's sailing career took her to Florida and the Bahamas before becoming captain of Figaro IV, a classic ocean racing yacht, here on the Maine coast. Jen is a nationally certified Wilderness First Responder.
Jen and Barry met as students with the Audubon Society's Expedition Institute while earning master degrees in experiential environmental education. This program gave them in-depth experience in a diversity of human and natural communities ranging from a sub-artic fishing village in Labrador to the native American desert southwest. Barry and Jen were married aboard Mary Day and live year round in Maine with their children Sawyer and Courtney. Combining their enthusiasm for people, wilderness, and beautiful traditional sailing vessels, Barry, Jen, Sawyer and Courtney are living the dream. When not sailing they live in an old timber frame barn in the woods of Appleton, ME USA
For about 10 years Jen and I had the honor of hosting a Leadership Academy for a group of fraternity brothers from across the country. Each year Delta Tau Delta held several of these academies at different locations for chapter members from across the country. A couple days ago I received an email from one of the brothers who asked about a poem I recited each morning after I woke them up with a song. That poem was the Sanskrit Salutation to the Dawn. I first heard Tim Ellis recite this at every Sunday service beneath the towering “wolf” pine at Camp Chewonki. Tim’s version added a thought about the splendor of achievement; the idea of setting a goal for yourself each day.
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence;
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And Tomorrow is only a Vision;
But Today well lived makes every
Yesterday a Dream of Happiness, and every
Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
I wake up everyday like a little kid. Hope fills my heart. Even though yesterday was incredibly challenging and just about wore me down to a nub I greet today with optimism. As my young “Delt’s” email reminded me, you never know how you will touch someone else’s life in the few brief moments you touch each other. Who knew that 20 years later he would still be thinking about how to live each day with heart, courage, compassion and authenticity because of a poem.
So as you venture out into the craziness carry this poem in your heart. Be the best you there is. Be the faith you wish everyone would keep. Practice making others smile and laugh. Dole out compliments to people you don’t know and see how they respond.
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to, the love you make.” Lennon/McCartney, ’69
Good morning…. I believe I look a little haggard but the Jen couldn’t resist the “golden light” streaming in through the window. Even a sow’s ear looks pretty good if you put enough ketchup on it. I am feeling tired right about now. Preparing for any sailing season (fit-out) is a monumental task. This year with the coronavirus restrictions is especially difficult. Everyone is asking whether we will be able to run cruises this summer.
Here’s what I know: The captains of the Maine Windjammer Association are working harder than ever to rise to this challenge. We are creating operational guidelines for proposal to the powers that be allowing us to board guests and get underway with all due regard to the Governor’s 14 day quarantine requirement. The entire process is going to require patience and perseverance. You think you have questions?
If we are successful creating a plan in concert with the state, we then need “buy-in” from you, our guests. I can’t count the number of times I have said to our guests, “We are only here because of you.” This has never been truer than right now. Hang in there with us. Be patient and help us get through these crazy times. Help us by working with whatever guidance is created. We are shooting for the beginning of Phase II (July 1) “Don’t give up the ship!” As soon as we have something in hand you’ll be the first to know. Hang in there everybody.
Be good to yourselves. Be good to each other. Be safe. Be well. Do good. P.S. Remember Shaggy from Scooby-doo? Anyone out there cut hair? And my nails? Egads!
These weather observations from the West Penobscot Bay Buoy bear out what I was trying to describe in yesterday’s blog. You can pretty clearly see how conditions build on the incoming tide and crest and wane on the outgoing tide. Low tide today was at 1030 last night. By that time you can see that things are cooling off, quite literally. The peak winds peak temperature, and the lowest reading on the barometer (meaning the lightest, warmest air) coincide quite nicely. By 4 AM this morning clouds were breaking up. Now we have clear skies and the promise of clearer weather this week. Time to head to the boat and get painting.
If you want to learn more about the weather here along the Maine coast join us for any sailing trip but take a close look at our Sailing and Seamanship course with weather diva Capt Jane Ahfeld of the Wooden Boat School.
There is a phenomenon here along the Maine coast that I have observed over and over again. Weather comes with the tides. When I say weather I mean weather for which adequate clothing is a challenge. As they say, there is no such thing as bad weather. Just a bad choice of clothing. Take that with a grain of salt from the guy whose favorite summer challenge is to wear shorts from the first day we leave the dock to the day we take the sails off.
Today’s forecast for Penobscot Bay includes a storm warning with wind gusts up to 55 knots. I should explain: knots means nautical miles per hour. A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet; about 15% longer than a land mile. That same wind measured onland would be 63 miles an hour. Strong enough to blow the melted butter off a biscuit! Hurricane force winds start at 64 knots. Thank goodness we won’t have a hurricane in Maine today. Actually we seldom do have hurricanes here because of the Gulf of Maine’s cold water temperatures.
So the part of all of this that fascinates me is how the weather along the Maine coast moves with the tides. Take a look at the hourly forecast for Camden. It is readily apparent that the peak of the rain and wind occurs at about 6 o’clock tonite. Guess what time the high tide is?
The peak of today’s “weather” and the high tide coincide quite closely. Were it not for daylight saving time (DST) the synchronicity would be even more apparent. Evidently, the weather doesn’t observe DST.
I can’t tell you how often this happens. Like all the time. In with the tide, out with the tide; meaning that most weather events here along the coast only last about 12 hours. The onshore breeze in the summer works the same way more often than not. If you had a birds-eye view of Penobscot Bay on a hot summer day (yes, we have days when the temperatures soar into the 70s) you could see the wind roll up the bay from Owls Head to Castine. Do you know how frustrating it is to be sitting becalmed for hours off the north end of North Haven and see a schooner “bringing the wind” with it blow by just as the wind line gets to you? I have had to start the yawl and burn dinosaur bones to push through the Oak I. Passage on more than one occasion. Hauling the yawl boat before you clear North Haven is sometimes a dicey proposition. Once up, no captain ever wants to put the yawl boat back down. No sooner do you put the boat down and then the wind is blowing 20. Sometimes just shaking the yawl boat falls can fool the wind into picking up.
So why does all of this work the way it does? I am no meteorologist but my best guess is water temperature. Every change of the tidal currents that flush water in and out of Penobscot Bay at 1-2 knots, depending on the phase of the moon and where you are in the bay, mixes things up. Cooler water and the air just above it from offshore gets carried into the bay on the tide. Warmer air aloft heads offshore to replace the cooler air being carried in in the tide. Warmer water inshore gets mixed with cooler water from offshore. Cooler water down deep mixes with warmer water near the surface (in the summer). Sometimes you can physically see the place where they meet.
And what creates the tides? The largest part is created by the gravitational pull of our moon. Do you suppose that the same gravitational force moves moisture, and the heat associated with it, that is stored in the atmosphere? The entire atmosphere is kinda like the ocean with currents circulating north and south, east and west, up and down. To think about it in 3-D is mind-boggling.
So I am going to leave this natural phenomenon right there. Again, I am not a scientist. I am only an observer and not an especially keen one at that. But I have seen these patterns repeat themselves so many times and yet it never ceases to amaze my child-like sense of wonder. I kinda like not knowing the full scientific explanation. I have amassed enough nickel knowledge to be dangerous. But there is still a lot in this world that goes on without any explanation whatsoever. Some things are best left to my favorite explanation… PFM (pure freakin’ magic).
Have a great day, Be well. Do good. And wash your hands when you’re finished.
I have photographed this piece of granite a thousand times. I captured this image on the last cruise of the 2019 season knowing for sure that the winter ice and cold temperatures would most likely roll this over the edge. I have been thinking this for the last 40 years since I first saw this rock.
I can’t be the only one who marvels at how precariously this rock is perched. There it is…seemingly all alone. And that is where this story gets interesting during these times of social distancing. We could quickly label this a glacial erratic but it isn’t really an erratic in the truest sense of the term. The boulder, while undoubtedly deposited during a period of glacial activity sometime before last Tuesday, is composed of the same granite as the surrounding landscape. Often the term erratic is used to describe glacially transported rocks of different composition than the surrounding landscape. There is an excellent example on the southeast side of Mark I off of Camden. I wish I had a picture of that to share. But don’t take my word for it. Come sailing so I can show it to you.
Fasten your seatbelts and hang with me for another moment. The beauty of the times we are living in is our ability to stay connected electronically. The challenge is to stay connected physically, emotionally, spiritually. Electronic communication is woefully inadequate as we strive for the fulfilling soul food of physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. It is all too easy to find ourselves feeling alone when in truth we are being supported by the very bedrock from which we derive our psychological existence. My heart aches when I think of how social distancing is making us feel isolated, maybe even unloved. Reaching out through email and text may be the best we can do for the moment. So I want you to print out my picture. When you look at this picture I want you to remember that you are loved and supported by the basic bedrock of your friends, family, and community.
So there you have it. If windjamming does nothing else, it allows me to unplug and take a moment to re-connect with the natural world. Ultimately I am actually re-connecting with my friends and neighbors. Friendships forged aboard the schooner while watching sunsets and bald eagles and beautiful scenery last a long time. So many of our guests keep coming back to see each other. They stay connected through the 51 weeks of the year they are not aboard. Take a moment today to shoot a very quick email or text or postcard to someone, anyone. Be the bedrock that supports the delicate balance in which we find ourselves living.
Have a great day. You are not alone. Be safe. Be well. Do good.
Lighthouses. Maine. Can anyone separate the two? They are synonymous. We see lighthouses on every one of our cruises. But during one of our cruises, we invite Pharologist Ted Panyatoff (has written 2 books about Maine Lighthouses and the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse) to entertain us with stories about the people that brought life to and protected life from these coastal sentinels.
The lighthouse shown here is the Eagle Island Lighthouse here in Maine. It is one of my favorites. Full disclosure: They are all my favorites. They all have stories. They all have human qualities that I admire. They were built, manned and maintained by real people. They are as authentic a piece of the history of New England as anyone can point at. Without the people behind these lighthouses, commercial sail in New England would not hold nearly the historic significance that it does. Schooners like Mary Day were the tractor-trailer trucks of the 19th century and the ocean was the highway. Imagine for a moment approaching the Maine coast from Boston at night or in a thick o’ fog. As we celebrate Maine’s bicentennial, this summer is a great time to reflect on the role that lighthouses played and continue to play in our maritime world.
Eagle Island Light was constructed of rubble stone and activated in September of 1838. Eagle I. encompasses 258 acres which means a keeper could keep livestock, a garden, go for hikes and cut firewood. Wages were $350 annually for the first keeper, John Spear who was far less than impressed by the construction of the light tower and keepers house. “Owing to the use of bad mortar, and want of care in the erection, the tower leaks in every direction – the whole inside being covered with ice during winter, and the stairs dangerous to ascend. The deck has been thrown up by the frost; and the arch supporting it has settled several inches by the yielding of the abutting walls. The whole tower is a rough and defective piece of work.” The attached keeper’s house wasn’t much better.
I can only imagine being a keeper at Eagle I. was not as bad as some stations given the “populated” nature of the island. Beginning in 1870 a one-roomed schoolhouse was established on the island where the keeper’s children could attend classes. That schoolhouse stands empty today. Supplies could be obtained at Deer Isle only a two-mile row; a weather-dependent endeavor for certain. Other populated islands, now summer residences only, were a stone’s throw away.
Then, as now, Maine’s island lighthouses remain pretty far away from the rest of the world. Their history captures my imagination. Maybe yours too? Join us this June 16th for a 4-day Lighthouse tour: https://schoonermaryday.com/lighthouse-cruises/
There is an old Bert and I story that tells the tale of Camden Pierce who won a trip to New York City. Upon his arrival home, he was asked about how he liked New York. His response was that there was so much goin’ on at the depot he never did get to see the village.
It is odd to me that people fly around the world looking for “Shangri-La” and arrive back home exhausted. Guests often ask us what we do in the winter. Do we go on vacation? Do we take the schooner to the Caribbean or Florida? Nope. We stay right here. There is so much going on here in Maine (it is Vacationland after all) why go anywhere else?
And the best part about Maine is that many folks live within driving distance. As I like to say, “Close to home, closer to heaven.” Driving here can be a real headache if you try the Maine Turnpike at 6:00 PM on a Friday afternoon. Timing is everything. A little prior planning can be the difference between exploring our out of the way wonders and sitting in traffic with hundreds of new-found neighbors and friends who aren’t afraid to tell you (if you know sign language) that you’re # 1.
We have compiled a list of some of our favorite things to do within a short drive of Camden. If you are here for one of our quick get-aways you have time on either end of your precious week to check out a few more local wonders. These are the things we think about doing on our very few occasional quiet moments. So join us for a 3 or 4-day cruise and savor our quaint little villages. This is probably about as close to heaven as I’ll ever get.
I am always wary of shiny new inventions that somehow purport to make life simpler. I am a firm believer in less is more, except when it comes to bringing things home from the transfer station, aka the dump. In that instance more is recycling. You see the difference?
But I digress. This is supposed to be about things tried and true like old boats and the old tools used to keep ’em going. This week during our mid-winter thaw we took the opportunity to get in some firewood and clear space for what eventually will be an addition to the barn. In the process, we set aside several straight, clear sections of pine and oak suitable for the sawmill I just finished repowering. More about that next week.
The tool you see being used to roll the logs out of the way is called a peavey. A variation of the cant hook (a cant is a squared up log). The peavey got its name from its inventor, Joseph Peavey who brilliantly modified the cant hook back in the late 1850s to be far more effective by adding a pick to the end and modifying the pivot for the hook. In the first image, I am teaching McKenzie how to set the 8.5″ hook. Once set, the handle, about 30″ on this one, provides leverage with which to roll the log. These are very small logs hence a small peavey. I have another peavey that has a 48″ handle with a 12″ hook for larger logs.
It didn’t take McKenzie long to get the swing of things. With a chainsaw in one hand and a peavey in the other, she has become a badass woodswoman. I only fear that I will come home from town one day and she and Jen will have cleared the whole 32 acres right back to the early 1900s when most of Appleton was cutover.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.
If you want to learn more about Maine’s history, traditional sailing vessels, their construction and care, and how to use the power of the wind to go on an eco-friendly windjammer cruise join us sometime this summer. Check out our schedule of cruise offerings.
I was reading an article recently about the value of 3 day weekends. That third day is the real moneymaker. That 3rd day is the day you sleep in, that you don’t have to answer to anyone, that your time is your own to do with what you will. And that 3rd day makes all the difference between feeling compressed to get everything done in a normal 2 day weekend.
So imagine a 3-day vacation. Imagine that you are a few hour’s drive from leaving everything behind. Could you live without your cell phone ringing for 3 days? Could you allow someone else to do the cooking; serving delicious homemade meals straight from the wood-fired cookstove? Could you handle immersing your senses in a world that has no straight lines, where your hair can be a mess and no one cares, where the smell of the ocean and spruce studded islands fill your nostrils? What would happen if the hardest decision you had to make in 3 days was whether to have another lobster while sitting on a rocky beach in Maine?
These are the questions you can dare dream to answer. With 100s of islands, dozens of hidden anchorages to choose from, 3 days and no itinerary we have an answer for each of those questions. Aboard the schooner Mary Day, that’s what we endeavor to do every time we leave the dock. We aim to really leave it all behind and take you off the beaten path to places where time has largely stood still. With no engine, the wind plays the music that fills our days. Our sails are quite literally the canvas on which we paint each unique adventure. With no street lights on a clear summer night, the stars above remind us of our place in the universe.
Camden, Maine is a pretty cool town to explore before and after the cruise. If you ask us, 3 days is never enough time to spend in Maine. But for most of us, that is about all we get in this crazy busy workaday world. You owe it to yourself to get the heck out of “Dodge” and treat yourself to a little adventurous getaway. We are 3.5 hours from downtown Boston, 7 hours from NY City. Or if you really want to chill we can pick you up at the bus stop a stone’s throw from the harbor. However you get here, use that time to do some deep breathing. Relax your way into the journey. If you allow yourself to turn off the “noise” this quick getaway might just be the best 3 days of your summer!
Tony, Maija and Sarah tarred the rig on Monday. The smell of tarred wafted over the harbor bringing the denizens of darkness from off of their barstools out into the sunshine and fresh air. There is something about the smell of tar. It is more of an essence. As in essential. I would suggest that there is something buried deep in our amygdala that is nourished by that rich aroma. Pardon my political insensitivity but I tell the boy crew that tar is a chick magnet. Kinda like plaid. Who can resist tar and plaid? The healing properties of pine tar go far beyond the lonesome heart. Many skin conditions, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis….pine tar in the right dose has been anecdotally said to work wonders. But I am not telling you anything you didn’t already know.