Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ME Rockland Maranatha vespers and Sail Power Steam Museum (4/4)

     Welcome back to Rockland Maine.  This is the 4th of 4 articles in this series - if you have not read the first three please CLICK HERE to go to the first article and CLICK HERE for article #2.

     The choir has had a busy two days here. and we are just arriving at dinner time.  Before each meal the choir breaks out in a refrain of the song "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."  It was interesting to sit and watch the various patrons at the restaurant we ate lunch at.  Some folks lifted their heads and marveled at the great voices.  Others buried their heads in their plates as if they might want to wish the whole thing away.

     And it isn't intrusive - they do it spontaneously and break back out into the chatter and laughter of youth.

     Yet another church has prepared dinner for the group - Grace Bible Fellowship.

     Now, it bears mentioning that they choir has had Muslim, Jewish and Atheist members.  The group is not about proselytizing - they are about sharing hope through their talent.

     We have been going since early, and the kids are still rolling.  They start a pick-up game of something close to dodge-ball in the church yard.  Then we are headed back out to the lighthouse.

     Dusk is upon us, and the walk out looks a bit more intimidating from here than it does from the water.  It is almost two miles round trip.

     But before the walk out to the lighthouse the group has some quiet time and sharing on the beach.  The conversation is about drawing closer to the voice of God.

     Steve Clifford is one of the chaperones along for the trip.  

     Steve wasn't able to go to Vinalhaven today - last night he had a crown fall out and had to visit a dentist.  He is along tonight though - with his three children.

     From left to right they are Hunter, Hannah, Steve and Colby.

     Steve felt adrift in life until he met and married his wife Kristene a few years back.  Together with her children, they got involved in an Episcopal church in Kentucky and started touring with the choir.  This was to be their sixth trip with the group.

     Kristene had a blood vessel burst in her sleep, and died February 12th of this year.  Steve reflects back how their life insurance policies were purchased on February 12th a few years earlier.  He talks about how they felt moved that he should adopt the children - even though that was a difficult process.  Now it all makes sense.  These things and many other "coincidences" tell Steve that God was preparing them for this.  

     It doesn't make it any easier though.  His wife was joyful and fun-loving - the rest of the group feels like they lost a member of their family too.  This year's tour - the 44th tour of the group - is dedicated to honor her memory.  He and the children are working to make sense of it all and focusing on supporting each other and those around them.  Thoughts and prayers to them.

     One of the young ladies talks about what the Christian ritual of communion means at the personal level.  Then those that care to partake of the communion and all sit quietly with their thoughts for about a half hour.

     Rodney holds a loaf of bread and another member pours the juice into small cups.  The lady taking bread is Nancy, another local who stayed close to help the group however she could.

     It is an emotionally charged and powerful time.  Even the fellow they call "Gandhi" who is on his 33rd trip with the choir is visibly moved.

     But, there is a breakwater to walk and they still have to meet back up with their host families.

     The laughter and the tears, the joy and the sorrows - I am better off for the time spent with these young men and women.  And these young men and women are better off for having seen the loving acceptance they received from over twenty local churches.  Perhaps our paths will cross again one day.  For now, goodbye and thank you to the Maranatha Choir.

    I wasn't there when the host families dropped them off at the buses at 7 am the next morning.  But I am told that all of the host families did "The Wave" - that think from sports back a couple of decades.   But I bet I know who started that . . .

     There are several museums worth visiting here.  We don't have time to visit them all, but we can spend a bit of time at the Sail, Power and Steam Museum.

     The museum sits on the harbor on the south side of town - unless you are looking for it you will miss it.  That is so often the way it is with things of true value - and this museum is a gem.

     It is the brainchild of Captain Jim Sharp, a mischievous child masquerading about in an 81 year old body.

     Jim owned 5 of the big schooners used for the vacation expeditions.  He started at it shortly after college back in the 1960's.  He had taken over his father's small finance company in Baltimore, and after the third time they got robbed he said phooey on  that and followed his passion of sailing.

     He started off as a grunt - maintaining the boats and whatnot.  He was able to purchase his first vessel back in 1964.  Back then, the only vessels available were the old fishing schooners - leaky old tubs that had to be pumped out a couple of times a day or you would be knee deep in water.  You see, any commercial vessel that travels from and US port to any other US port has to be built in the United States.  And when it comes to Coast Guard regulations, building a boat to haul passengers was almost impossible.  So, the solution was to buy the old leaky tubs and keep them afloat since they were "grandfathered" by the laws.

     Jim has written a couple of books - and he is a good writer.  Interestingly, he contracted polio when he was young and lost the use of one leg.  A kindly doctor tried some experimental surgery, replacing muscle and whatnot.  It gave him back some use of the leg.  These days, if anyone asks him what happened to his leg he promptly regales them with a tale of a shark attack while he was
"rounding the horn of Africa" on one of his many ventures.

       After he sold his five schooners back around 1990, he and his wife bought a canal boat and spent ten years wandering the canals of Europe.  He claims it is the only way to travel Europe.  He then decided to retire, but couldn't stand retirement.  He says he "failed retirement."  He says he built the museum so he would have a place to brag and tell lies, but keeping the museum going takes so much time that he is too worn out for mischief.  I think that is a tale in itself.  He alternately claims that the museum was the result of brute force and stupidity.  

     As a captain, one is allowed to perform marriages.  Jim says he has performed a number of them out on the sea - many of them seemingly closer to delivery than conception.

     His wife is off today helping cook lobster for 140 cruise ship visitors - hopefully I can catch her and get her take on all this.

     Local guys came together and cut the wood to build this place.  You can see the pins used to construct it - you could take this building apart and move it to another site in a couple days work


     Jim has been collecting nautical items his whole life - and he has an incredible collection here.  I have been in a lot of museums, but I have never seen one so complete on its subject matter.  Jim covers all the bases as it relates to the evolution of boat building in this area.

     Back in the 1940's, all the steel went for the war effort.  So the fellows in the shipyard build their own bandsaw out of wood - pulleys and all.  

     There are half models that precisely lay out the dimensions of the hull of a boat.  As the ship builders lay a boat out, they can refer to these to get the exact dimensions.  Jim has acquired dozens of these - many with quite a history.

     Ever hear of making a wooden chain out of a stick?  Jim has been there, done that.  Here is the chain and the tool set.

     One of his co-conspirators is another octogenarian - Lewis Grant.  Lewis had his own marine electronics business for many years in this area, and he saved a lot of the old models when new ones came along.  He put together this section of the museum, a chair in front of a painting of the Rockland breakwater, all equipped as though it were a state of the art boat from the 1950's or 1960's.

     Thousands of old items - all of them genuine and all acquired by Jim and his friends.  Here is his prize possession -

     This is the personal Astrolabe of Nathaniel Bowditch, dated 1674.  Bowditch wrote the textbook on using these gadgets to figure out where you are, and over 400 years later his books are still used in universities around the world.

     There are all manner of exhibits on the process of boat building, different power trains, all manner of tools of the trade and instruments used over the last few centuries.  Jim has by far the finest collection of sextants I have seen anywhere.

     Outside there is a large workshop where locals are restoring boats that were made in this area over 100 years ago.  This style of boat was called the "Friendship Sloop."

     This particular one is called "Black Jack," and is about half way through the restoration process.

     Here is a larger vessel that they are bringing back to life.

     If you buy a boat that is a "fixer upper," you better know what you are doing.  There is a lot that goes into restoring these.

     Along the docks is one they have finished restoring, and there are several more that are on display both inside and outside the museum.  

     And it isn't just big boats - they work to restore a lot of the smaller hand-built vessels too.

     I could spend a week here just lining up shots that incorporate the various elements of boats.

     Admission to the museum is a "suggested $5 donation" sign that hangs on an old black kettle.  On Sundays, a bunch of oldtimers get together and jam.

     There are about a dozen regulars that are locals who play a wide variety of instruments.  Then, as it goes in the nautical world, word gets around.  On any given Sunday there are musicians from all over the world that stop by here to play or sing with this group of folks.  

     So, this morning I put my last couple of dollars in a collection basket at a church, wondering what I was supposed to do next - find a few days work or what?  But out of the blue I got an offer to head out on one of those big schooners for a week.  All they said is that I would be well fed.  So, I won't burn any gas and I will have lots of food and photo ops.  I leave tonight - and can't tell you how I am looking forward to experiencing and sharing this.

     Today's "Faces in the Crowd" comes from the quiet time on the rocky beach with the Maranatha Choir.

     And today's parting shot is a sticky note I found on the door of the museum - right in the middle of "business hours."  And just what does "Forthwith" mean Jim?

     And how in good conscious can you write a note that says you are returning from the dock without delay when you haven't even been to the dock yet?  

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Make it a great day !!

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