Monday, August 3, 2015

Maine: The Schooner Heritage (2/5)

     Welcome back to the Schooner Heritage.  This is article #2 in a 5 article series - if you have not read article #1 please Click Here.

     Yesterday we got to know captains Doug and Linda Lee a bit, we kicked the rudder on the schooner - or the tires if you will - to make sure it is sea-worthy and now we are heading out for a six day cruise along the coast of Maine.

     The cost of this cruise is $975 for a full week.  That includes room, board and meals.  If you stack that up against other week long cruises it is hard to beat.

     Coffee comes up on deck at seven am and breakfast is served at eight.

     I have been told by several folks that the boat has a reputation for great food, so you know I am looking forward to this.  

     The crew has lots of preparations to make, so for the deck hands a couple of sausage patties wedged between blueberry pancakes suffices.

     We all boarded last night, and the captain gives early instructions on safety equipment and emergency procedures.  He lets everyone know they have about an hour and a half to make it to up to town if they have discovered there is something they need and don't have.  We are heading out to sea so now is the time to get it.

     We are setting sail at ten thirty he says, so be on board and ready.  "We always set sail at ten thirty" he says - 

     and as it turns out the clock in the galley is broken and always reads ten thirty.   

     Soon the lines are untied and being hauled onto the dock.

     Linda boards "Superman" and gently cajoles the ship out of its slip.

     Then she pushes us out through a maze of boats in the harbor.

     Soon we are out in the open and there is a slight breeze.  We line up along the sides of the boat and haul the two main sails up.  

     In keeping with old traditions, a song is struck up as the sails are hoisted.  Different folks volunteer to sing the verse of the song, made up on the spot and referring to life aboard the ship.  After each sings their two line verse everyone joins in the chorus - "We all haul together . . ."

     28 year old Ben Welzenbach of Chicago is the first mate.

     Ben's dad is a photojournalist and commercial video producer who, among several other well known campaigns, put together the Spuds McKenzie ads for Bud Light a couple of decades back.  

     Ben spends his winters helping his dad and teaching music.  He studied music, and now teaches guitar when he has time.

     After a 15 hour day on the boat he often plays and sings on the deck - it is a busy life.  Life aboard a ship is demanding, especially when you add entertaining guests to the long list of tasks a sailor has to accomplish to keep one of these vessels going.  

     Ben is courteous and helpful with everyone, but there is no doubt that he takes his job as first mate seriously.  He is always scanning the sails and the deck looking out for potential troubles.  You turn around for a second and realize he is suddenly on the other end of the ship and you don't quite know how he got there so quickly.  That is a feat when you have thirty-odd folks on the deck of the boat to negotiate as you try to get around.

     After the two mainsails are hoisted, Ben and the crew go about hoisting the remaining sails.  Under the gentle breeze the sails flutter and we slowly move out through Rockland Harbor.

     In port today is the Picton Castle that sails out of Nova Scotia.

     If you crave more of this life after a week on the Heritage, you can sign up for three or six month sails on this boat.

     They circumnavigate the globe - in fact they are almost back to Nova Scotia after leaving last October. 

     Soon we are picking up a bit of momentum and moving past the labyrinth of anchored boats.

     The now familiar sight of the Bar Harbor Lighthouse slides by in the mist.  I would say it slides by silently, but its fog horn blasts every minute or so.

     With the fog we lost sight of land quickly and enter an eerily quiet world.  There is only the lap of the waves and an occasional flutter of the sails.

     Everyone likes to go back and talk with Doug for a bit - he has lots of tales - some quite tall, and a good sense of timing with his jokes.  He seems to sense what each person's interest is and easily steers the conversation to that.  

     For some it is history, others it is sailing.  Still others like to know about the lighthouses and the boat, and still others seem to like being sucked in by his jokes.  And you are never quite sure if he is giving you valuable historic information or setting you up for another of his jokes.

     Also on the deck crew is 25 year old Ryan Shanley, who is running the fog horn while he knits.

     Ryan grew up in Connecticut, and spends his winters as a ski instructor and cross country ski trail groomer.  He is responsible for fifty miles of trails at a resort called Sugar Loaf here in Maine.

     After graduating the University of Maine with a degree in forestry he decided to walk the Appalachian Trail.  He started out walking it solo, but soon met folks along the way to hike with.  He covered the entire trail - 2,190 miles from Maine to Georgia - in less than six months.  

     Lately he has been perfecting the old knitting techniques that were used in Medieval times to make chain mail armor.

     One thing you cannot escape on the ship is the seemingly constant aroma that wafts from the kitchen.  

Photo by Sean Grimes

     A cast iron stove that Doug modified specifically for this boat does the cooking.  Before the trip the hold below the galley was loaded with pieces of hardwood that will cook the food and heat the water for showers for the next week.

     29 year old Sean Grimes is the cook on this trip.

     Sean started cooking commercially as a freshman in highschool.  This is his second year cooking on this boat, and he is looking to find a boat that heads on excursions down in the Caribbean to fill his days this winter.  But Sean says he doesn't have to go aboard as a cook - he will do whatever job is needed if it allows him aboard a boat that is sailing.  Soon after the bread comes a big serving of freshly made chili and sandwiches.

     Every time a meal is served or a snack is finished the bell just above the galley is rung.

     It is very Pavlovian - for those of you that remember Pavlov and his experiments with dogs.  I wonder how long after this trip it will be until I quit salivating every time I hear a bell.

     Peter Snedecor and his wife Annie Scarlett are two of the passengers aboard for this trip.

          Peter and Annie were Jr. High sweethearts - she was the first girl he kissed way back then.  After going their own ways, they met back up and got married in 1997.

     Peter taught in private high school academies, primarily math and economics.  He did a stint as a headmaster, but probably enjoyed coaching water polo and baseball as much as anything.

     Annie identifies herself as a recovering lawyer - she "saw the light" and changed careers to working in the hospice field back in 1992.  She worked for the Maine Supreme Court and as a public defender before deciding she was going to go to divinity school in 1992.

     She since has become a chaplain and does all manner of other work in and around the Hospice field.  She identifies herself as a "Buddhism informed Christian," and Peter says he developed strong ties with the Quaker church during his work in education. 

    The two compliment each other well and are a joy to be around.  Both are intelligent, witty and intuitive and they possess that gentle touch  that you find in those that genuinely love other people.  They are always encouraging others and quick with a compliment, a smile and a laugh.

     "Superman Saves the Day" - we make 27 miles up Penobscot Bay largely due to the efforts of this little boat.

     The fog lifts a few times and reveals the mountains lying along our port side.

     A haddock dinner with salad, fresh baked bread and desserts finishes the day.  Some folks head to the galley to play cards, others listen to guitars and sing.  I head to an electrical outlet and edit photos.  Before you know it the day has passed us by and the sun is coming up again.

     We awaken in a cove to a heavy fog.

     Just before breakfast the fog turns to a steady hour long rain.

     Rain or shine the work goes on for the crew.

     Right after breakfast the rain stops and everything starts to drip-dry.

     The fog begins to recede in wispy columns, seeming to be mysteriously drawn through the openings between the islands that surround us.

     It also reveals another boat that had sought safe waters in the same cove during the night.

    By ten o'clock the fog is lifting and the town of Castine comes into view.

    It has been a great start to the voyage - the fogs veil glimpses of the mysteries of the Maine coast that we will explore over the next few days.  In tomorrow's article we will take a look around Castine and continue on up the coast.

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd," spotted along the water in rural Maine.

     I think he has his seasons a bit mixed up.  Or, maybe it is always Christmas here.  

     For those of you who don't know how to spot a real sailor, today's parting shot offers a handy guide on the uniforms of the trade.

     Pretenses disappear quickly when you are faced with the work it takes to actually sail one of these boats.

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Carpe Diem!!

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