Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Maine: The Schooner Heritage (3/5)

     Welcome back to the Schooner Heritage.  This is the third of a five article series - please read Article #1 and Article #2 if you want to see this in context.

     We arrived in a harbor by the town of Castine last night, and after breakfast we will head over to the town's harbor to explore.  

     Each day's meals are different, and each features lots of great food.  Linda makes sure there are vegetarian options at each meal, and she checks with every passenger for food allergies when you get on the boat.  I heard numerous conversations about ingredients in various dishes as they worked to accommodate one of the passengers with a few allergies.

     Sean has bread ready to go in the oven, so he can't make the trip into town with us.  The crew wipes the moisture off of "Lois Lane," the dinghy used to ferry passengers.

     I have heard that watching people from a distance who are trying to row a dinghy for the first time as a group resembles an erratic spider crawling across the water.  We make it to shore, marked in part by the cadence of paddles crashing into each other.

     Crewman Anton Shutz helps one of the ladies ashore.

     After he helped the lady out of the boat she thanked him, and in his usual dry manner Anton cracked: "I am not just eye candy, you know."

     26 year old Anton is just here for this one season.  He graduated with an engineering degree and participated in a student work-exchange program with Lichtenstein, the small country that lies nestled into Switzerland.  He had to speak German to be able to participate in the program - I forgot to ask how he learned it.

     He wasn't sure what engineering job to pursue, so he googled "schooner jobs" on a whim, and the Heritage website was the first result.  They were looking for a deck-hand, and he thought it would be a great way to spend the summer before he started his career.  

     Anton has that dry humor, economy of motion and precision of speech common of Germanic folks - I am sure he fit in well during his gig with the exchange program.  The company that hosted him focused on engineering retail packaging for products and he shared a bit about that field with me.  He is very sharp - he will do well in whatever career he chooses.

     And so into Castine - we only have about an hour or so because the ship pulls out at - you guessed it - ten thirty.

     Castine is considered to be the oldest settlement in New England, and served as the capital of a large French territory established here back in the 1600's.

     There is an old fort here that we don't have time to explore, and also this is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy.  The town has a population of 1,300 and the school has about 900 students.
     "The State of Maine" is a large vessel used to teach students who aspire to getting advanced Captain's licenses or other careers in commercial maritime areas.

     Just before we pull out the fog lifts and we are able to see an arriving cruise ship pass by the Dice Head Lighthouse that guards the entrance to the harbor.

     The lighthouse is an old one, built in the 1820's.

   Out across the bay we head, and before long we are passing Pumpkin Island Lighthouse.

     This lighthouse marks the Eggemoggin Reach, a body of water that runs between Penobscot Bay and Blue Hill Bay.  The lighthouse came into service in 1855.  What a great name.  Eggemoggin.

     Herb and Diane Schanke hail from Wisconsin.

     They were on this cruise with Doug and Linda 27 years ago.  They went back home, had and raised three boys and returned this year.  They are a quiet couple who seem to enjoy the solitude and scenery that the coast offers.  

     Islands roll by, escarpments with resident seals come and go, osprey and eagles soar overhead.  The bay is calm and many folks read books, knit, nap or engage in casual conversation.

     Also along is Diana and Dick Rogers with Dick's brother Bob.

     This is Diana and Dick's 17 cruise on the Heritage.  Dick retired from the CIA as a director of intelligence.  I enjoyed speaking with him about his career and thoughts.  Dick said that he was part of a group that kept an eye on Russia until Reagan took office.  Reagan wanted big numbers on Russia's military capabilities so he could justify a big buildup of arms.  The intelligence wasn't giving him what he wanted, so the entire Russia staff was reassigned and new people brought in who would give the president what he wanted.  Dick feels that as a result we missed some big opportunities when Gorbachev came into power.

     I asked Dick a pointed question about 911.  I asked: "I have met many people, upstanding people, who are convinced that at a minimum people in our military-industrial complex were involved in 911.  How do you feel about that?"  

     Dick said that he didn't know how something that big could be kept covered up -he said that the truth always has a way of wriggling its way out. He was highly doubtful if there was complicity or cooperation on the part of Americans.

    I shared with Dick how another friend in the Secret Service felt after the fiasco in Brazil a few years back, and Dick shared that he felt the biggest fiasco at the CIA was when Dick Cheney was insistent that they come up with a reason that he could invade Iraq.  There was no evidence, and Dick kept pushing.  As we know today Dick just went out and made stuff up and then blamed it on the CIA so he could have his war.

     Dick's brother Bob retired from a career at IBM.

     His wife died after a long illness this last year, and Diana and Dick urged him to come along with them on this trip.  Bob is a quiet but very observant fellow.  Besides the Captain, Bob was the only other person who always knew if I had the camera turned his way.  The few photos of me that will appear later in this series were courtesy of Bob.  The last time he and his brother were sailing together was back in the 1960's when they rented a boat in the Caribbean.  They were young and didn't know what they were doing - the stories were quite humorous as they ran into docks and lost their deposit.

     A storm is brewing inland, so the captain finds a harbor that is sheltered from wind and wave activity coming from that direction. We anchor, have another great dinner, and then after cards and music we call it a night.

     We hear thunder during the night, but the storm slides by us and heads toward Massachusetts.  The sun dawns on clear skies.

     I could spend a whole article talking about all of the daily maintenance these guys do on the boat.  Every morning the crew washes down all the decks with sea water.

     They joke about how many tons of "space dust" fall from the sky each year.  You can be far out to see and dirt shows up - seemingly out of nowhere.

     Today is a special day aboard the vessel - it seems that 11 years ago today a couple that is along with us got married - on this boat by this captain.  Meet Rico and Peg.

     Peg worked as a 4th grade teacher in private schools and was a project editor for an educational book publishing company.  Rico also taught school - he taught high school level Biology, Animal Science, Agricultural Mechanics, Photography and Photojournalism.

     I knew I was going to like Rico from our first conversation.  Before we boarded for the trip he approached me and said that he heard I was a photojournalist.  I said that I try to be.  He replied that he used to teach it.  I said "Great - I can learn some things from you," kinda figuring that this was one of those blow-hards who has "been everywhere and done everything."  Rico replied: "No, you are the guy out actually doing it - I can learn from you - and maybe we can learn from each other.  That is the best way anyway, isn't it?"  I wanted to hug him - but you know me.  I am the reserved and stoic type like Anton.

     Rico shared a heart touching story that I am going to include on the daily reflection site later in the week.  If you have not seen that site, Click Here.

     So they got married - and guess where exactly?  The same little cove the captain ducked into last night - Orchid Cove.  Captain Doug won't say whether it was the weather as he had claimed or if he had it planned all along - Doug likes to be a bit mysterious.

      Here is a photo of the day of the wedding:

Photo courtesy of Rico

     When we talked to Captain Jim Sharp in the article last week on the local museum he said that most of the couples that he "married at sea" appeared closer to delivery than conception.  That doesn't seem to have been the case for Captain Doug.  This is the only marriage ceremony Doug has performed.

     To celebrate the day we raise a pirate flag for Rico and Peg.

     Rico and Peg, both 68 years old, met on a still earlier Heritage voyage back in 1995.  Rico even served as a crew member for a few weeks when the vessel was short-handed.

     Sean baked them up a pirate ship loaf of bread.

     And the Captain has a destination in mind.  Tonight we are going to have the lobster roast, so we are heading out to an island he has in mind.  He is always vague on destinations, and when pressed he produces a phony map of an island shaped like a lobster.

     But we have a small issue.  There is a bridge we need to go under.  The bridge is about 15 feet lower than our height.

     So Linda and Sean head up the rope ladders to let down the upper mast sections.

     The upper masts are quickly lowered, gaining us the clearance we need.  You can get an idea from the two photos of Linda of how much clearance we gained.

    Captain Doug, ever the showman, keeps pointing to the bridge when trucks pass over and remarking how far the bridge bows down under their weight.  He says we are going to have to time our run under the bridge between passing trucks.

     They have had issues with passengers who climbed up the masts before, so I didn't press in asking to go up for a photo. Sean took one on his camera though - here is what Sean's foot looks like on the catwalk above:

Photo courtesy of Sean

     You see, Sean knew I was coming and took the photo 11 months ago.  We pass under the bridge, the upper masts are raised back up and the top sails hoisted again.  

     Peg's parents live right beside the bridge, and she is able to peer through the telescope at their house.

     Peg is a lot of fun too - she and Rico are well suited.  She and the captain seem to speak the same language.

     Some bizarre sort of sign language - pagan no doubt.

    Rounding out the crew is 17 year old Chris Mank.  

     Chris is between his Jr. and Sr. year in high school.  He is going to go to Maine Maritime Academy next fall, and wants to have his first level captains license before he goes.  So he is learning the ropes and logging sea time this summer - time that a lot of his classmates are out partying.

     He has to divide his time between the deck and the galley, and someone always has some task for him.  He cheerfully shows up no matter what is asked, and the crew show their appreciation by helping him however they can.  Here Ryan is teaching him some basic knot tying.

     And Sean helps him learn a few things besides cooking skills - here he is showing him how to operate an ancient device he calls a "Walkman."

    And so we will pick back up tomorrow on "Lobstah Island." 

    That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd."  This is Lois.

     Lois is a retired school teacher as well - she taught instrumental music to middle schoolers.  She is on back to back trips on the Heritage - her 17th and 18th excursions.  Lois is the head cheerleader and chief games organizer on this voyage.

     That brings us to today's parting shot - how to handle navigation in the fog.

     Maybe that's why Doug acts so mysterious - he doesn't want us to see him flipping the coin.

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Make it a great day !!

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