Tuesday, October 28, 2014

At the coast: storms, seabirds and a great lunch place!

We spent last week at Ocean Park, on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula. If you look on the very southwest tip of Washington, you'll see it. Formed over millions of years by silt from the Columbia River, the peninsula has 28 miles of continuous beach and has retained an old timey beach feel. It's a great place for storm watching and walking.

We spent five days at Ocean Park and it rained nearly every day from large storms that also hit the Seattle area over a hundred miles away. Once it hailed. The wind blew a lot. When the rain and wind stopped each day, we went for a walk. On two of the days we were the only people on the beach. Just us and the seabirds.


One-lane bridge on the walk to the beach



On the other side of the bridge.



"I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky."



Art looking for clams. Otherwise known as "the old man and the sea".



Seabirds like this fly in great flocks, patterned like an undulating wave in the sky. Once on the sand, they run to the edge of the tide, then run back. Art says they're looking for plankton.


 

The dimples in the foreground are clam "shows". We decided to rest on our clamming laurels from our last visit here three and a half years ago. Clamming is hard work!







This injured bird made numerous attempts to launch itself into flight. When we returned to the same spot two days later, it was still trying. It made two final attempts, then weakened and was carried to the shoreline. The locals do not rescue these birds, but let nature take its course.



Across the parking lot from our condo, Great Day Cafe has been in business for about three years. Its owner, Steve, runs a one-man show for lunch. Arriving early each day, he cooks a roast and a turkey. Every day. And puts on a pot of clam chowder and another pot of "soup of the moment."






We ate lunch at the Great Day Cafe four days in a row, selecting a different sandwich to split each time from the very tempting menu - and a bowl of the finest clam chowder I have ever eaten. I can't remember ever taking a trip where lunch was the high point of our eating day.

Away from our usual activities, we had a lot of quiet time during our beach stay. I had promised myself I wouldn't talk unless Art did, and he usually doesn't, so we mostly read. It was a good break.

Art wants me to add this story about the clams:

"The wind and the waves were so rough and high that the clams used their shells as surfboards, and came surfing in on the crests of the waves. All you needed was a dipnet to dip them off the crest."

"How many clams did you get?"

"None. I didn't have a dipnet."

Monday, October 20, 2014

I get the conversation thing

When our daughter Laura was 16 (nearly 20 years ago), she said to me one day, "Linda, it doesn't take much to make you happy. All you need is something to read, something to write, somewhere to walk, and someone to talk to." She was right.

My husband Art is not a talker. When we're at home, or on a quiet vacation, he can sit and read for hours without saying a word. This happened several years ago when we were on a home exchange at Peaks Island, just across the harbor from Portland, Maine. By the 7th day of our stay, I was nearly mad with boredom, and he was entirely content, having read five books.

I had this idea that if I persisted in trying to initiate conversations with Art, one day he'd realize that he was, in fact, an avid conversationalist. That an exchange of dialogue with me was far more interesting than a football game or a murder mystery or repair of the front porch or a nap. I've had this idea for more than 20 years and so far it hasn't happened.

When I quit my last job four years ago, I took up new activities to meet new people and engage my curiosity. I became a mediator and I met with my writers' group and I chatted with my neighbors. It wasn't quite enough. Then we spent a winter in Tucson and it was an answer because I had regular activities and some of them were discussion groups where people talked. Then we spent another winter in Tucson and I met more people. Art met some people too, of course, but he was also free to spend quiet time in our park model, reading or puttering or watching TV. I found that once I had met my social needs, I could leave the man alone and we could enjoy quiet time together as well as occasional conversation. In six weeks we will be leaving for Tucson. I am getting emails from people in our winter community and I'll be glad to see them all.

This summer I joined the Unitarian community. I participate in a few activities and Art does a couple of them with me. I took on a scheduling project for the church photo directory and I had phone conversations with people I hadn't met yet. I'm part of the planning group for the Tiny Houses project.

I spent last weekend at Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island with the Vashonistas, a group of women who blog. It was our third year together, and probably not the last. We did a lot of talking and laughing.

I now find that I am getting enough conversation from other people that I relish quiet time as well, and that's a good balance for Art and me.

For the next five days we are in Ocean Park, Washington, in a timeshare condo three blocks from the Pacific Ocean. We got here this afternoon and in four hours we have said relatively little except for a few brief exchanges of mutual interest. So far it feels pretty good.

This conversation thing. It sure took me a long time to figure it out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Retired but still thinking. Not humble yet, though.

When I worked for money, I thought all the time. Once I stopped working for money, I wanted to stay busy and I wanted to be useful, but I wasn't sure I wanted to think.

Four years later, I'm still thinking a lot. Here's what happened this week.

1. I'm working in the early stages of a project to build tiny homes for the homeless. I was assigned to talk to Chris, the influential pastor of a church who also serves on the city council - to find out what Chris knew, who he knew, and who could help us. I sent him an email one Friday telling him briefly what we were up to and asked if he'd have time the following week to meet me for coffee. We got together last Monday - he had only half an hour open on his calendar - and talked for 45 minutes anyway. I asked a couple of open-ended questions and took pages of notes. I got a few names from Chris and gave him one of my own. I wrote up a report. The coordinator of the project trusts me and has asked me to interview another organization.

Now that I'm older, my instincts are better. I'm not trying to prove anything - just get the job done. If people trust me, they'll be more open. And the more I listen, the better.

2. I had a tough mediation on Wednesday. A divorcing couple needed to work out a dissolution agreement but they could not be in the same room with each other, so the two mediators had to shuttle from room to room to communicate the negotiation points. We had to listen carefully - past the anger and frustration and disappointment the two people felt - and extract the meaning in addition to the feelings. The mediation was scheduled for three hours and we were there nearly five, with a second session scheduled for this week. 

These mediations are very tiring. They require patience, good listening, an intuitive give-and-take relationship between the co-mediators. Mediators must remain neutral and nonjudgmental. If the parties trust the mediators they'll be more open. 

I trained to be a mediator after I stopped working, but I'd acquired many of the skills required in my work life and in the 12-step program I've been in for a couple of decades. It's mostly about the listening, and trusting the process.

3. My Unitarian church community is putting together a member photo book. A photography company is spending eight days at the church and the members' photo sessions are carefully scheduled. I offered to work with the church administrator to schedule the appointments and also the hosts for the sessions - community members to greet arriving people and get them set up for their photos. I probably spent 15 hours on this project in the last week. I sat in the church narthex for two hours each of the past three Sundays, sent emails and made phone calls and listened to people in person and on the phone. So far the sessions are going well and my work is nearly done. I joined this church in June, and the church administrator trusts me. I'm good with details, so I know I can be useful in my new community. 

4. I attended a couple of meetings this week where people with diverse opinions were trying to reach consensus. I have opinions of my own, but I didn't talk nearly as much as I did when I was working. I was mostly listening and then reflecting back what I heard. I think this way of participating is more useful than advocating for a particular position. This is another advantage of being a mediator. It doesn't so much matter what my point of view is if I can help a group coalesce around a common understanding.

I have an old friend I met when we were both teenagers. We lost touch about 40 years ago, but through the miracle of Facebook we made contact again last year. We've chatted several times online. I knew my friend had worked for Apple and is now at Facebook, and she told me she travels a lot for her work. The night before last she posted on Facebook from India. As we chatted I realized that my friend plays a significant role at Facebook. She said, "Mark is fun so different from Steve." I realized she was talking about Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook and Steve Jobs who started Apple. She has been working directly with these world changers for over twelve years. I told her I was astonished she hadn't mentioned it before and commented on her humility. She said, "Well, I try to leave my ego at the door and be open to what I can learn." I said, "I'll bet you give your team all the credit." She said, "Well, I'm nothing without my team." 

I hope that on my deathbed I will be able to make statements like that. I'm not there yet. So far I can think and I can listen, but I like to take credit for those things I do well. I hope I'll move past that.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Bag Lady notices

Here's what I've noticed recently.

1. You can have family members living on your property without much stress if boundaries are established from the beginning. "Neighbors sharing a plot of land" has been a good rule for me and my husband Art and my sister Alyx and her husband Virgil. We chat nearly every day and share a couple of meals a week. Their cats go out from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and mine goes out after that. We split the cost of the utilities. Virgil works on our computers and patches little holes in the wall. Alyx the Nurse checks us out to confirm we're well. Art cooks. I mediate. Really, they've been here for five months and we're all doing well with the arrangement. None of us have kids at home, so that helps.

2. When a teenager decides he really wants to go to New York City with his grandmother, he may be motivated to pass his classes. I texted my grandson Kyle yesterday to see if he wanted to work in our yard today and he responded, "Can't because I have an English project to work on." Really? REALLY? I'm thinking June of next year he and I will be flying east. Until he was ready, though, no amount of encouragement would help. It could be he's just all of a sudden, in ninth grade, interested in school, but I doubt it.

3. You will see more of your grown son if he's doing a paying job for you. My son James fabricates and installs marble on yachts. He was supposed to be working on a nine-month job on a boat in Florida, but the deal got delayed for quite a while. James told me last week that the boat's owner is Putin's personal banker and his assets have been frozen, so no boat for now. When business is slow James looks for side jobs.  That would be our upstairs bathroom. He and his workmate Josh have been here half a dozen times in the last week as they move along on the marble project. James tells us about  odds and ends of his life. It is so good to see him.

4. If your husband decides to install the faucet for the new under-mount sink in the bathroom you should probably stay out of his way until the job is entirely done. When a 70-plus-year-old man is lying on the bathroom floor for three hours, his repaired-rotator-cuff shoulders and arms completely within the cabinet, hammering and pounding and cursing, it is useless to suggest he take a break, or let his brother-in-law help, or calm down. Useless. Tonight the water is coming out of both faucets but I can tell the job is not yet done. Tools lying around, you know, and unknown metal objects on the counter. If you make the mistake of thinking something you say will help the situation, you will be wrong.

5. If you read one of your favorite blogs and the writer notes with bafflement that no matter how much he exercises and no matter how well he eats, he is going to be powerless over the physical decline of his body, you nod with relief, because you have noticed the same thing and you thought you were the only one. My sister Alyx and I are thinking about writing a lighthearted but informative book about the aging process: why women develop wings under their upper arms; why we lose body hair in some places and grow it in others; why our night vision gets so bad; why it takes us three steps when we get up from a seated position to get ourselves moving.

6. If you spend all summer watering your corn patch and you get 15 ears of chewy corn, and then you hear that you shouldn't plant corn in the same place two years in a row, and you don't have any other place to plant the corn next year, you feel relief that next year there will be no corn in your garden.

7. If one night at dinner you have yourself and your husband Art, your brother-in-law Virgil who cooked the ribs, your stepson Jason and your grandson Kyle who shoveled gravel onto your driveway, and your houseguest Karuna who came up from California for the Jewish holiday, you can have a pretty cool dinner conversation!

8. If you are 66 and you strain your back and your shoulders from watering your garden, it will feel like they'll never heal. They do.

9. If you're annoyed with the man in the water aerobics class on Monday because he treats women like they were treated in the 50s, you'd best smile at him and give him silent credit for trying to be a good guy. Because on Thursday he might have a cerebral hemorrhage and on Friday he might be dead.

10. Each day is a gift.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Remembering Maine - part 6 - talk like a pirate

This post is an excerpt from our first cruise on the schooner Heritage back in 2003. We sailed last week on the Heritage - our sixth trip to Maine.

Friday

There are 29 stories aboard the schooner Heritage. Here are two of them:


Linda:
Art was acting a little strange before breakfast this morning. When we were seating ourselves in the galley, there were two places together along the wall, and I waved to him to join me. He shook his head and, instead, sat at the other end of the horseshoe table, on the outside. I wondered what was wrong.

Art:
“National Talk Like a Pirate Day” is one of Dave Barry’s, a humor columnist who does guy things and writes about them. This was one of his pet causes, which he might have picked up from one of his alert readers. The year before, I had talked some coworkers at the PUD [Public Utility District] into joining me, and at least wearing costumes, which included eye patches, bandanas, and swords (pronounced “swored’s”). I sang and put on a show for seven or eight people at work. So I was well prepared. I had picked up a T-shirt and sword the day before. And, with the help of Captain Doug, I got a hook. I had been bringing everyone along all week with a few ditties, usually Jim Hawkins and Captain Long John Silver stories, such as, “Hawkins! (blustery voice)” “Aye, captain (squeaky voice)”. “Fetch me my cat o’nines (blustery)” “Aye, aye, captain (squeaky). Here, kitty, kitty.””Argh.” (Linda groans out loud.)

So I went to breakfast, making sure Linda had the camera - which I found out later she didn’t use – and sat so I could slip out the door easily, being as I did not want to miss breakfast.

Linda:
Toward the end of breakfast, I looked up and noticed that Art was no longer in the galley. I was concerned now. I thought he might be sick – maybe he’d eaten too many lobsters, or had gotten a bad one. I decided that if he had not returned in five more minutes, I’d go looking for him.

Art:
Choking down the food, I made my escape. I dressed in my costume, which I had laid out in an empty cabin. To appease the crew, which was on deck eating their breakfast, I sang a little ditty, “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum (gruff voice).”

Linda:
Suddenly, I heard a commotion on the deck. A man was shouting. The voice sounded like Art’s, in a confrontation of some kind. I hoped he would keep his temper under control and that there wouldn’t be a physical altercation.

A few seconds later Art appeared on the top step of the galley. My mouth dropped open. He was wearing a red bandana, one arm ended not with a hand, but with a hook, and he was waving a pirate’s sword in the other. I remembered then that today was National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Art descended the stairs.
Art with hook hand and sneer
“Avast,” he bellowed. Of course, by now all the other passengers were watching him and, once their initial alarm had passed, they were laughing. Once in the galley, oh, my God, he started to sing a sea chantey, waving his hook in time to the music. I wanted to slide under the table in embarrassment. He sang two verses of the thing, and looked like he was ready to start in on a third. But no, he continued with a ribald joke.

Art:
This started off the descent into the galley, singing “You can tell I am a pirate, for I wear a pirate’s hat. Three times I have been shipwrecked and been found drowned.” A few more verses of this song worked me right into a Hawkins/Silver story. “Hawkins” “Aye, captain” “We’re about to embark on some rape, pillage and plunder. And being as you’re of such an age where you should not participate in such manly escapades…” “Aye, captain” “…I want you only to participate in oral sex. Just talk about it.”

The crew members were hanging over the stairwell. A couple of them almost fell through the hatch on that one. They said Nellie and Gretchen’s mouths almost hit the floor.

Linda:
By this time some of the passengers had turned to look at me. I don’t blush easily, but I’m sure my face was scarlet. God, it was embarrassing. I hoped no one would think he was a complete idiot, and prayed no one would think I had had anything to do with this stunt. I covered my face with both hands and waited for Art’s big moment to pass. Finally, after an endless two minutes or so, Art made his grand exit to laughter and applause – whereupon breakfast ended and the passengers began moving toward the stairs, laughing and shaking their heads.
Pirates Art and Linda
Art:
A couple more songs, and not wanting to start in on any more ribald classics, I made a quick exit.

Linda:
I hoped this display of juvenile behavior was over, but it appeared to have struck a chord with some of the other passengers – particularly the men and including Captain Doug. Within ten minutes four other passengers were wearing bandanas – two of them belonging to Art – and calls of “avast” and “argh” were exchanged all morning. The hook eventually ended up on Captain Doug’s arm. And then the jokes began. “What’s the pirate’s favorite kind of sock? – Argh-yle!” Hoots of laughter. “What’s the pirate’s favorite animal? – Argh-vark!” Chuckles all around. It was remarkable to watch these mature men trying to outdo each other with their “argh” jokes.

Fortunately, by the time we were ready to row ashore to Castine, today’s town, the joke swapping had reached its peak and was winding down. Only three people wore bandanas in the rowboat. I hoped fervently that the rest of the day would be without incident.

It wasn’t, of course. The pirate chatter continued off and on all day, picked up by the other passengers. Art went about his business, grinning to himself from time to time, but letting others carry on his excellent joke.

Art:


The participation lasted all day, with the help of the captain and the other brigands of the schooner Heritage. We even hoisted the Jolly Roger. We noticed another schooner with a similar flag during that day. Most likely they had nothing on us.hoisting the Jolly Roger

[Note: On all six of our Heritage voyages, Art the Pirate has appeared in the galley one morning. Even if it is not on National Talk Like a Pirate Day. It is just as embarrassing to me now as it was back in 2003.]
flags in the wind
We now return to our regularly scheduled commentary.



We walked through the town of Castine, notable for its Merchant Marine Academy and the uniformed, backpacked young men walking its streets. While some of the passengers toured the ship docked there, Art and I walked across the island to Back Bay Beach and back through town.

When we had reboarded the schooner for our afternoon sail, the news of the hurricane was becoming the front-page story. Isabel was expected to make landfall somewhere in Virginia, and high seas and winds were expected to extend clear to Maine. Off the bow of the schooner, the water was glassy calm. We sat dead in the water for nearly a half hour. Captain Linda said that if the wind didn’t come up in another 15 minutes, she’d use the yawl boat to push us. Captain Doug had decided that we would sail for Rockland Harbor and anchor inside the breakwater as protection from any high seas.

I decided to take my shower while we were still becalmed. When I stepped out ten minutes later, an eight-knot wind had us moving along smartly.

The sail down Penobscot Bay was profoundly restful. At one point I looked up from my book. Sally was working on her needlepoint and four men were asleep in deck chairs. The afternoon snack was chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven. I took two, promising myself to renew my commitment to Weight Watchers for the next several weeks until I recovered from our seagoing feasts.

By the time we reached the Rockland breakwater, the sea was choppier than at any other time during the week. Captain Doug directed the crew to drop two anchors rather than the usual one, and to raise the yawl boat. The sails were lowered and tarps placed over them for protection from possible high winds. We settled in for our final meal and the last Archie stories before we disembarked the next morning.

The captain’s log for Friday, September 19:


Friday, 22 miles. Overcast, calm morning. Motored to Castine for morning shroe trips – got underway at noon and sailed down the bay with an easterly breeze – sometimes very light. It perked up later on and we sailed to anchor behind the Rockland breakwater out of the big swells. It was “Talk Like A Pirate Day!” Aarrgh! Saw a mink whale today and an osprey. Toured the ship at Castine this morning.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Remembering Maine - part 5 - hair washing

Excerpt from our 2003 sail on the schooner Heritage out of Rockland, Maine. We spent last week on our sixth trip on the Heritage.

Thursday

This morning’s breakfast was French toast and bacon. There were no prunes. Fortunately, I no longer needed them.

Our morning shore trip was to the town of Stonington, on the southern coast of Deer Isle, but we had anchored in a different location, so the yawl boat was used to push the schooner. A little larger than the hamlets of the previous days, this community had a number of shops, including a few selling antiques. We had an hour and a half this time, so Art and I took a three-mile walk in the country and allowed ourselves some time to browse in the shops.

I found a store selling espresso and eagerly bought my usual double tall mocha. It had been nearly two weeks since I’d had anything but regular coffee, and I looked forward to this treat. To my dismay, it was the worst mocha I’ve ever had – watery and weakly flavored – and, except for those I pick up in airports, the most expensive. I take good espresso for granted, since it’s so common in the Pacific Northwest. Foolish of me.

Art stepped into a little shop where he found a T-shirt that immediately appealed to him. He held it up delightedly. It was black, with a skull and crossbones over the words “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Art complains a lot about his work, so I figured he was buying the T-shirt to proclaim his displeasure with the environment where he makes his living. In the same shop he found a 30-inch, wide-bladed plastic sword. I supposed that would be a gift for our grandson Kyle. I was surprised at his purchases, though. Art rarely buys souvenirs when we travel.

Our sail that day was under sunny, nearly cloudless skies. When I finished taking my shower and washing my hair, I found a comfortable spot on deck to finish up my novel. My lower lip was displaying early symptoms of a herpes outbreak, which happens to me frequently these days when I get too much sun. Imagine, too much sun in Maine! I had forgotten, all week, when I was putting sunscreen on my face and neck and arms and legs, to pay attention to my mouth. I knew that within a few days I would be quite uncomfortable, but it was too late to prevent, so I resigned myself to some discomfort in the coming few days.

I noticed Marjorie and Karen on the port side of the deck. Marjorie was pouring a bucket of water on Karen’s head. I put my book down and walked over to see what they were up to. Karen and her husband Ned had sailed previously with Doug and Linda, including on the Isaac Evans, their previous schooner, where there had not been a hot water shower available. Karen was showing Marjorie how passengers had washed their hair - by dipping a bucket into the water, getting their hair wet, shampooing with some sort of special soap, and rinsing with another bucket of water.

They both had wet hair and they were both giggling. Marjorie said, “Linda, want me to wash your hair?” I told her that I had just gotten out of the shower where I had washed it myself. Marjorie said, “Oh, well, you have to do it this way, too.”

I was reminded, for some reason, of the antics of high school girls. But I was game. It was a warm day, after all, and I’d spent enough time for now in the solitude of my book. So I said okay.

Marjorie told me to lean over the side of the schooner. I watched the bucket being lowered into the water on the end of a rope. When it arrived back at deck level, Marjorie poured the water on my head. That water was so cold I gasped. For some reason, I had forgotten that we were sailing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, that the water was cold, and that it was salty. Marjorie’s firm fingers massaged my frigid scalp as she worked in the shampoo. Then Karen dipped the bucket again. I shrieked as I saw it coming back up, full of water, and I realized that my head was already cold. I wondered if there would be brain damage done to me by lowering the temperature of my scalp even further. That second bucket of water was just this side of painful.
washing hair over the side of the schooner
Karen handed me a towel and I dried my hair. Now that the shampooing was over, I felt exhilarated and clear headed, and proud of myself for stepping outside of my normally conservative habits.

Marjorie looked around. “Who’s next?” I knew with complete certainty that no one but Marjorie could persuade anyone else to go through this ordeal. Marjorie’s husband Bill had been watching, and he decided to give it a try. His bellow as the cold water was poured on his head drew the attention of other passengers. Once Bill’s hair was clean, he proclaimed that he was the owner of the shop and that Marjorie and Karen were the “girls” working for him. By this time, the captains and crew were keeping an eye on the small commotion on the port side.

I watched with astonishment as, one by one, the passengers and crew of the Heritage were exhorted, persuaded, teased, and otherwise induced to allow Marjorie and Karen to wash their hair with bucketfuls of seawater.

Here’s Art’s recollection:

When I saw Linda getting her hair washed, I got the camera out and proceeded to take some pictures. I was nagged and cajoled by Marjorie and Karen, but I was interested in reading my book. I kept one eye out, though, watching the goings on. It was like a bunch of teenagers performing some juvenile stunt, like stuffing a telephone booth full of people. Finally, after everyone else had been talked into getting their hair washed, they all started in on me. So, rather than fight everyone, I gave in – an “in for a dime, in for a dollar” attitude. The first bucketful was quite invigorating, but the second one, which was larger in rinsing, kind of numbs the skull. But a good round of laughs was had by all.
In the end, of 29 passenger and crew, 23 participated – including both Captains Doug and Linda. It was one of those times when the spirit of spontaneity and fun prevailed over good sense.

When the beauty shop closed down for the day, we made ice cream on the deck. The ingredients for chocolate and vanilla ice cream were poured into metal canisters sitting in buckets of ice and salt. Sally and I sat side by side on the canisters while two of the men turned the cranks to cool the mix. Two others took our places. That was the only ice cream we had all week. It was worth the wait!

All week, we had been looking for ugly boats. Usually that meant “not schooners”. On this day we anchored across a cove from a black, steel, low-lying yacht. It reminded me of something out of a James Bond movie. We could see no signs of life on it. We dubbed it the “Big Ugly Boat.”

I’d had conversations, by this time of the week, with most of the other passengers. They were, for the most part, congenial and interesting, and they shared with Art and me an adventuresome spirit. After all, we’d all chosen to spend this week on a sailboat rather than on a cruise ship. Most of us had traveled other places. On this day, I learned more about a number of them. One woman had two artificial hips. One man had had multiple heart attacks. One had severe emphysema. One woman had lost a breast to cancer. I’d been aware all week, of course, of the botched surgery that had resulted in Charlotte’s need for a breathing tube.

I’ve been fortunate to have had good health most of my life. Now that I’m getting on in years – or at least into middle age – I’m conscious that every day is a gift. That I must take care of my body so that it will serve me as I move through life. I probably won’t be able bodied forever. Two years ago I went on my first rest-of-my-life medication to keep my blood pressure down. I had this idea that once my body started to decline, I would be done traveling and would need to stay home – or maybe wouldn’t want to be far from home. Yet, all of these Heritage passengers continue to move toward life and adventure, even as their bodies age and falter. It was a wonderful realization. There is plenty of life experience remaining. It’s all in the attitude.

Here’s the captain’s log for Thursday:

Thursday, 22 miles. Sunny. Pushed to Stonington after breakfast for morning shore trips. Got underway just before lunch and sailed pout into the day to see seals and porpoises. Then sailed up the bay with a nice easterly wind. Cold salt-water hairwashing had by almost all. Ice cream in the afternoon. Anchored in Smith Cove near Castine. Saw the “BUB” boat of the week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Remembering Maine - part 4 of 6 - lobster!

This post is an excerpt from our 2003 cruise on the schooner Heritage. We spent last week on our sixth sail out of Rockland, Maine.

Wednesday

Heavy anchor chains and sloshing water woke me again, but today it sounded comfortably familiar. We made our way to the galley. Breakfast was oatmeal with toppings of raisins, brown sugar and nuts. I was hungry in my stomach, but my digestive tract was still full, and I was feeling more uncomfortable. To my relief, one of the oatmeal toppings was prunes. Ah! I put five prunes discreetly on my plate. I hoped I would eat just enough to do the job digestively but not so many that I’d become indisposed for the day.

I remember a time years ago when I took a trip with my mother and my sister Alyx to Yosemite. My sister was single then, and she was a dangerous flirt. During dinner at Yosemite Inn she’d carried on with the busboy, who asked her to meet him after he got off work. My mother, who was paying for the trip and therefore calling the shots socially, said no way. Alyx was infuriated that Mom would impose behavior requirements on her. She and I went to our room for a game of cards. She had brought along a bag of prunes, and as she vented to me she ate about 20 of the prunes.

Alyx and I, night people both, were roused from sleep the next morning at the ungodly hour of six to get on the road for home. So, heading down the east side of the Sierra Nevadas were my bossy, morning person mother and two grouchy grown daughters. Twenty miles later, Alyx realized that the 20 prunes she had eaten the night before had more than done their job. She was seized with an urgent need for a restroom. At this point we were traveling a two-lane highway with 30 miles between each tiny desert town. Alyx was in great distress until we finally found a deserted service station with an unlocked restroom. When she emerged, looking pale but relieved, she described that restroom as the dirtiest one she had ever visited.

I remembered that Captain Doug had told us we’d be leaving civilization. So I was careful with my prune consumption.

After breakfast the rowboat, not looking so spastic this morning, carried a load of us to Birch Bay Island. Again, Art and I took a walk, up the hill to the center of the island. This time, we were accompanied by Ray, the companion of Charlotte the Noisy. As we conversed, I noticed what a quiet, mild mannered man he was. He was very respectful of Charlotte. He said, “She is a real lady.” They must have a double life!

While we were walking the island, Captain Linda came ashore in the yawl boat to buy lobsters for our afternoon picnic. When we’d all returned to the Heritage, we learned that the lobster salesman had wanted too high price for the lobsters, so Linda had returned empty boated and a little miffed. Later in the day, while we were sailing, someone took the yawl boat to another island and bought 93 pounds of lobster. At the market rate, that would cost well over a thousand dollars. I doubt it was even close to that on this Maine island. I wonder if people who live on the islands think of lobster as a treat like the rest of us do.

After an exhilarating afternoon sail – sunny weather and a brisk, steady wind – we anchored near Wreck Island. The yawl boat was launched first with Captain Linda, three crew members and the 93 pounds of lobster. The rowboat made two trips to deposit all passengers and the rest of the picnic gear.
Linda standing around lobster traps
A fire had been built in the sand near the edge of the water. When we arrived on the beach, there were hamburgers and hot dogs being cooked over the fire, which would become a bed of coals for the lobster pot. Pans of potato salad and beans had been set out. Art says, “Being as hungry as I was, I had a hamburger and a hot dog and potato salad while waiting for the main course to arrive.”

An old washtub was filled with seawater and put on the coals to boil. When the steam was rising from the tub, Trevor and Sam pulled seaweed from the water near the shore. At the same time, Captain Linda and Gretchen transferred the live lobsters from their crate to the boiling water. The seaweed was then spread over the water in the pot. I asked Linda why this was done. She said it served two purposes. While the lobster were cooking, the seaweed layer insulated the water – like having a lid on the washtub – and flavored the lobster. Then, when the lobsters were cooked, the tub was dumped over, and the seaweed spilled out first onto the sand, acting as a bed for the pile of cooked lobster. The captains and crew then formed a chorus line on the edge of the shore and performed a celebratory lobster dance, ending up with a big “ta da”, which they repeated several times for the photographers in the group.
crew performing their lobster dance
Stacks of paper plates were set out on a nearby rock. Each person took a plate (or two, in some cases, for sturdiness). Captain Linda selected a lobster and put it on the plate, and Gretchen handed the person a paper bowl of melted butter. Linda looked especially for the “shedders”. These lobsters were beginning to discard their shells while alive, so they would not have been shipped to market. Rather than throwing the shedding lobsters away, though, the market proprietors are able to sell them each day to individuals coming to the dock – whether locals or, in our case, passenger schooners. Seems like a good deal for both sides.

Then the feast began in grand style. We ate our lobsters standing in the sand, on a beach, with our paper plates on large boulders. We needed no eating utensils or shell crackers. We used rocks instead, to break open the shells. The meat was juicy and tender and very fresh. We dipped the pieces in melted butter. As we ate the lobster, butter and salt water ran down our chins. Not having eaten lobster except at a restaurant, Art got a few pointers from Bill and Marjorie, the Louisiana couple, who were used to eating soft-shelled crab. They provided the finer points of eating the lobster butter, which some people see as something to throw away. Being as Art was so hungry, and the crew kept insisting that there was plenty, he was disappointed that he could only eat three of the lobsters. We made a delicious mess. Art had butter and water and juices from the top of his head down to his belly. We had to wade in the water to rinse off.

When everyone was full, Sam, the cook, made a final count. There were 31 lobsters left to take aboard. Art was eagerly waiting to see what he would do with them. The next day we had lobster-stuffed mushrooms, lobster soup, and lobster and artichoke dip. What a treat!

After we’d rinsed off, Art and I went for a hike on the island. We made our way through shrubs and stunted trees. Within a hundred feet we could no longer hear the sounds of the picnickers. We got a terrific view of the Heritage sitting in the cove. Art noticed deer tracks on the sandy moss-like ground. We followed the tracks, leaving behind our view of the water, until we crested the island, and were startled by the deer we had tracked, which we caught napping in the undergrowth. It was very quiet on the island. I became a little nervous. I had lost my bearings and it was nearing dusk. I persuaded Art that we should find our way back to the beach. I had faith that, if we could not retrace our steps, if we continued downslope we would come to some beach – hopefully in the spot we had left. After less than a mile, we could hear the picnickers again, and rejoined them for the row back to the schooner.

Captain Doug told us that conditions were right for the Northern Lights. I’ve only seen them once before, flying into Seattle from Chicago, but Art has seen them many times. In the city, though, light pollution keeps Lights from being as vivid as they are elsewhere. We decided to go to bed early, but asked to be called if the Lights were visible. I’d just finished reading to Art and turned out the light when Captain Doug called, “Northern Lights”. I scrambled out of my bunk, threw my windbreaker over my nightgown, and climbed the stairs to the deck. Doug showed me where to look. Off to starboard was a low-lying island. Around and above the island was a greenish glow. Doug said, “They may be brighter if we wait.” I stood there for 15 minutes, watching the glow and looking at the sky as Linda pointed out the Milky Way overhead. It was a clear night, and the starry sky was a spectacular display.

I grew chilly, so I went back to bed. I heard the next day that later in the evening the Northern Lights put on a colorful show for the late-night watchers.

The captain’s log for Wednesday:
Wednesday. 18 miles. Sunny. Shore trips after breakfast. Then sailed down to Stonington to buy lobsters for our afternoon cookout on the beach on Wreck Island. Sunset cannon – stars, Mars and Northern Lights.