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.


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

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.

“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.

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.

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).”

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.

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.

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
A couple more songs, and not wanting to start in on any more ribald classics, I made a quick exit.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Remembering Maine - part 3 of 6

This is a further excerpt of the recounting of our 2003 sail on the schooner Heritage out of Rockland, Maine. We spent last week aboard, on our sixth trip.


Blueberry pancakes for breakfast. It has been a long time since I’ve eaten so well and so much early in the day. On just our second full day on the water, the breakfast ritual already seems deeply familiar.

As we cleared the breakfast dishes, the topic of the noises of the night came up. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had heard the frisky couple. My own reaction was discomfort, but two of the other women expressed amusement, and one believed the couple had displayed poor taste. I talked briefly with Art about the incident as well. He said, “Oh, they were at it yesterday afternoon when I came downstairs to get a jacket.” As it turned out, the couple spent a lot of time in their cabin, and when they were on deck their comments to each other were noticed. As the week went on they became a topic of increasing gossip. I wondered whether that was because of annoyance or envy – or both!

Captain Doug told us that the wind usually didn’t come up until late morning. So, he said, there would be a shore trip for those of us who were interested. The 15-passenger rowboat, the Clark Kent, would be lowered over the side in about ten minutes. I descended the stairs to pick up my blue windbreaker and the camera. When I got back to the deck, preparations were being made to lower the rowboat into the water – with Charlotte as a passenger, as she said she would be unable to climb down the rope ladder. So eight or so passengers and crew formed two lines, one at the bow of the Clark Kent, and one at the stern. The lines were passed back. Charlotte was assisted to her seat in the center position in the rowboat. On command, the two lines lowered boat and woman into the water.

“Okay,” said Noah, one of the two crew members who would be accompanying us to shore. “We need a rower.” Art volunteered. He was instructed on how to swing his body over the deck rail and grip both sides of the rope ladder before beginning to descend, and was directed where he should sit once in the rowboat. “Another rower.” Marjorie said, “I’ve never rowed. Can I do it?” Yes, she could. She was seated in the left front position. Then a sitter – someone in the center front, between two rowers - and another sitter. I decided to be a sitter this time. Within five minutes, 15 of us had been seated.
rowers in the boat, oars up
Oars were passed to the eight rowers, and instructions were given. “The rowers in the front set the pace. The rest of you, match your stroke to the front rowers. Here is how you row.” Then a very brief demonstration of how to hold the paddle, how to put it in the water, how to move it through the water, how to remove it and bring it back forward to begin the next stroke. “You don’t want to move it too far out of the water, or it will splash.” Trevor, one of the crew members, sat in the bow of the rowboat, his back to the water, coordinating our efforts. Noah sat in the stern to operate the rudder and laugh.

Samuel, a crew member still on board the schooner, cast the line, and we were off. Marjorie, she who had never rowed, dipped her oar into the water, where it skidded along the surface and returned a spray of ocean water into the rowboat, promptly soaking passenger Nelly’s pants. Laughter all around. The second stroke was a little better, but when Marjorie pulled the oar back to its starting position, she lifted it high out of the water, and the water ran down the oar handle and dripped into the rowboat, again on Nelly’s pants. Louder laughter, and a couple of raucous remarks about the proficiency of the oarswoman. I was grateful it was Marjorie rather than me; on a recent attempt at kayaking I had displayed a similar initial clumsiness before I picked up the rhythm of paddling.

Fortunately, the rest of the rowers were more efficient. By the time we reached the dock on shore, we were more coordinated – but only a little. We dubbed our rowboat and crew the “Spastic Spider”. I’m sure we were funny looking as we learned together how to get around on the water.

Once on land, most of the passengers headed for the shops clustered around the dock. Art and I went for a walk along the single-lane road. We had about 45 minutes before we were to be back at the rowboat. I calculated the time using my pedometer – I walk about two miles in half an hour – that’s about 5000 steps on the pedometer. So, in the 45 minutes available to us, we’d walk 7500 steps or so. We walked up the road until my pedometer said I’d taken 3700 steps, then turned around. We arrived back at the dock just as the rest of the passengers were convening. I congratulated myself on my timepiece.
island ferry
By the time the Spastic Spider drew up beside the schooner, the wind had come up. We were eager to set sail for our second day. But the sail’s winch was broken. While Captain Doug did the troubleshooting and repair, we had lunch on the deck. I’d had a momentary concern that our trip would be interrupted by a broken boat, but an hour and a half later we were ready to go. By this time a light rain was falling, and a good thick fog had rolled in. Being out on the water with minimal visibility was an odd experience. We could hear foghorns as we passed various islands. I’m told that each has a unique sound, and that sailors can get their bearings by listening to the location and the tone of the foghorn.

I wasn’t feeling as well as I wanted to. I had a cramp in my side most of the day. It dawned on me that my digestive tract had been taking in a lot of food in the last 36 hours, and that there hadn’t been a corresponding outgo. That happens to me often on the road, for some reason. I sent positive thoughts into the universe, suggesting that I be given some relief, but the universe was silent. Then, in the mid afternoon, I heard the thud coming from the stairway near our cabin. I hoped it wasn’t someone having a heart attack, and that it wasn’t Art. No heart attack, it turned out. Just a slip and fall – but it was Art. As Captain Linda descended the stairs to check on him, I thought, oh, fine. I’m not up to par and now Art is injured. As it turned out, Art was stiff and sore for 24 hours or so, but he felt better before I did.

After the first two hours the fog lifted and the sky cleared. We would be sailing under the Deer Isle Bridge, a suspension bridge linking Deer Isle to the mainland. Captain Doug told us we’d have about eight feet of clearance once the top part of the mast was lowered. Two crew members climbed the rope ladders to the top of each of the two masts. While passengers pulled, the mast climbers pulled the pins. And when they flowed, the pins were set at a lower level. As we drew nearer and nearer to the bridge, I was sure the schooner was going to be too tall. The four crew members were still hanging out on top of the masts, which made me nervous. I’ve been a mother of sons too long not to know that young men seek out risk. But, sure enough, we glided under the bridge with feet to spare, the crew members reaching up to slap the metal of the bridge deck as we passed under it. They then raised the top mast, made it fast, and slid down the ropes.

The rest of the day’s sail was beautiful, but uneventful. Passengers clustered on the deck in small conversational groups. One of the topics was my clothes. Art and I have done enough active traveling that we now wear nylon convertible pants a good deal of the time on our trips. We start out in the cool of the day in long pants, and, when the day grows warm, we unzip the detachable legs, stowing them in our daypacks and continuing on in shorts. It’s a practical clothing solution for us. On the schooner, I wore my convertible pants nearly every day. On this second day sailing, several of the women commented on what a good idea they were, and wanted to know where I bought them. I was surprised. Come to think of it, though, if I weren’t a walker I wouldn’t know either.

I’d also bought some Chako sandals last winter before a trip to Hawaii. These waterproof sandals are so comfortable that I wore them all summer, not only on walks but to work as well. And they were the perfect shoes to wear on the schooner. As a matter of fact, most of the crew had the same suntan lines on their feet as I did – except the ones that had Tevas, whose tan lines were like Art’s. The shoes, too, were a topic of conversation. Like having the right tool for the job, having clothing that works is a real asset on the road.

We anchored in Bucks Harbor. The water and the sky were the same slate color, a monochrome at sea.

Here’s the captain’s log:
Tuesday 18 miles – foggy and rainy – shore trips in the morning – got underway after lunch. Sailed up Eggemoggin Reach – under the Deer Isle Bridge – and anchored in Buck’s Harbor. Saw a bald eagle.
It seemed to me like we’d been eating all day. The main dinner course was stew. It was wonderful, but I don’t eat a lot of stew, so I was able to take a fairly small helping without feeling like I was missing out. Accompanying the stew was mussels in their shells. Now, I am not much of a seafood person, but I do like shellfish. Shrimp, lobster, and crab are a treat for me. My father said, when I was a teenager who always ordered them, that it was because they’re the most expensive. He was wrong, though. I don’t like fish much because they have bones. Even when they are billed as fillets, there’s always an unexpected bone lurking in there somewhere. So let’s just say I don’t trust fish.

Shelled seafood like clams, oysters and mussels are a little different. I can eat them, but I am suspicious of sand. It nearly always turns up in those shells. Even when the meat has been removed from the shells I can find sand. Most unappetizing.

However, on this night, when the pot of mussels was passed down the table, they had such a wonderful aroma that I overrode my usual rule and spooned about four of them onto my plate. I can say with certainty that those were the finest mussels I have ever eaten, with a fabulous texture and flavor. Lucky for me, the pot came around again. Apparently most of the other passengers had elected to have seconds on stew instead. So Art and I pretty much had the extra mussels to ourselves. I’ll bet I ate nine or ten, and I wouldn’t even want to count the number of shells on Art’s plate.

I was getting close to full on those mussels. I complimented Nellie, the chef. I said, “How did you cook those mussels? They are wonderful!” She responded, “Oh, they are cooked in two cups of wine.”

Art and I laughed. No wonder they’d tasted so good! Usually, when we eat out, we check on the ingredients in sauces and sautees, and we forego dishes cooked with alcohol. We’re always assured that the alcohol has boiled away during the cooking. That could be true, but it’s not wise for us to trust absolutely everything we’re told where the harmlessness of alcohol is concerned. It didn’t occur to either of us, at that dinner, to ask about the mussels. Once we knew, though, we passed the pot along the next time it came around the table.

Following a half hour of Archie stories told by Captain Doug, we sat on the deck for a bit, chatting with other passengers and watching the moon on the water. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Remembering Maine - part 2 of 6

Excerpt from our first schooner cruise, in 2003. We spent last week aboard the schooner Heritage, out of Rockland, Maine, for our sixth trip.


When I awoke again, it was with a start, at the sound of heavy metal chains being tossed on the deck immediately above my head, and water sloshing from a bucket, and young male voices. No drowsy lingering in bed this morning! Clearly, work was being done above us, and it was time to get up. Art’s bed was empty.

I dressed quickly and climbed the stairs. We’d been told the night before that the best time to shower was after 9 in the morning and before 9 at night. The water for the shower was heated by the wood stove in the galley, and hot water would be more plentiful between those hours, when there was no cooking going on. I felt a little disheveled without a shower and clean hair, but I figured everyone else would be in the same spot, so it didn’t matter much. I had it in my mind to take my shower early in the afternoon each day of the cruise.

On deck, a small cluster of men stood around a coffee pot. I heard snippets of conversation about work, past sails, sports and politics. Someone handed me a mug of coffee – strong and not too hot, it still contained the caffeine I need in the morning.

I joined a small group of women nearer the galley. I remembered them from the night before -- Marjorie, an energetic, humorous, outspoken woman from New Orleans; Sally, a tiny Californian; Karen, who reminded me of my friend Barbara. And another woman I hadn’t met – as it turned out, Joanne, half of the couple in the motorhome who’d spontaneously decided to join this cruise. The women welcomed me with smiles. We identified the morning people and the night people. I was glad to see I was not the only person who wasn’t fully awake and perky.

Within minutes, the meal bell clanged, and we descended to the galley. Steaming serving bowls of wonderfully seasoned scrambled eggs, plates of perfectly prepared bacon, stacks of toast with jars of homemade jam and marmalade, earthenware pitchers of fruit juice, bowls of fruit, pots of hot coffee. Really, we couldn’t have asked for a more filling breakfast. We passed the food until we were all stuffed, and then we passed it again.

Captain Doug spoke to the group. “We’ll be setting sail at about 10:30,” he said, “So if you want to leave the schooner, be sure to be back by then.”

When almost every scrap of food had been consumed, Captain Linda instructed us on the remaining kitchen tasks. “Stack and pass,” she said, meant to move all plates, silverware and bowls to the two ends of the horseshoe table, scraping into one of the serving bowls as we went. As we complied, crew members Nellie and Trevor moved swiftly to gather up the remaining jams and condiments into storage containers for later use. An oversized sink was filled with soapy water, and an assembly line was set up for washing, drying and putting away the dishes. Most of the men had returned to the deck, and a few of the women were already playing cards in the corner of the galley, but the clean-up crew talked and laughed as they made fairly short work of the breakfast dishes.

It was a nearly clear day, with just a few clouds, temperature in the low 60s. As soon as all the passengers were aboard, the captain gave notice to hoist the gangplank, to cast off the lines, and the crew pulled the ship back into deeper water before tossing the last line back to the dock. The yawl boat had been lowered, and Captain Linda had brought it around to pull the schooner out into the channel, and then came about and turned the boat out seaward. I was watching Captain Linda. It was surprising to me that a ten-foot yawl boat could maneuver the 150-foot schooner using only one rope (Art says “they call them lines”) tied off between the two craft. Then the yawl boat was secured and the hoisting of the sails began.

I had decided that I would participate in the sailing. In the past, I’ve sat on the deck and watched as our friends Bob and Sheila, and Art, worked the sails. I suspected that my experience on this trip would be enhanced if I did more than watch others work. Still, I felt awkward. I’m inexperienced in sailing, and I knew that a number of the other passengers had done this before. As a matter of fact, the single man, Merv (actually, he is married, but his wife is a golfer rather than a sailor, so she was at home in California), had mentioned that he belonged to a sailing club and had sailed on many other occasions. I was an amateur, but I didn’t want to look like one. Hopefully I could help in a way that wouldn’t call attention to my seagoing clumsiness.

Art, on the other hand, had been interested in this cruise specifically because it was a working schooner. He wanted to see how it was sailing a larger ship rather than just the small sailboat that one person could operate.

Preparations for getting underway was directed by Captain Doug. The website for the schooner describes it this way: 
Attention to tradition makes the new schooner Heritage an authentic Maine coasting schooner. When it's time to hoist the anchor and raise the sails, the authentic 1917 deck engine can be called into service. The distinctive sound sings out as the gaff inches its way up the mast, sails unfurling ready to catch the wind again.
closeup of ropes and sailsNoah, the first mate, started the deck engine. The crew kept the lines free and directed the participating passengers. Here’s an example of a direction. Nellie said, “I need two flowers (pronounced “flow-er” with a long “o”). I said, “What is a flower?” She said, “Let this line run through your hands. Don’t try to stop the line. Just keep it flowing smoothly.” I could do that. I was a flower on that occasion.

Meanwhile, Art had taken up a position as a puller; those people hoisted not the mainsails (that was what they had the engine for), but the topsails and the foresails (pronounced “topsles” and “forsles”). The pullers were in groups of three, usually two men and one woman, and they reached up the line, grasped it, and pulled it down, reached up again, pulled down again. Kind of like raising a very heavy flag. Art says, “We were actually working the fall line of a set of four block and tackle”– a set of four pulleys in a block to reduce the amount of human effort required.
Art as a puller
While the sails were being hoisted, we listened carefully to the called instructions of crew and both captains. The idea is, while the pullers are raising the sails, the flowers are releasing the line that will eventually pull the sails down, and they will flow on the fall line of the blocks. I admit that these words are Art’s. He has explained this scenario to me at least three times since we returned from our trip, and I still don’t get it. That’s why, when I started writing about the sailing of the schooner, I asked Art to give me the words. He wishes I would learn the concept so that he can work on his crossword puzzle undisturbed.

The sails in place, the lines had to be made up and secured to the davits. Translated, that means they were coiled in a specific configuration, always clockwise because of the lay of the line. Then they are tied up to secure the sails and placed on the mast, so that they’re not in the way and so that when they’re needed again when the sails are unfurled the lines will fall easily. I learned that the discipline of sailing is intensely practical. That’s probably why Art understands it better than I. His work as the foreman of a line crew for the electric company requires the same disciplined, practical approach.

We were now headed out of Rockland harbor. As we were departing, we passed a lobster boat returning to port. It looked like a garbage scow because of the innumerable seagulls following it. Lobstering is a primary industry in this part of the country. We were looking forward to one of the featured events of this cruise – a lobster feed one evening on an island beach.

We made up the lines, and numerous passengers were gathered around Captain Doug and his compass and charts to see exactly where we were going and what the layout of the area was. Other passengers – me included – found positions by the rail or on seating areas on the open deck. On this cruise, we could do whatever suited us during the day’s sail.

Doug listened to several radio channels – NOAA (National Oceanographic Atmospheric Something) and other boats to ascertain the weather and the wind and to chart our course for the day.

It was in the mid 60s, with a blue sky and cirrus clouds. Just about a perfect day, in my mind, for a sail. Once we were on the water, I went to our cabin and found my book – not the one I read aloud to Art at night, but a Nora Roberts romance – perfect for passing time and not requiring much thought. I put on my shorts, slathered my legs with sunscreen, and found a deck cushion and an empty spot for reading.
Linda resting on boat
Art was watching the water and helping when the captain needed hands for coming about. Art didn’t see much on the water of interest, though he did hear someone on the radio say they had seen a whale.

I looked up from time to time from my book to chat with a fellow passenger – I had good long conversations with Sally and Joanne that day – and to notice the ever-changing color and texture of the water. On this day, there were times when it looked like silken glass.

Lunch was served on deck. It consisted of steaming cauldrons of homemade soup and multiple loaves of warm homemade bread with butter, jam, cashew butter and peanut butter. We served ourselves buffet style. It seemed to me that we had eaten breakfast only a short time before. I wondered how I could eat again. I had exercised not at all after the plentiful breakfast. This lunch was one of those where you are full and yet you eat more, cursing yourself for your gluttony.

During the afternoon, Art spent his time listening to Captain Doug talk. The man has been sailing schooners for over 30 years, and he has an endless supply of stories to tell to just about anyone who will listen. His stories are about building the schooner and some of the difficulties he ran into; different trips that they had and things that happened on each trip; and, always, stories from his youth. As Doug talked at the wheel, watching the wind and the sails, Captain Linda was all over the schooner – directing the kitchen activities between meals, teaching passengers how to work as a team in hauling up the yawl boat, supervising the youthful crew, and making sure that every passenger was comfortable.
hauling up the yawl boat
When Doug and Linda’s two daughters, Clara and Rachel, were growing up, they spent their summers aboard the schooner, meeting passengers from all over the country and the world. Those girls are now young women. One graduated recently from college and now works at Google, an Internet company in California. The other recently entered a prestigious university on the east coast. Most likely they had a very well rounded pre-college education.

Midway between lunch and dinner, crew member Gretchen ascended from the galley with an overloaded tray of lemon bars, hot from the oven. I couldn’t believe we were expected to eat again. Fortunately for me, sweets are not unbearably tempting, so I was able to say no to all but the first bar. Art succumbed to his gigantic sweet tooth and corresponding appetite and love for lemon bars. I have no idea how many he ate, and I have no plans to ask.

I remember when I first met Art, I could always find him, at a potluck, standing beside the food table. I remember also a mutual friend who approached me on one of these occasions and asked, “Why doesn’t Art explode?” I worry sometimes that his appetite for sweets and fats will be detrimental to his health, but I have learned through the years to keep my mouth shut most of the time. On this cruise, I figured I’d have a better time myself if I didn’t watch Art at table.

In late afternoon we pulled into a cove on Swan’s Island. Doug looked around and decided against anchoring there, so we sailed around the island to another cove, where we dropped anchor, dropped the sails, learned how to put them away, made the lines fast for the night, and set up the tarps to keep the dew off.

Here is the day’s entry in the captain’s log:

Monday, 32 miles, sunny and foggy – a nice sail “Down East” – through the Deer Isle Passage and York Narrows. Anchored in Mackenak Cove on Swan’s Island. Saw osprey and seal.
Dinner was ready long before I was hungry. The meal was comfort food – platters of baked chicken, fresh steamed vegetables, and boiled new potatoes.

That night after dessert (I can’t even remember what it was, but I know it was wonderful), Captain Doug told his first Archie story. I’d heard about these yarns during the day from repeating passengers, but had no idea what they were. Archie, as Doug tells it, was a childhood friend who had endless escapades and encounters with the world, real and make believe. Simple events could be turned into classic misadventures. Doug could string that story along for fifteen minutes, until the population of the entire galley was hanging on his every syllable. When the climactic moment of the story arrived, passengers let out a communal belly laugh, often punctuated by groans of pain from laughter or sometimes as a comment on the quality of the pun at the end. I wish I could do justice to these stories, but, really, you had to be there. Suffice it to say, Archie was the guest star every single evening after dinner.

I lay awake for a while after I turned off the reading lamp. I could hear Art snoring lightly above me. He almost always falls asleep within a minute or two of lights out – probably the result of years of sleep deprivation he experienced as a lineman working emergency jobs at night. In such a situation, the crews learn to fall asleep almost instantly while the driver of the rig is taking everyone to the next job. I am sometimes envious of the ease with which Art falls asleep. Lying in the darkness in my bunk, I listened to the unfamiliar night noises on the schooner – the creaks of the boards, the flush of the head on the deck above me, a foghorn, a set of snores from one the cabins close by. And then, a groan.

I had a moment’s concern at this noise, because I recognized the voice. One of the women, Charlotte, a 47-year-old widow traveling with her companion, Ray, an accountant at least 20 years her senior, represented herself as something of an invalid. Indeed, she wore a breathing tube in her throat. Aside from that, though, she appeared to be in excellent health – she had a boisterous laugh and an energetic manner. She confided easily in new acquaintances – she had told me earlier in the day that she had recently lost over a hundred pounds since having her stomach stapled – which would have put her at around 400 pounds before her surgery. And her numerous flirtatious, suggestive comments to her companion were, to my way of thinking, a bit on the risqué side in the company of near strangers – though he didn’t appear to mind in the least.

At any rate, when I heard the groan I wondered whether she was having trouble breathing. As I listened further, though, I realized I was mistaken. The woman got noisier and the groans changed to moans and then to muffled shrieks. I was somewhat embarrassed to be listening in on an intimate encounter between this professed invalid and her companion. They weren’t more than eight feet away; through walls as thin as the schooner’s, it seemed like much less distance. I wondered if they knew they could be heard. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Remembering Maine

A week ago we had a lobster feed on Lobster Island. We were on our sixth cruise on the schooner Heritage. Always the same, always different. We travel the world, but we always come back to Maine to spend six nights and five days aboard.

In my next few blog posts I'm including excerpts of our first cruise - taken in 2003. I take these things for granted now. I know the ropes. But at the beginning it was new and thrilling. Now it's familiar and thrilling.


We followed the instructions given us to the North End Shipyards. As we descended the gravel road we could see the masts of the schooner as we’d been told we would. We pulled into the lot. It was only 5:30, so it would be another hour before we could board.  I looked in the AAA guide for Rockland and found the address for a local diner.

By the time we finished our meal and drove back to the North End Shipyards, it was time to board. The parking lot was full; we had to search for a spot. A woman staggered with a gigantic red duffel bag toward the schooner’s boarding ramp. For some odd reason, I felt self conscious, like I was showing up at a party where I didn’t know anyone. I opened the trunk of our rented Buick and busied myself with the luggage. By the time we’d extracted our suitcases and stowed the trip maps in the back seat, the woman had disappeared. 

We clumped down the ramp, each of us loaded down with a daypack and a piece of luggage. At the bottom, we were met by a white bearded, jovial faced man in his 50s. “And you are?” he inquired. I introduced myself and Art, and he responded “Captain Doug. Welcome aboard.”

I let go of my suitcase and shook his hand, looking around. Lots of wood, many thick ropes. Captain Doug consulted a clipboard. “You’re in, let’s see, cabin 1. I’ll take you down there so you can stow your gear, then show you around.” 

We followed the captain down a steep set of wooden stairs to the deck below. In the center of a six-by-six central area was a wooden pillar about 15 inches in diameter. Art told me this was one of the masts. Off this area were six narrow doors. One was closed and the other five were cracked open. Captain Doug opened the door marked with a metal number 1, then backed away so Art and I could enter. Within the cabin were two stacked bunks. The cabin was tiny – I correct myself; the cabin was efficiently designed to be functional in the smallest possible amount of floor space. 

“You can unpack later. Let me show you around.” Art and I followed the captain. At the top of the stairs he opened a small door, revealing a marine toilet. “To put water in the tank, put your foot under the pedal and raise it. To flush, press the pedal.” His instructions were easy to understand. I’m not adept at figuring out how mechanical things operate, so I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to blunder around. Around the corner, another narrow door, another toilet. “There are three heads on board,” the captain said. “This one has a shower.” Sure enough, a hand-held shower was mounted opposite the toilet. “Turn this handle to open up the storage panel for your gear while you’re showering, so your clothes don’t get wet.” Again, I was gratified by the visual demonstration. And impressed with the practical layout of the shower facility.

We followed Captain Doug down another set of stairs, these leading to the galley. “We have meals here, but it’s also a good place to sit and read or talk or play cards.” 

“That’s about it. I’ll leave you now, and we’ll see you at around 9:30 tonight in the galley for introductions.” I thanked him, and he disappeared up the galley stairs.

Back in our cabin, I noticed shelves tucked into the sides of the cabin by each bunk, shelves built into the foot of the bottom bunk, hooks on the wall under the skylight. Really, quite a bit of space, if used well. A miniature sink with hot and cold running water, a small mirror on a cabinet door that hooked to close off a storage area for toiletries. Reading lamps mounted on the wall by each pillow. Linens stowed neatly at the foot of each bunk.

“Which bunk do you want?” Art asked. I said the bottom one; I’m up a couple of times in the night to use the bathroom, and I didn’t want to fall in the unfamiliar place. He unpacked quickly and then left the cabin. I knew he’d explore the schooner from one end to the other – more correctly, from bow to stern – and that he’d notice just about everything. I spent more time stowing my things. I had packed more than Art, so my task was a bit more complicated.

We found our way to the galley at 9:30. The Heritage carries 29 passengers at full capacity, but on this sail there were only 21. That meant, said the captain, a bit more space in the galley for meals, and a couple of empty cabins for storage of extra suitcases. Nineteen of us had gathered this evening; the other two would be aboard the next morning. Bill and Joanne had stopped by in their motorhome to say hello to the crew, having been aboard in a previous year. When they learned there was space available, they decided to join the cruise. They needed to pick up a few things, though, so they’d be late arrivals.

The captain introduced us to his wife, Captain Linda, and to the six twenty-something crew members. They would be cooking, cleaning and sailing for us all week. I found out during the week that the captains hire the crew members during the winter and spring from among young people who show up, interested and willing to work. Doug and Linda train them all. Sometimes it’s a word-of-mouth thing. The six crew members were a delightful bunch – energetic, friendly and helpful.

Of the guests aboard, fewer than half were sailing on the Heritage for the first time. This was the 27th trip for one woman, Sandy, and another man, Ray, had been sailing 16 times before on a Maine coasting schooner. Guests on this cruise were from Maine, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, California, and Washington. There were about three people, I’d say, under 50, with the majority in their 60s. All couples, except for one man and three single women. I thought about ocean-going cruise ships, with all their amenities, and all their passengers, and how they disembark at small towns in enormous numbers. All the passengers on the schooner had chosen a simpler way to travel the water. I expected they would be an interesting bunch.

The captain said that, the next morning, we would be leaving civilization. There would be no phones, no Internet, no roads for the next six days. We would have an opportunity, most mornings, to disembark and spend an hour or so in whatever small community we happened to have anchored in for the night. But, for the most part, we would be a self-contained enterprise. He would watch the weather and the winds and, based on that, would decide upon a direction to sail. 

The group then broke up for the night. Some of the other passengers stayed on deck to chat, but Art and I headed for our cabin. We had driven to Rockland from Vermont, and it had been a long day.

Using the economy of movement acquired in motorhome travel, we got ready for bed. Pajamas were donned and teeth brushed. I found the book I was currently reading aloud to Art – Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. Then I looked at my bunk. The opening between the surface of my mattress and the lower frame of the upper bunk was about 20 inches. Nowhere near enough room to sit up in bed. I’d have to remember that on my nightly sojourn to the bathroom. I pondered how to get into bed. Finally I sat on the edge, grasped the frame of the upper bunk in both hands and swiveled into my bunk. Not bad, I thought, as I lay there on my back. I reached over with my left hand and turned on the reading light. 

Art was ready to listen. I read aloud for about 20 minutes, as we both settled in for sleep. I could hear the sounds, barely muffled, of the eight other people in the adjacent cabins in the bow of the schooner. I believe we were all within ten feet of each other. The cabin walls were very thin; really, they were only dividers to provide some visual privacy. I was conscious, as I read, that other couples could not help but hear me. I tried to keep my voice low enough so that only Art could hear. Eventually the sounds from the other cabins ceased, and we grew drowsy ourselves. I folded over the page of the book and turned off the reading light.

During the night I awoke, needing to use the bathroom. I swiveled out of bed and put on a light jacket. Opening the cabin door as quietly as I could, I stumbled over the oversized doorjamb. So much for silence! I could see the stairwell and climbed to the deck above to use the head. I was again grateful for Captain Doug’s visual instructions. As I was leaving the head, I saw another sleepy passenger crossing the deck. A person awake through the night on deck would probably have had little solitude; every few minutes a new customer for the head would emerge from below decks. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting to Maine

We leave tomorrow for our sixth cruise on the Schooner Heritage out of Rockland, Maine. For six nights and five days we'll live aboard with about 30 passengers and half a dozen crew. This is "Art's trip"; he loves the food, the sailing, the company, and the "talk like a pirate" event that happens every single time he sails.

Getting to and from Maine is the hardest part. Here's how we've done it before:
  • Flown to Boston, rented a car and driven to Vermont, then to Maine via local roads and state highways, none of which are fast.
  • Flown to Boston, rented a car and driven to and from Rockland. Probably the quickest, but it requires finding our way in and out of Boston via multiple rotaries (roundabouts) with three lanes each, where every other driver knows exactly what they're doing and we're not so sure, not living where we get a lot of practice with this features.
  • Flown to Boston and wrestled our way across Logan Airport - for an hour - to the Cape Air counter, where we checked in, put our luggage in the wing of a tiny plane, and boarded with nine other passengers. Our seat assignments were based on how much we weighed. The flight is an hour long, over the ocean, as the sky goes from near dusk to pitch black night, and I can hear every vibration of the very small engine. On the way back, we took a regional bus line which required numerous stops between Rockland and Portland and then a change of bus, and then a four-hour wait for our plane in Boston.
  • Flown to Portland via Cincinnati, with a friend picking us up and another friend dropping us off. We can't do that any more because Delta, the Alaska partner, no longer has a hub in Cincinatti.
The problem is that our airline, Alaska, has a red-eye (which we no longer fly because the sleep deprivation is too hard on senior citizens like us) and one that arrives in Boston at 5:00 pm. Not too hard. But the return flight - the one we always take - leaves at 6:30 p.m. From Rockland by plane we wait four hours at the airport for our flight. From Rockland by bus, we either miss the flight by half an hour, or we wait four hours. We could get better times if we were willing to connect in Atlanta or Dallas for our Seattle destination. Which we aren't - long flights with plane changes are too hard on senior citizens like us.

So this time we're doing it differently:  Fly to Boston, take a regional bus line to Portsmouth, NH where we'll be picked up by our friends Bruce and Sally who will be sailing with us (we met them on our very first sail) and will spend the night at their place in Ogonquit, Maine. Then we'll drive to Rockland the next day. At the end of the trip, we'll rent a car in Rockland, drive to Searsport to spend the night with our friends Brian and Beth, and drive to Boston the next day, stopping at LLBean in Freeport. Renting a car from Rockland to Boston costs about $132 for a day, but that's much cheaper than renting a car for the whole week and leaving it sitting in the schooner parking lot, and we can time the drive so we don't have much of a wait at the airport.

This schooner cruise is the most deeply relaxing trip we ever take. It's always the same and always different. We wish everyone could have this fabulous experience, as we help sail or not, wear jeans and  T-shirts, eat comfort food, make ice cream, have a lobster feast, lie under the stars (plus, there will be a full moon next week), listen to Captain Doug tell stories, talk and read and nap. 

I am taking my iPhone and my first generation Kindle. I may twitch a little without my laptop, but we'll be out of reach of wi-fi and I've decided not to blog until I get home.

See you later this month!