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. 


DJan said...

What a wonderful adventure this was! Thank you for sharing it with me, I would have missed it since I didn't follow you back then. I felt like I was sitting there next to you, Linda. You are a talented writer. :-)

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so enjoying this trip. You spin a great yarn there lady.
Something about eating on the water, everything tastes great and it is easy to over do.

Mango Coffee and Me said...

I am really enjoying your descriptions and adventures of your schooner cruise Linda! Makes me want to go sailing! In Maine. Looking forward to the next installment. XX Joanna