Sunday, December 26, 2004

Trip description, Sept. 2004 - Joe Rennie

A Cruise Down East 2004

This is a trip report based on journal entries made during a cruise aboard the schooner Isaac H Evans of Rockland, Maine. This is the second trip I have made aboard this vessel and the fourth windjammer cruise I have made so far, the other two vessels were the Grace Bailey {Camden, Maine}2001 and the Mystic Whaler of Mystic CT 2002 {cruise was in Chesapeake Bay}

ARRIVAL Checked in around 5 pm and was greeted by the ship’s cook {chef} Eileen Worthley and was shown to my cabin, this time cabin # 4. Last year I was in cabin 6. Cabin 4 was an upper/lower bunkbed. After stowing my gear met fellow passengers and sampled some of the snacks Eileen had set out. Later on we had Captain’s call Capt Brenda Grace Walker came aboard and went over the ground rules and safety procedures. Later on we all went out to Grapes Restaurant right over Rockland Harbor and had dinner this was a great way to meet fellow shipmates. DAY 1 September 13 I rose early before 6 am got dressed and went out on deck to see the sunrise I was joined by Lou {Marilou Montgomery} who also was up early Eileen had coffee out by 7 am and at * am breakfast was served omelettes delicious . Afterwards people went into town to pick up anything that they might have forgotten as we might not have another port where supplies can be obtained. A light breeze stirred the trees and pennants making everyone eager to be on our way . This desire was heightened by watching other schooners depart. We got underway around eleven o’ clock, motoring away from the dock by the time we approached the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse our sails were up, Joe Berkall, longtime passenger and experienced sailor was at the wheel. We crossed Penobscot bay in a fair breeze with North Haven Island on our starboard side passed a number of small rocky islands then crossed East Penobscot Bay and Into the Deer Island Thorofare and past the fishing village of Stonington. On our starboard side was Russ island where on my previous trips our lobster bakes had been held. Near Russ Island were several other schooners and the ketch Angelique were anchored. We kept right on sailing and once again crossed another stretch of open water, Jericho Bay and headed for Swans Island. At Swans Island we entered Burnt Coat Harbor, a sheltered harbor with quite a few lobster boats as well as pleasure boats. There were a number of houses along the shoreline and wharves with warehouses . Sharing this cove was the schooner Nathaniel Bowditch of Rockland, a cruise schooner just like us. We arrived shortly before sunset and were finishing dinner as we sailed in . The night was cool and clear and thousands of stars could be seen.

DAY 2 September 14 After another early rising It was a sunny day with a light breeze ruffling the waters. We lost no time getting underway after breakfast , raising sails and anchors while the folks aboard the Nathaniel Bowditch were still eating breakfast. We headed out into open waters in hopes of seeing whales sailing quite a way off shore we saw quite a few porpoise but no whales . The wind which had died out around noon came back up and we sailed back through Jericho Bay retracing our course and eventually arriving at the anchorage at Woodenboat Magazine shortly after dark. That night I saw the most vivid display of Northern Lights I have ever seen in my life, only three other times have I seen the Northern Lights and all times they were kind of dull and gray. These were bright greens, whites and reds pulsing across the northern sky , almost everyone stayed up late watching them. I guess the fact that were are far from any built up area where the city lights would dull the natural lights. Day 3 September 15, Got up early once again Lou and I took a number of pictures of the sun rising over the fleet of large sailing vessels at anchor, quite a sight . Like a scene from an old photograph or a painting all of these large sailing vessels anchored together. I have read of times where this would occur when they were awaiting a favorable breeze or as the old salts called it a “chance along”, this must have been what it might have looked like . And when you think about it not that long ago, Lou is I believe 75, they were still sailing coasting and fishing schooners along the east coast until the outbreak of world war II. The last sailing cargo ship to round Cape Horn did so in 1949, my mother would have been 10 years old, my dad would have been 21 at that time . While it has receded into the past and will continue to do so it is still within the lifetime of quite a few people.

We had a distinguished visitor that morning , Benjamin Mendlowitz, noted photographer of wooden boats, his pictures grace the calendars that wooden boat produces every year as well as some beautiful coffee table books and stationary. He interviewed Capt. Brenda and took a few photos of her before leaving for his own boat, a really pretty little wooden runabout built in the Bahamas. I had hoped to get ashore to mail some postcards and to tour the grounds . I had been here with my mother in 1998 so I thought of taking one of the Evans’s tenders for a row. An opportunity appeared when Capt. Brenda was going ashore to attend a captain’s meeting so I asked her if she could mail the postcards either drop them off them off at the store or get them into the hands of someone who might pass a mailbox. Then she offered a chance for anyone who wanted to get ashore so several of us Stewart and Thea, myself , Jeanne Verklan and Liselotte boarded the Tug “N Grunt for the short trip to shore. Jeanne’s husband Greg and another passenger had launched the Evan’s sailing tender Rebecca and were trying to sail it around the harbor, we stopped alongside them to give them some help in getting their sails up. A few minutes later we were at the dock at Woodenboat Magazine’s landing, we did not have long capt Brenda was going to leave as soon as the meeting broke up. It was a quick walk to the Woodenboat Store, a place where one could very easily spend way too much money, books models, tools and so on . I bought a couple more postcards , some copies of MARITIME magazine to fill out my collection. The postcards I gave to the clerk at the desk to mail out afterwards we walked out to the Woodenboat school where the boat building courses are held and you can watch the boats take shape, out back are balks of wood stacked crossways. All too soon the meeting adjourned and Capt Brenda came and directed us back to the dock where a short boat ride through the fleet brought us back to the schooner. All around us other schooners were raising sail and some were getting underway first the Stephen Taber then the 3 masted schooner Victory Chimes also the American Eagle anchored alongside all raised sails and glided away in the fresh morning breeze. Before long we were underway too slowly making our way through the fleet

. One large schooner the Mary Day approached us tacking behind us and then sailing through our lee and eventually passing us . We continued an easterly course heading for Mount Desert Island , from what I could gather we were going to pick up lobsters probably at Bass Harbor and then head to some island for a lobster bake. We had a nice breeze which moved the Evans along at a good clip. We passed the 3 mast schooner Kathryn B of Belfast, Maine and later on passed a two masted schooner that had a yard on its foremast named the Bonnie Lynn. we even saw a bald eagle. We came to the entrance to Bass Harbor and sent Levi and Bob ashore to pick up lobsters while we sailed back and forth just outside the main channel entrance staying out of the way of the ferry boat that was on its way in . It had several cars and what looked like a bus we waved at the passengers and they waved back. Bob and Levi returned with the lobsters and soon we were on our way again . This time we headed north along the west shore of Mount Desert Island passing numerous rocky islands and coves. This took most of the afternoon but who cares we will get wherever we are going when we get there and no sooner. We had hoped to anchor in galley Cove along Bartlett Island but that anchorage was already occupied by the Mary Day however a suitable anchorage presented itself on the other side of Galley Point. This place had a wide rocky beach covered with small stones, a lot like the beaches on the New York shore of Lake Erie although this beach was much wider. It was certainly wider than the beach at Russ Island which was just a narrow sandy strip which the tide would start to cover while we ate our lobster. This place had much more leg room , since it was private property Capt Brenda had a few more ground rules to go over afterwards when you’re on private property you must be on your best behavior we climbed down the ladder to Tug ‘N Grunt which ferried us to shore. Ashore everyone searched out a good spot to eat while Capt Brenda, Bob and Stephanie prepared the coming feast while this was going on I took a walk along the beach in a northerly direction. One passenger Danielle scaled Galley Point which had a rather steep bluffy side again much like the Lake Erie shoreline. The lobster dinner was as it always seems to be superb, one added feature on the Isaac H Evans is that Capt Brenda comes around and serves everyone champagne in a Dixie cup but good champagne is good champagne even if it is in a large Dixie cup. I had two lobster and two ears of corn I could have had more but I was quite full after lobster #2 . Afterwards maybe a little fortified by the champagne I headed towards Galley Point and tried to scale it I soon discovered a couple of little pathways that zigzagged to the top, the going proved to be surprisingly easy and a few minutes later I reached the summit a little clearing where you could see quite a distance south . Looking down you could see the Mary Day at anchor, I thought of going down and paying a visit but since it was getting towards sunset and I would be facing a steep climb down then the return trip I decided against it. After dinner we returned to the schooner Bob and Eileen sang folk songs Bob played as guitar and all of us passengers joined in it was a fitting ending to a great day. Unlike the previous evening we were not treated to any stars or northern lights because it clouded over shortly after sunset Day 4 September 16 Another beautiful sunrise although there was little if any wind and clouds were starting to roll in while I had my morning coffee with Lou I also tried my luck a few casts on either side of the schooner, no luck not even a nibble even though I saw a few rises and splashes here and there and a seal swam by . While waiting for breakfast I Stewart was telling me about an engineering project he had worked on , testing the trestles of the International Railroad Bridge which spans the Niagara River. IN the olden days he says they used to put a diver down to inspect the trestles that support the bridge which was built in 1877 and still to this day sees freight and passenger trains crossing the Niagara River every day. When Stewart and his crew did it they were forbidden to use divers the current is very strong 12 miles an hour so they used cameras lowered on poles. My father and I several times went fishing right around the bridge his friend would lassoo a cleat on the downstream side of the trestle and we would fish off the stern of the boat sometimes we would catch trout and salmon as well as some big small mouth bass. The cleats were there because when the bridge was built there was stipulation in the contract that a tugboat would be kept there with steam up ready to go at all times to rescue a ship that lost control going down the river. The tug was sold in 1941 but the cleats remain. Bob the first mate talked about his days aboard a freighter that sailed from New York City to France Portugal or Spain then back across the Atlantic Ocean up the St Lawrence River as far up the Great Lakes as Chicago. These are just a couple of the great stories I have heard while sailing , you never know who you might meet or what connection they might have to wherever you are from. We got underway hoisted sail but since there was no wind we had the Tug “N Grunt pushing us along first heading North to round the northern tip of Bartlett Island and then we headed south back down Blue Hill Bay where the wind began to pick up again, though the islands are mostly pine covered there are a few leafy trees which even at that early date were already starting to change color. As we got further south we could see large banks of fog in the distance like clouds at water level. As we headed south we saw more and more fog before long it was closing in around us Capt. Brenda sent Stephanie up forward to sound the fog signal, the foghorn was a conch shell with a hole in one end, just like the shells used by south sea natives to signal each other. The Isaac H Evans does not have a generator to produce electricity so an electric powered foghorn which is activated by pushing a button like most other vessels I have been on . A lot of times on Lake Erie we just don’t sail in fog usually with fog. No wind, no race. We got down to the east end of Eggemoggin Reach and the fog lifted probably because it has land on either side , so for the second time we crossed our original track . I got another chance to steer further down the Reach taking the boat under the bridge that connects Deer Island with the mainland. This suspension bridge which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge looks huge from a distance but as you get closer it gets much smaller in fact at high tide you have to hit the center exactly to have enough room for your mast the rule is aim high which is not easy to do because you think that as you get close you want to start making your move towards the center of the bridge but as you get closer the current forces you over to the center . I think I did ok because I got the boat under the bridge and Capt Brenda fired the bras swivel cannon. This packs quite a wallop going off with a roar that put even the cannon used at the BCC flag ceremonies to shame. Yet my time wasn’t over with yet, Capt Brenda kept me at the wheel all the way to Buck’s Harbor in thick fog and I mean thick fog you could not see the shore, I followed Capt Brenda’s orders to the letter, I had done this the year before at night even though the fog was thick at least I could see the compass and other instruments it was like flying through thick clouds where you are relying on instruments to tell you your course. Even in the fog Brenda would tell me what was off to either side such as punchbowl inlet where once the schooners would tie up to pick up ice which was harvested from nearby ponds the largest of which is Walker Pond all you could see was a slightly darker fog , the reflection off the tall pines along the shoreline we felt our way to the entrance to Bucks Harbor gliding in like a ghost ship. We shared Buck’s Harbor with the schooner Mistress of Maine Windjammer Cruises fleet as well as a number of boats that make it their home port. According to Brenda I had sailed the boat all the way to the last 100 yards. Since dinner had already been served Eileen had saved me some leftovers which I ate with gusto food always tastes great when you have accomplished something special . I had been up here a year before and had made a nervy landing in Buck’s Harbor at night a year ago this near flawless landing was something I will always remember with pride and remain grateful to Brenda and Bob without the assistance of I would never have been able to accomplish. After we anchored Levi Danielle and Stephanie swam a lap around the schooner. The fog got even thicker and after dinner few stayed up there was no sing along or star watching . Day 5 September 17 Another early morning and the fog is even thicker than the night before the Mistress is still there anchored nearby I helped Bob the first mate squeegee the cabin top trying to get rid of the moisture that accumulates overnight so people have a dry place to sit. We are going over the same route that we took last year, the difference is that the wind is not blowing, last year we left Buck’s Harbor with a south wind on our nose but mainly clear weather this time no wind and thick fog . However the sails go up anyways there will probably be more wind later on so we motored south in the direction of Rockland as always we have no idea where we are going possibly Pulpit Harbor ? {last year’s stopover }or some other anchorage. I spent awhile polishing the Evan’s brass bell polishing it and then going back over it again finally it was done and it shone with a gleam that I had not seen before it so rewarding seeing your efforts pay off. The wind did finally come up and we had a nice run down to North Haven Island aside from a couple of lobster boats that loomed out of the fog we saw the schooner Stephen Taber which we sailed side by side with for awhile. I have one photo of me at the wheel with the Stephen Taber in the background looming out of the fog it like we are the only two schooners in the whole world when the fog comes down. I think Brenda was thinking of staying in some cove near one of the smaller islands when she got an interesting message over the radio from another schooner. The other schooner’s radar unit had picked up a large rain area and in the conversation she learned that this was part of the remnants of hurricane Ivan which had struck the Florida panhandle a few days ago it was expected to dump up to two inches of rain also. This changed the Captain’s plan she decided to spend the last night behind the break wall that protects Rockland Harbor. We joined several other schooners, the Victory Chimes, J&E Riggin American Eagle that were also anchored there. The crew rigged a tarp and Eileen brought out a turkey dinner for our last night aboard. There was one more surprise a birthday cake for Brenda, her birthday was a week later which we all enjoyed. I managed to get a photo of it, the only one it turned out . After dinner and dessert Bob and Eileen did a duet Bob on guitar and Eileen on violin and then Brenda led the crew in “Lord Won’t You Buy Me A Schooner In Maine” sung to the tune of Janis Joplin’s “Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” Everyone turned in shortly after because by this time it was really pouring rain. Day 6 September 18, The Last day After I got up it became obvious that it was still raining hard , didn’t have to worry about squeegee the cabin top this morning Bob told me that Brenda normally does not like to spend the last night anchored behind the break wall because it is only one quarter mile from the North End Shipyard, you can see the end of the trip. With the weather conditions being what they are she made the right call it would not have been good to try to sail home from somewhere else as we approached North End we saw the schooner Heritage another North End Schooner coming in under sail they must have anchored somewhere out in the bay . Last year it was a two hour motor from Pulpit Harbor which was fine on a flat calm day but this time it would have been in a hard rain. We came alongside the dock the lines were secured and our cruise had ended. There was a group picture taken in the boathouse, I took one but it did not come out good because it was so dark. I exchanged snail mail and email addresses with several other passengers and after saying goodbye I left stopping at Art of the Sea gallery in Rockland before heading up to Camden where I was staying overnight at the very nice Towne Motel about five minutes away from the harbor. I was the only guest that was not connected to a wedding party that had taken over most of the rest of the hotel. After checking in I took a walk down to the waterfront even the rain didn’t bother me that much . At ABCD Books in Camden I found a book about Delaware Bay Oyster schooners which is what the Isaac H Evans was built for in 1886 while looking at the book a piece of paper fell out picking it up it turned out to be a brochure produced by Doug and Linda Lee, current owners of the schooner Heritage who had rebuilt the Evans back in the early 1970’s. Any doubts I had about buying the book vanished I bought it, later when I got home I sent Brenda the original brochure, she told me I didn’t find the brochure it found me. I stayed overnight at the Towne and the next morning while checking out the desk clerk told me next time please let them know if I have been aboard a schooner and they will have the room ready earlier so I’ll definitely stay at the Towne the next time. All in all It was a very good trip and I look forward to going again hopefully next year . It was a lot of fun Capt Brenda and her crew really work very hard to ensure that everyone has a great time even when traveling alone you feel as if you are part of the same happy family and I know I’ll be back again