Sunday July 27, 2003 – Boothbay Harbor, ME

Boothbay HarborBoothbay Harbor was fouled with clouds and howling winds as another front moved through. Our original plans called for us to be joined by Beth and Dan, Hugh’s current east coast crew. Several voicemails had still not raised them by 8:30AM. Our objective was to leave no later than 10:30AM, giving me some time to go ashore and run (I was training for a marathon in October).

I spent about an hour exploring the town, passing the large Catholic church and on to Spruce Point Inn. Along the way I waved to a couple of bed and breakfasting couples enjoying the morning on their porch. The inn’s location affords a nice view of Burnt Island light sitting in the fairway to the harbor. I also came across the schooner Roseway, deep in the throes of reconstruction.

After a quick shower, I hailed Hugh from the dock, and he rowed in to collect me. It turned out Beth and Dan couldn’t make it after all. By that time the wind had picked up to 30 knots, so we put off leaving for another hour. That gave me the chance to effect repairs on Scargo’s seats. With more than one bolt loose it was a tricky job. The wind tugged at the painter causing random jerking in the dinghy, making any finesse or speed impossible. Once fixed we hauled Scargo back onto Mashantam’s deck and, given the conditions, we lashed her down good and proper.

A small flotilla of power boats accompanied our departure. We fell into a long line and assumed they knew where their GPS navigation systems were taking them. We followed the stinkers as far as Mouse Island and peeled off. Halfway unfurling the jib gave us enough sail for 5-6 knots. From the passage at Ram Island light, we headed towards Monhegan Island. The southerly wind provided us an opportunity to shoot through the island’s harbor on a lark. However, it soon became clear that the swell wasn’t going to cooperate.

Wheeler BayRounding the island and taking a more northerly course, the swell, now at our stern, crossed in two wave trains 60 degrees apart, making boat handling a bit of a challenge. Still, we maintained our speed and found some relief as we reached the shallower waters near Wheeler Bay.

Hugh raised his daughter Caroline on the VHF radio. She instructed him that once we were in sight of the first nun to “connect the dots” until we found the pulling boats. Almost as soon as we’d fetched up a mooring, Caroline rowed across in her tender and ferried us ashore. She looked well. Albeit at work. As the director for Outward Bound’s Hurricane Island program she is always on call, and constantly plagued by voicemail, lost luggage, and buzzing pagers.

Husky in a carAfter a tour of the new Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) facility we headed for dinner at Tenants Harbor at The Cod Inn. Caroline and I had fried clams, while Hugh smashed away at a Maine lobster. It took him a while to figure out that the standard-issue claw-crunching nutcrackers had been replaced by a nifty rock. Releasing his inner Cro-Magnon, he periodically peppered the other guests with shrapnel.

I rode in the back of Caroline’s Honda with Panda, one of her many huskies. Panda is a sled pet and clearly not cut from the same cloth as Jack London’s hardened, vicious alter egos. Panda leaned into me. Soppy thing. It was nice to have a furry companion during an unexpected pang of homesickness. Heading back to the boat for the night, the humans in the car made plans for breakfast.

Wheeler Bay, like many of Maine’s harbors, is exposed to the south and doesn’t have quite enough natural protection to break up the swell. We rocked and rolled until the rains came through in the wee morning hours, signaling a wind shift to the northwest. Finally, things flattened out and we snored in appreciation.

Monday July 28, 2003 – Wheeler Bay


I awoke at about 4:45AM and watched the sunrise. The night had begun gloriously clear, clouded up, then cleared again. I took several pictures of the bay as the sun rose between the trees. As promised Caroline came to collect us at 6:00 am for breakfast in Thurmaston with Bob and Liz.

Bob had previously been a Special Forces officer in Vietnam and spent many years with Outward Bound as both an instructor and director. He currently sits on Outward Bound’s board trying to bring a field perspective to a predominantly businessman’s mindset. Liz is a nurse exploring the links between traditional western medicine and more holistic approaches. In all it was a fun discussion. One of the highlights was Bob’s story of delivering elephants to a village in northern Vietnam. Like many creatures which consume large amounts of carbohydrates, elephants suffer from flatulence when sedated. Hence the operation’s name, Bah-room.

The challenge was getting the elephants from where they were to where they needed to be. At one point the British command nearly called a halt to the operation. They accused the Americans of cruelty for wanting to drop elephants by parachute into the village. In reality, the plan called for transporting the animals via a C-130 transport plane to a nearby airstrip and carrying them to their final destination with a giant lifting helicopter. This story appears to have been the inspiration for the Disney film, Operation Dumbo Drop.

boat-gd66fae601_1920My excellent breakfast of poached salmon scramble was the right thing for the day’s sail ahead. We mooched about HIOBS waiting for the general store to open, buying mementos, and saying our goodbyes, eventually getting underway in brisk fashion around 10:00AM.

Raising full main for the first time, we took full advantage of the northwest winds and sailed straight out of Wheeler Bay. After agreeing on a course for South Harpswell Harbor a grand day’s sailing ensued. Clear cloudless skies and 20 knot winds drove us along at 6-7 knots. We got as far as Burnt Island where a shift of wind caused the helmsman some consternation. The captain’s orders were clear: follow the wind shift around, “so she’s sailing comfortably.” A couple of lazy 360o turns later, the captain further inquired as to just what the hell I thought I was doing? And why weren’t we making progress? Seems we’d sailed right into a wind hole.

I must make an observation here. Sharing watches as we did, we’d be hammering along at 6½ knots when Hugh would hand over the helm and tell me to keep to the same course. And not to bump into anything. Easy as it sounds, there was clearly something else afoot. Whether due to prescience on the captain’s part or just plain coincidence, the wind invariably dropped as soon as I took the wheel. Keeping the same heading was straightforward enough, but I’ll be damned if our speed didn’t slow by a couple of knots. By the third day, having finally dismissed the coincidence theory completely, I became more accusative. “Coincidence? I think not!”

Eventually, we found the wind again and were on our way. Most of the day was spent on starboard tack, changing our point of sail only a couple of times to avoid Sister’s and Black Rocks. We threaded through Ram Island light channel leaving Fuller’s rock to port. A glorious sunset found us searching for a mooring in the darkness of a quiet, calm pool in Harpswell harbor. We celebrated the day’s efforts with a couple of tots of rum, some Dinty Moore stew augmented by Spicy Veg-All. The captain was mightily chuffed with the day’s efforts.


dinty-moore-vintageIt is worth mentioning some of the routines that take place on board ship. Routine is the sailor’s friend. It is through continual repetition that safety is ensured and risk is minimized. Many of Mashantam’s routines were based on the captain’s years of experience cruising and racing. Others are a little more idiosyncratic.

Breakfast, for example, is taken in the cockpit and consists of a hearty combination of carbohydrates and protein. This varies between a bowl of fresh fruit followed by eggs, to a bowl of fresh fruit followed by waffles or pancakes. The cook is generally the captain, although there is no exclusivity on this point.

Once breakfast is cleared and sailing underway, at 10:00AM Spicy Hot V-8 tomato juice is presented on deck. For consistency, the V-8 is always stored in the forward, port-side locker under the bunk in the main cabin. At around 11:00AM snacks are often produced, but not invariably.

At noon, without fail, the all-important beer bell sounds, and beer is distributed to all hands. Lunch is taken underway, usually sandwiches of divers kinds. By late afternoon a snack of grapes or chips and salsa may be called for. On this cruise dinner was taken in port, either on the boat or on shore.

Other routines include using the old silver Lewmar winch handle for raising the mainsail, while the newer, powder-coated one is used for trimming the jib. A gilguy is always used to keep the mainsail halyard from slapping against the mast. The eggshell cover for the binnacle is kept in the paper locker on the forward starboard side above the bunk in the main cabin. The officer’s head (the stern taffrail) is open 24 hours per day, modesty permitting. None of these routines, as engaging as they are, come close to the Pavlovian effects of ringing the beer bell.


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