Fetch; Returning home.
After getting back from the Small Reach Regatta I worked on the Loon drawings for another 10 days and had them scanned and printed in Bangor. I handed them to Mike O’Brien who was going to write an article about her for the November issue of the magazine. During this time I enjoyed my stay at the WoodenBoat School campground. Conveniently, I joined the meal program, which allowed me to just show up at mealtime and munch away. I didn’t need to spend any time buying and preparing food. Once in a while I would wander through the shop and chat with students and instructors. Greg Rössel was teaching lofting and boat building fundamentals. On occasion we would hang out together at meal times and he would always have a story or two up his sleeve. He loves to talk and is quite the character. In another room Geoff Burke was teaching the intricacies of building Adirondack Guideboats; beautiful delicate lapstrake boats with sawn frames. He was intrigued by Fetch’s Gunther rig and we often discussed different ways of rigging it, because he had a commission for a boat with that rig. John Harris was guiding along a CLC kit building class of one of his designs; the Sassafras canoe. I know John from my time in the Maritime Center in Port Townsend and we had some interesting discussions. Nick Schade was teaching strip planked canoe building. I knew him from a visit to Mystic Seaport years ago. I had stayed at his house, where he has a small shop on the water building beautiful canoes and kayaks. I had long discussions with one of the students who was thinking about having me build a 20’ sailboat for him. A few weeks later he let me know he had bought a used boat, so that was the end of that.
Kerry, a former student of the boat school in Michigan, where I taught last winter, invited me to come to Camden for the Schooner Festival. He was participating in the building of an irish Currach. This was a project that was initiated by Lance Lee, who I had met about 17 years ago in Maine. I was moving to Holland at that time with my family and Lance and I had spend a few hours talking about setting up a boat center of some kind in Holland. It would be nice to see him again, so off to Camden I went. I left Fetch at her mooring at the school.
I stopped in the co-op in Blue Hill for coffee and happened to read a small poster about community. It made me think about where I would want to live and what I was looking for. So far the plan was to go south after my stay in Maine and spend time in the Chesapeake and Carolina. Somehow I wasn’t convinced that I would want to do that in Fetch however. Instead of driving from one sailing area to the other I started thinking about being in a bigger boat and staying on the water. I started looking at ads for sailboats in the 27’ range, like a Cape Dory 27 or 25. I found that I could buy one of these for the same amount that I could sell Fetch for.
It was nice to be in a place like Camden after having stayed in Brooklin for a while. Brooklin has one convenience store, two restaurants and a library, which is pretty basic. Camden felt like uptown, with lots of restaurants, gift shops, some fancy houses and a real harbor. The schooner festival had brought a lot of wooden boats to town and it was fun touring the windjammers. On shore the ‘quick and dirty’ Sika boat building challenge was in full swing. Odd contraptions, that sometimes just only vaguely resembled functioning boats, were constructed by enthusiasts of all ages to be raced on Sunday. I met the folks of the Currach project. The instructor had come over from Ireland and happened to be a good friend of an irish boat builder who attended my school in Holland about 15 years prior. Small world.
I was quite taken by the art of Buckley Smith who had a booth there. His art is very colorful and lively and he really knows how to draw a boat with the wind blowing through the rigging. He lives on a converted workboat making art and I found that quite inspiring. Another guy I met, Tom, had single handedly built a substantial Pinky Schooner called Prophet. He is a furniture builder and had spent six summers working on this Schooner, built all the hardware and sails as well and now lives on her. Amazing what people can pull off.
After the festival, still trying to meet up with Lance Lee, I followed the folks of the Currach project to Nobleboro, where the boat shop is located. Lance owns the shop, called the Mill, which is located in a rural setting. Lance and his assistant Arista are trying to establish another apprentice shop and were looking for an instructor to take lead in building boats. I was tickled by the idea of teaching in such a setting in Maine, so I went to check it out. I spend a few days, talked to different people there and watched the Currach getting framed up. I enjoyed the community aspect of it, with a simple kitchen in back and living quarters upstairs, but the building needed a lot of work and typically no one lived there in the winter because it’s too cold without insolation and good heat. I decided to go talk to Lance at his house in Rockland, where we met up and discussed matters. About a week later I decided not to go for it. Later during my trip I visited one of Lance’s first apprentice shops in Bath. He had started that in 1972 and in 1974 John Wilson started the WoodenBoat Magazine. It dawned to me that it was around that time and here in Maine that the wooden boat revival had started. At that time few people saw the value in messing about in wooden boats.
Back in Brooklin, I packed Fetch with fresh supplies and headed out for my last cruise on Maine’s beautiful coast. I was heading toward Mount Desert Island and found favorable current and wind. At Casco Passage, north of Swans Island, I was bucking the eb for a bit and the waves got quite lively. One reef in the main took care of that. I got to Southwest Harbor averaging about 4.5 knots and was excited to feel the Atlantic swell as I got out of the protection of Great Gott Island. Fetch in an Atlantic swell; that was something! The boat started on the Pacific coast in Seattle, was then sold to James in Anacortes after which I converted her to a cabin cruiser in Port Townsend and now here she was; on the other side of the continent.
I had heard that Somes Sound was worth a visit, so I sailed past Southwest Harbor and headed into the fjord-like inlet. I had to motor the last mile and tied up to a mooring in Somes Harbor about 5 hours after I left Brooklin. Rain set in at night and the morning was pretty wet as well. In spite the wetness I took a stroll ashore and learned that back in 1761, Abraham Somes was the first permanent settler on the island. I went back to Southwest Harbor and enjoyed a nice lunch in town. I hiked up Flying Mountain to get a good overview of the area. Past the Cranberry Islands I could clearly see the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
After spending the night tied up to the public dock I had breakfast in town and set sail to go around the east side of the island. The winds were fairly light except for some unexpected blasts coming down from Gorham Mountain. After a pleasant three hour sail I arrived in Bar Harbor; just in time for lunch. The little town was busy with folks who were just unloaded from a gigantic cruise ship. Most of this island is Acadia National Park and very popular with tourists. I had a tasty pasta dish and a beer at the Rupununi bar.
Wind was up and the sun was hot, so onward around the north side of the island. The wind kept increasing and when my double reefed main with working jib became too much, I had a choice of either turn the motor on or bend on my storm jib. Normally I try to avoid changing jibs under way on Fetch, but this time I gave it a try. I kept the main partially filled to keep way, tied the tiller off and crawled forward with the storm jib in hand. Fetch behaved well and I got it done without mishaps. I beat to weather for another hour till I arrived at the bridge connecting the island with the mainland. The chart showed 25’ clearance under the bridge and some shallow water under it. At low tide, I couldn’t find a way through the thin water and decided to call it a day and anchor in a protected cove. The next day I made it through and set sail again. The forecast called for high winds later that day and I was beating into tide and wind, so I didn’t make much headway. I could wait till the afternoon for a more favorable tide, but then the wind would be against it and was expected to be stronger as well. The way back to Brooklin was quite exposed in places and the prospect of beating into big waves didn’t appeal to me, so I doused sail and turned on the iron horse. I just didn’t feel like waiting another day to return. After motoring about two hours I bounced across exposed Blue Hill Bay and found shelter in Naskeag Harbor before tide turned and it would all get too crazy.
Back in Brooklin my time in Maine was coming to an end, but somehow I didn’t feel like going south to the Chesapeake. After talking to some people about Cape Breton I decided to go north instead. I left Fetch with Eric Dow for a few days and headed up the coast. Due to the fog I didn’t see much of the scenery and in Saint John it was so thick that I could barely read the road signs. I ducked into a campground and spend the night. The next day I marveled at the gigantic tides in Fundy National Park. The town Alma claims to have the biggest tides in the world! Indeed at low tide the water was way the heck out there, not only far away, but also clearly way below where I was at the high tide line. They have a tide range of 46 feet, which is about four times as much as in my hometown Port Townsend! It can rise about 6 feet per hour. The few fishing boats I found were high and dry at low tide, supported by small cradles under their bilges, waiting for water to return. I remembered boats in England being tied to the quay without water in sight.
Further up the coast I visited the Hopewell Rocks, big chunks of rock seemingly standing on stilts, undermined by wave action, with tufts of trees on top. At low tide one can walk around them and at high tide one can kayak through them.
As I went further north onto Nova Scotia I hit the tail end of some tropical storm with torrents of rain and very gray skies. After spending the night in Antigonish, the rainy weather continued for another day till I arrived almost at the north end of Cape Breton. Finally, as the weather cleared a bit, did I see where I was at. The Gulf of St. Lawrence to my west and to the north, somewhere beyond the horizon was Newfoundland. At the north end of the island I found a small pleasant RV camp right on the cliff overlooking St. Lawrence Bay and enjoyed the views. One of the campers pointed out a trail on the map to a high viewpoint. I drove up there and hiked for a few hours and got to some awesome views. On the trail I noticed a fresh imprint of a bear paw, which made me a little nervous.
The scenic road around Cape Breton Island is called the Cabot Trail and I continued it on the east side going back south. Back in Antigonish I had the tires of my van replaced for new ones and the ride got a lot smoother after that. I increasingly got more restless about my trip. I was heading back to Maine and still didn’t know where to go after that. My little detour from Brooklin up north had been a bit further than I had expected and by the time I was back there I had driven 1600 miles, which is the same as about halfway across the US!
I picked up Fetch and started south, still not resolved about my next destination. I called Lance Lee and told him I had to pass on his job offer. I also passed on another job offer that I got in Brooklin. As I was slowly leaving Maine I realized I didn’t want to go down to the Chesapeake. It didn’t feel right to me. Instead I decided to go back to Port Townsend. It felt like I belonged there. I had family, friends and a network there. I’d lived there for 10 years, which was the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I also wanted to get back before money would run out again. I had a long way ahead of me, but looked at it as if I was going to cross an ocean. I would try to get into the routine of driving all day for at least a week and enjoy the ride.
I dawned to me that I could get on I-90 near Boston and stay on the very same road all the way to Seattle! About 3100 miles (5000 km) on one single road. So that’s what I did and the only time I diverted from it was to visit Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. It was amazing to see those huge faces that look so alive, carved out of rock. They had removed eight hundred million pounds of stone to create that carving.
One morning, in the foothills of the Rockies, I waited for the snow to melt in one of the passes when my former brother and sister in law, Louis and Kindy, caught up with me. They had also been on the east coast and were right behind me. We spend some time together in Missoula after which we went separate ways again.
My sons Theo and Nico share an apartment in Seattle and my arrival couldn’t have been planned better, because it was on Nico’s birthday. It had taken me 7 days of driving on I-90 to get there. I had left Port Townsend on April 22, 2012 and now it was September 27, 2013. In that year and a half I had worked 10 months and covered about 15,300 miles with Fetch behind my trustworthy Dodge campervan. It had been a memorable trip with great sailing and meeting wonderful people. I had now seen a big chunk of this continent, which was part of the reason to go.
Back in Port Townsend, I considered moving onto a live-aboard and saw a few boats, but decided to live ashore instead. Within a week I was working again on the boat I worked on last summer. One of the boats I had looked at, a Newport 28, kept calling my name and finally I couldn’t resist…. Next summer I’ll be exploring the inside of Vancouver Island with a boat I can stand up in. Fetch is for sale.
Too bad (for us) that you waived off a visit to the Chesapeake. Our scenery is (how shall I put it?) subtle but lovely, and the sailing best in late spring/early summer or late summer/autumn well into November.
The drawings of “Loon” in WoodenBoat were fine. I hope that you have a commission to build one soon or have one built by a good boatwright. It promises to be as yar as yar can get.
Parting with “Fetch.” That’s going to be difficult I imagine.
He wont get rid of FETCH. Just wait and see.
Nice to read your blog; just to sea (!?) lovely sites through this blog.
Sorry to see you did you not got to Lance’s offer. But it must feel warm to go ‘home’ to where you belong.
All the best
Ps does this mean the blog continues when your next boat is finished?