I have been sailing aboard vessels here in Maine for years, and I’ve gotta say that the act of sailing on its own is an incredible thing. Our hands are roughened by lines and our muscles are pushed to their limits (and then some). We’re tanned and ruddy with sun, wind, and salt spray, and our time is spent playing around on a beautiful boat. Our passengers see us as present-day rockstars in a world of the past, and we absolutely love our jobs. Seriously… who wouldn’t?
But there is a truth that goes along with this enjoyment: you see, without you—our passengers—we schooner folk would be nowhere.
I don’t mean that without you, we wouldn’t have a job. There’s always work to be found in the maritimes. What I mean is that without you, our job wouldn’t be nearly as great. It’s because of you that we go out sailing— that we tell stories, sing songs and take photos. It’s because of you that this sailing life is really made worthwhile.
Take for instance a charter trip we took on August 1st. We’d begun the day with a great noon sail: brisk winds and bright sunshine throughout the two hours, and the beautiful weather looked to continue as our next bunch of folks came aboard. Thirty-five foodie friends from the area had come with their nibbles, drinks, and good cheer, ready for an incredible afternoon of sail. Everyone was in high spirits as we got ready to head out, and with our halyard-hauling teams, we had the sails set in no time. Soon, everyone was sitting back and bringing out all the goodies they’d made.
The steady winds pushed us way out into Penobscot Bay, and there wasn’t an unsmiling face in the crowd. Our guests walked around the decks carrying trays of everything from quesadillas to chocolate mint cookies, bacon-wrapped dates and Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and on top of that, they offered all of us crew some of each! I particularly enjoyed the olive kabobs that made their way into my hands. Laughter filled the air as our passengers chowed down and drank to their hearts’ content, telling stories, jokes, and even recipes.
But when we looked back to shore, our happiness waned a bit. A wall of dark and foreboding clouds had begun to accumulate over Belfast, and we knew we’d have to turn back soon. Out on the water, we hoped that it would blow north, leaving us unscathed, but Mother Nature had other plans.
As we were heading back toward the harbor with 45 minutes remaining in our journey, the wind suddenly disappeared—dead calm. Goosebumps popped up on my arm because I, like all the other crew, knew what dead calm before dark clouds meant. We were all on high alert when Cap called to weather furl the sails, and we got them down just as the first few drops of rain began to fall. Happily, our passengers had come prepared with rain jackets (props to you again), and everyone started putting their gear on, ready to stay dry and carry on with the party.
Then, what we’d hoped would be nothing more than a heavy rain shower turned into a serious situation. The rain started pouring down in sheets, and the wind picked up to an intense 45-50mph, pounding us beyond the ability to even look out. Soren, Jake, and I scrambled around, securing sails with extra line, while Liz and Andrea helped passengers move down below, stowing bags and food. Ben had the yawl boat revved up to its limit, pushing us as Cap steered us away from shallow waters and back out beyond the bell marker.
Then hail began to fall, and though most people were down below by that time, there was still a handful up on deck. Incredibly enough, they were still smiling! When I poked my head down below, the people there were smiling and chattering away too, sipping on coffee from our galley or beer and wine from their own stocks.
After maybe 20 minutes of pelting rain and intense winds, the clouds blew by and the sun came out once again. When given the all clear, passengers filed up the companionways with their bags in tow. I nervously awaited a grumble or complaint, but each and every one came out saying how exciting it had all been and what a great story it would make. More than one remarked on how relaxed they felt even with the weather and how they’d love to come out again later in the season.
When we got back to the dock, everyone burst into applause, taking their final photos and thanking us profusely as they disembarked. They even wanted to get a photo of us together as their valiant crew. Then, a couple days later, the ringleader of the party dropped by the boat and brought us homemade chocolate chip macaroons. “It was such a great trip!” she said. “We’ll have to come out again when the leaves change!”
And that is what this is really all about. Yes, we get to preserve and improve a historic vessel, go out on the water every day, and live the crazy American dream, but those things aren’t what give us reason to keep coming back year after year. The reason we’re here is because of you.
See, without you, it’s just sailing. With you, it’s an experience.
Thank you. =)