Sunday, October 21, 2012

After Vacation

September 24, 2012
Queensbury, NY

Well, it's the Monday after vacation.
Everything's unpacked.
Back to the ol' routine.
But for some reason, it's hard to focus, today at work ...

When we have returned from the seaside,
we sometimes ask ourselves
why we did not spend more time in gazing at the sea.

   HDT, Cape Cod

Monday, October 15, 2012

Equinox on the Ardelle

September 22, 2012
Gloucester, Massachusetts

… and there we were
in a mackerel schooner,
a fine stout vessel of forty-three tons,
whose name I forget.

    HDT Journal, July 27, 1851

Today, we were leaving for home -- but first, we had an appointment with the Ardelle.
The Last Day of Summer dawned foggy grey and damp, but I didn’t care.
We were all packed, and headed down to Maritime Gloucester.
Mom went a-shopping on foot, and Rick and I went down to where Ardelle was docked.

(We had been here a few days ago, and had seen two men aboard, kneeling in wood-shavings and scratching their heads. Hmm.)

That morning, as we bought our tickets, the woman at the register mentioned that Harold Burnham had been nominated for -- and received—a National Heritage Fellowship Award. It’s the highest national honor one can receive for Traditional Folk Arts.  (Read all about why Harold Burnham received his award, here.)
The ceremony would be in early October in Washington, D. C.
The great thing was, she said, was that Harold planned to sail the Ardelle down there to accept his award.

Today, we were about to sail on her ourselves.
While nibbling what was left of my ginger (still unsure of my seaworthiness),
I met with a tough old ginger cat who seemed to be in charge of this particular dock.

Eventually he allowed me to scratch his head.
Just as I thought – that gruff exterior was all for show.


We watched from above, as one of the men we had seen before, and a younger fellow, were doing some last-minute tidying-up of the Ardelle.
And then it was time to go!

Unlike Henry Thoreau, I will not soon forget this “fine stout vessel.” The Ardelle embodies an older design than the Lannon, and is slightly shorter too, with a rakishly pinked stern. It’s the sort of schooner made in the 1800s for coastal mackerel fishing, and she weighs in at around 45 tons. Probably very similar to the boat that Henry T. climbed aboard in 1851, his shoes in hand and pants rolled up.

The crew of two were Captain Harold Burnham, and pilot Zach Teal. It turns out that Harold and a crew of six were leaving for Washington this very afternoon, so we were on the last public sail of the season.

Harold is a local hero. Extremely talented, yet modest in manner. The qualities I had been admiring about the boat itself are perhaps reflections of his dedication to it. He had built other wooden vessels, including the Lannon, but this one was a real community project. (for the story of the Ardelle, see here.)

It was near calm this morning, as the Ardelle motored out into the harbor and raised sail. The landmarks of Gloucester harbor were misted in grey.

We were peppering Harold with questions, and he was trying to get some new radar gear to work. He didn’t seem too annoyed.

                                          Only momentarily perplexed

I actually sat there next to the binnacle, and told Harold that compared to the Lannon, I liked his boat “because it was funky,” … meaning that it had character.
I hope he didn’t take it the wrong way. 


Zach was a volunteer who helped build the Ardelle. In fact, it was he who rode her down the ways for the exciting side-launch back in Essex last July.
He still has a year of high school to go. He plans on attending a maritime academy.
Even out past the Dogbar, the seas were serene. The sails sort of flapped limply. Still, the cut of the Ardelle makes her act differently than the long and lean Lannon. We pitched AND yawed this time, with every passing boat’s wake.

In contrast to my apprehensions, I really liked how everything was in constant motion. This vessel felt pretty sturdy, and of course we had supreme confidence in our captain/builder !
To his credit, he spent some time chatting with everyone, when he probably really had a hundred to-do lists going through his head. I was thankful that they scheduled this one last sail of the season, despite their plans.

We turned back, just about at the moment Summer ended.
When we stepped ashore, it would be Autumn.
And another adventure would begin in just a few hours.

We spent less time admiring the grey scenery, than we did exploring the boat and listening to Harold.

As we motored back on diesel power (the wind having completely disappeared), Harold had Zach steer for the cove where the Lannon is berthed. Captain Tom was aboard, and Harold tried to entice him to come along on the big trip.

It’s really something to find out you are on a little sailing excursion with a National Treasure.
Who is also, just Harold.

Still, one has to admire the pluckiness of planning this voyage to Washington.
I wish them godspeed ! and a safe journey back.

So far as I know
we did not set sail to look for things useful
but to seek honour and adventures.

Reepicheep in C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

[NOTE: as of today (Monday, October 15th) the Ardelle and crew are returning from Washington. You can retrace their entire voyage by visiting the Essex Shipbulding Museum’s facebook page.
They should arrive back in Gloucester late Monday or early Tuesday -
Welcome Home !

O How She Scoons

September 21, 2012
Gloucester, Massachusetts


These were genuine New England vessels.
It is stated in the Journal of Moses Prince,
a brother of the annalist,
under date of 1721, at which time he visited Gloucester,
that the first vessel of the class called schooner
was built at Gloucester about eight years before,
by Andrew Robinson; and late in the same century
one Cotton Tufts gives us the tradition with some particulars,
which he learned on a visit to the same place.
According to the latter, Robinson having constructed a vessel which he masted and rigged in a peculiar manner,
on her going off the stocks a by-stander cried out,
"O, how she scoons!"
whereat Robinson replied, "A schooner let her be!"

... According to C. E. Potter of Manchester, New Hampshire, the very word schooner is of New England origin, being from the Indian schoon or scoot, meaning to rush ...

   HDT, Cape Cod

On our last evening at the Cape, Rick and I stood at the dock, tickets in hand, for a sunset cruise on the schooner Thomas E. Lannon


We had postponed dinner, and I was nervously nibbling on some candied ginger, in the hopes it would prevent any possibility of getting sea-sick.
Well ya never know. Rick had no such worries.
There was quite a crowd waiting to board. The sky had cleared and there was a bit of a breeze.

The Lannon came in to port, disgorged her passengers … and then we were aboard. Once Captain Tom had motored out into the harbor proper, we were able to try our hand at raising sail.

And then, no motor. Just wind pushing us along.

It is a beautiful boat, long and dark and sleek.

Captain Tom Ellis
The Ellis family had dreamed for years of having a commercial charter vessel like this. Tom had asked Essex boatbuilder Harold Burnham to build it, based on the lines of a historic swordfishing schooner.

And speak of the devil, who should appear off to starboard but the Ardelle, with Harold B. at the tiller.

People on both boats all waved merrily at each other as we crossed paths,
then went our separate ways.
See you tomorrow ! I thought happily, my ticket already in the daypack.

The Lannon continued on, out past the Dogbar,
and I realized firsthand the Dogbar’s value in creating a calm harbor.

Beyond it, the ocean was a bit more lively -- “sort of swell-y” as the Captain’s son Heath put it. And he laughed as a modern whale-watch tourboat came back in, passing us. He waved at them, and turned aside to me said  “I bet everyone on there was sicksick all day!”
Ulp, I thought. How far were WE going?
And the Lannon started to pitch gently up and down, but I found it pleasant. Rick was delighted
(and would have been more so if it was a raging, gunnel-dipping gale.)

Steady as she goes

But for now, we rocked and swayed, enjoying the flapping of canvas and the dips of the bow, trying not to trip as we walked from rail to rail, taking pictures madly.

We soon turned about, and saw a golden sunset.

On the other side, the moom peeked through the rigging.

Lots of people were out this evening.

Lucy, the chocolate lab, came over to the rail, and sat sniffing the smells of home (fish mostly) as we glided back into the harbor.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rocky Neck

September 20, 2012
Rocky Neck, Gloucester, Massachusetts


All that is told of the sea has a fabulous sound
to an inhabitant of the land,
and all its products have a certain fabulous quality,
as if they belonged to another planet,
from sea-weed to a sailor's yarn,
or a fish-story.

   HDT, Cape Cod

Late that afternoon, we visited Rocky Neck, on the far side of Gloucester Harbor, to have dinner at The Rudder.
The Neck is yet another Art Colony, though it seems somewhat subdued at this time of year. All this Beauty in the studio windows, and most of the Beholders have gone home.

You park in a little lot at the beginning of the Neck, then it’s a pleasant stroll to the restaurant at the far end.

As soon as I got out of the car, I looked up to see a familiar ghost on the horizon –
The Ardelle,  on an evening cruise in Gloucester Harbor.
Even at a distance, her profile is distinctive.

Soon, I thought, I will be out there too !

We were, as usual, unfashionably early, and the restaurant was not quite open. Mom elected to hang out and wait on a convenient bench.
Rick and I kept walking, to the very end of the Neck.
Past working-boats hitched up like so many horses.

Here  at the end is the Gloucester Marine Railways yard, full of interesting vessels in various stages of repair.


Huge sailing-ships
alien-looking derricks and cranes,
steel hulks encrusted with barnacles, and mighty chains holding them

Ropes that make my shoelaces look like mere thread  

things were definitely on a different scale here.
We were like elves wandering about in a giant’s fabulous workshop.
If these vessels could talk, what fish-stories they could tell !

The restaurant opened for the evening, and we sat down to a fantastic dinner. It’s the sort of place where the neighbors come to dine, and park in their own special spot.

Back in Rockport, I was settling in for the night.
One glance out the slider -- and I was cramming shoes on again,
and hustling down to the beach.
... Sailor’s Delight - !

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Do-Nothing Day

September 20, 2012
Rockport, Massachusetts


Though we walked all day,
it seemed the days were not long enough to get tired in.
   HDT Journal, September 30, 1858,
(still thinking about his trip to Rockport earlier that same month)

Henry Thoreau first visited Cape Ann in 1848, to deliver a lecture in Gloucester. He returned ten years later for another visit, this time just to take a long walk.
[A Gloucester writer, Peter Anastas, has thoroughly researched these visits -- here is a link to his excellent blog entry on the subject.]

My own visit to the Cape is purely for recreational purposes.
It was nice to get away from a routine of constant deadlines and sedentary, detail-oriented work.  It was a time to just breathe the fresh sea air, ramble, and let the mind spin free.


After three days of driving here and there,
it was time for Do-Nothing Day.
This originated years ago, during a summer-long camping trip across the country with Rick, myself and our friend Lou. Three of us in one car. We soon realized that have a Do-Nothing Day was a life-saver. It was a time to just go off by yourself and do whatever struck your fancy.
So Rick would go his own way today – he ended up paddling a beautiful stretch of the Ipswich River, telling us later that it was one of his favorite river excursions ever. [Thanks for that tip too, TrashPaddler!]
Mom & I decided to just hang out in Rockport. I got up early and began the day by walking around with the camera.
This house was old even when Thoreau was here.
There’s a reason that Rockport has been host to a very active Artist’s Colony … everywhere you turn, everything looks like a work of art.

 Is it a trick of the light?

I’m not the only photographer snapping what seem to be random shots in people’s dooryards.

In Cod We Trust

The Kids Are in Grad School

The beach, as usual, is pretty as a picture, even at low tide.

This year we had some unusual visitors to the beach – a large flock of mallards, and some swans !

Seven Swans A-Swimming


Motif No. 1 in evening light


Out on Bearskin Neck, the ultratouristy section of town, are little alleys full of what-not shops, offering for sale:
 the Silly

And the Sublime

Everywhere are offerings and blessings


The gods and goddesses look on, and smile


Mom is content to really do nothing, and spent lots of time today on the balcony – and who can blame her?