September 22, 2012
… 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
(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
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 !