Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reflections on Maine


After Alizée was hauled out, we went to visit the Brooklin Boat Yard (BBY), the mecca for wooden boat building, for a private tour of their operations. Amazing work, specializing in modern wood construction, a specific kind of cold molded construction combined with key carbon fiber components. Bill never passes a chance to inventory the tools the pros use. One worker was using a router and plywood template to cut a partial bulkhead, just like we did for Alizée. Of course we weren't cutting 3/4" solid carbon fiber plate! Nonetheless he (ab)used our favorite ole bare bones Porter Cable Router - the router that never dies. Across the shop I picked up the familiar whine of the 3 1/3" Makita power plane, another tool found in virtually every boat shop. We discussed the hit-or-miss quality of the Chinese importer Grizzly: great thickness planer, not so much the joiner.
Lifting keel box on the
91 footer

They have two very classy projects in process, a 90' and a 60'. BBY was started by Joel White, E.B. White's son: the E.B. White, an avid sailor, who wrote Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and the Elements of Style. When Joel passed, his son Steve took over the yard and also co-owns the Belfast Front Street Shipyard where Alizée is spending the winter. Bob Stephens, who went sailing with us to evaluate Alizée's temperament, took over the lead designer role at BBY until branching out on his own in Belfast. His wife works at the Wooden Boat School just down the street from the BBY. The Brooklin Boat Yard, Rockport Marine, and the Front Street Shipyard have overlapping ownership and cooperative projects: all with the undercurrent of wooden boats, whether traditional or contemporary. For example, the Spirit of Bermuda was built by Rockport Marine and was hauled by Front Street Shipyard (shortly before Alizée) for maintenance and inspection work. Wooden boats are a small world within a small world up here.

Like many places we visited on the way, from Lie Nielsen Tools to Shawn & Tenney oars, the BBY looks like a small operation yet employs 60 people. They prefer Maine natives over graduates from renown nautical schools like the Webb Institute on Long Island, NY, because the graduates don't fare well in the Maine winter :) I believe the phrase "cold and lonely" was used. Talking with locals at the airbnbs where we stayed, we learned that Maine winter is actually a special time for them. While we think of harsh Maine winters, locals cherish that time as their social time. They even have an annual Winterfest in Stonington to celebrate the season in January. Brrrr.....

Stonington harbor
We spent three land days visiting Deer Isle, the peninsula connected to the mainland via the impressive Eggemoggin suspension bridge, spanning the Eggemoggin Reach. Always a thrill, we have sailed under her several times while enjoying The Reach. Around the corner from the Eggemoggin Reach is Stonington: lobster capital of the lobster region.

Barred Island Trail (low tide only)
From our reading, lobstermen are not exactly welcoming of cruisers, such as us, in the area, so we stayed away while aboard Alizée. Now cleverly disguised in our truck (ALL lobstermen drive trucks, though I suppose the Colorado plates were a give away), we wanted to visit Stonington and see just who has those lime green buoys with the white tops: we like him because we always see the bloody things. Stonington also happens to be a kayaker's dream land with many small and interesting islands close by. We did not get to kayak this time around but definitely adding it to next year's todo list.

Old Settlement granite quarry
Deer Isle also has several preserves maintained by the Maine Heritage Trust, which works with owners and businesses to create nice hiking trails. One of those trails, in the Barred Island Preserve, lets you to walk on water, so to speak, traversing to the island at low tide. Another one in the Old Settlement Quarry Preserve, goes through an old granite quarry. Granite quarrying, along with lobstering, was a big part of the Deer Isle revenue stream. John F. Kennedy's grave at the Arlington National Cemetery was made from Deer Isle granite, as are many US monuments.

We could see the season ending, making it a bit more palatable to return home. Several places had already closed for the season and we got stuck eating at the one-and-only restaurant that stays open year around. We would not recommend it and will keep its name hidden to not cause more damage. Many businesses close after Labor Day, often because their seasonal employees return to school. While there are few places to eat left open, we saw several of them closing for good after this season.

The Bow House
With one of our airbnb hosts, we caught the last big schooner event of the season: the Schooner Sail In at the Wooden Boat School. Quite something to see all these beautiful schooners, many of whom we've sailed or anchor next to, gathered together in the harbor for live music and steamed mussels. Especially touching was the recitation of E.B. White's prose about sailing and the sea, while his last boat sat visible on her mooring in the harbor. (If you read that piece, you'll recognize many of the places we have talked about in our blog.)

Our last night on Deer Isle was at a home-built cabin with a nautical flair - the Bow House airbnb, recommended by our friend Barry. It was cool to see another dreamer build something so quaint and sharing it with others.

Thick morning fog
As we started our trek back to Boulder, we had absolutely no cell service the entire way from Deer Isle to the Canadian border (maybe ATT does not recognize Northern Maine, or DownEast as they call it?) and the morning fog on land was a nice wink to the few foggy days we had on Alizée.

After 37 hours of driving, stopping in Montreal, Lansing, and Omaha, we are back in Colorado, where everything feels bigger, noisier and busier. If there is one word that sums up Maine for us, it is "peaceful" and "quiet", ok that's 2 words. People don't speak loudly, restaurants don't have loud music, the only loud thing is lobster boats! Take a listen. We have cherished our time in Maine and can't wait to be back next summer when Alizée wakes up from her hibernation. Our heads are spinning from the re-entry right now. More later on what comes next for the valiant crew of the good sailing vessel Alizée :)




1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to Colorado! Reach out when you're ready to share stories over a beer. :)

    ReplyDelete