August 2013, The Cruising Club of America's Maine Cruise
A little background first, in the children's book "The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, Mole and Rat are rowing up the canal in Rat's boat. They are discussing nautical things and life in general when Rat is heard to utter:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing... about in boats — or with boats. In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.”
Holly and I have been messing about in boats our entire lives, but participating in the Cruising Club of America’s August Maine Cruise was messing around at it's best. We, along with our friend and frequent sailing companion Dan Rugg, a CCA member, chartered a classic ketch, “CYGNET,” from Bucks Harbor Marine in Brooksville for the cruise.
After a very wet day of getting “CYGNET” loaded with gear, food, beverages, and ice, we awoke the next morning to Maine like you read about – beautiful! I don’t know what heaven is like, but I can’t imagine it's much better there than a perfect summer day in coastal Maine. It's hard to believe that only yesterday we were bundled up in sweaters and foul weather gear sloshing around in a seemingly unending deluge.
The mighty "CYGNET" on a mooring at our first CCA rendezvous locale, Castine. She's an all wood 39' cruising ketch designed by Gilmer & Williamson and built in 1966 by Joel White at the Brooklin Boat Yard (more on the yard to come).
As with all good cruises, regattas and sailing in general, there’s usually a party to kick things off. The CCA definitely knows how to put on a fun event, and given that rum is a preferred adult beverage of most sailors, they are masters of the “Rhum Keg". The exact mix is said to be a closely guarded secret, but I’d guess it varies in strength and ingredients depending on who’s doing the mixing. Good stuff though…
Now back to the actual cruise. After Castine, one of the first stops for us was Center Harbor which is near the eastern end of Eggemoggin Reach and home to the Center Harbor Yacht Club and the Brooklin Boat Yard. For someone who loves boats and messing about with them, it doesn't get much better than this.
CHYC was founded in 1912 as a small, private, summer club to encourage sailing, seamanship, and camaraderie. Much of this club’s physical plant and operations have changed little since their early days. The core activity of the club is sailing, primarily in traditional wooden sailboats. The members maintain an active fleet of about forty that includes Beetle Cats, Herreshoff 12-1/2’s and Haven 12-1/2’s. The club owns a small fleet of Optimist Dinghies and 420’s, which are used only for junior sailing classes.
Center Harbor moorings are blessed with some incredibly beautiful and classic sailing vessels, such as the Concordia yawl "KATRINA" and below her, the Newman Dictator 31, a Friendship Sloop built in 1981 by well know Maine builder, Jarvis Newman. He sailed her as his personal boat from 2000 to around 2005. She now sails out of the Center Harbor and is called “JABBERWOCKY".
Part of the cruise included an opportunity to participate in a tour of the Brooklin Boat Yard given by Steve White, the son of its founder. Being on a boat built by Joel, this was an opportunity we did not want to miss. The yard was started in 1960 by Steve’s father, Joel M. White, son of E. B. White. It’s pretty much the equivalent of a Mecca to those who have an interest in classic wooden boats, and of course messing around with them.
Steve White, in the light blue polo, gave us a personal tour of the entire yard and explained a number of projects currently happening as well as a few interesting upcoming proposals. (group photo used permission of Brooklin Boat Yard) Behind us you can see an exactly replica of "SONNY", a yacht being rebuilt for an owner who'd donated it, decided he'd made a mistake and wanted it back, too late, so he had another one built. And to the right, behind Holly, is "PARDON ME", a boat pretty much built around an engine, a really big engine.
The Brooklin storage sheds held some real treasures that any classic boat lover would adore and find themselves at home with more than anywhere else. Not surprisingly, the parking lot also had a few lookers.
I had to add this to my ever growing collection of yachting hats.
This pink interior painted dinghy across from us when we docked at Brooklin BY for an ice refill, caught me eye and just about sums up my interpretation of the kind of boat Mole and Rat could happily have been rowing as well as making for a perfect Maine summer picture.
When we told Steve we were aboard "CYGNET", he was interested to see her, so in addition to the necessary ice, we got this opportunity to say goodbye before we got underway.
After a wonderful stopover at Center Harbor, it was off to Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island. We had a very pleasant sail through Eggemoggin Reach, Casco Passage, and past the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse (one of my favorites).
Along the way, we sailed by the “BOWDOIN”, an 88’ gaff rigged schooner launched in 1921. She’s used as a sail training vessel for Maine Maritime Academy students and the public.
We were fortunate enough to have a friend of mine's mooring to stay on just a short motor launch away from the Hinckley facility where there was held a lovely cocktail reception followed by a dinner and awards party.
I had a chance to catch up with R. J. Rubadeau, author of 'Bound for Roque Island,' a book I've read and highly recommend. Before the cruise, I'd corresponded with Robert about his book, and it was a pleasure to meet in person.
The morning after the party, the weather was pretty much how we felt... No trip to Maine is complete without the pleasure of experiencing a day of pea soup.
My friend's new joy, "LYNNETTE" on her mooring near us.
Mike Cook, (and husband) of "LYNNETTE", is very active and generous with his time when it comes to MDI and classic sailboats. He currently serves as a flag officer at the Northeast Harbor Fleet and is on the Board of Friends of Acadia.
The fog does not deter Mike as he heads out to race "LYNNETTE". She is an Eggemoggin 47 Spirit of Tradition sloop designed and built by the Brooklin Boat Yard. She was just launched this past June.
While waiting out the fog, we went to town and dropped into Newman Marine for a visit with Jarvis Newman. I’ve always enjoyed talking boats with Jarvis and have the utmost respect for his vast knowledge and opinions on the topic. He is the master of detail.
Above, in his immaculate shop, Jarvis is showing Dan a refurbished 1980 12' Newman Tender (LOA 11'9", Beam 4', Weight 150 lbs), while Holly give the tender the once-over.
What a difference a day makes! After a refreshing land based shower at the Hinckley yard, where the breeze had the colors flying, there was plenty of sight seeing to do on the water.
Two beautiful Hinckely yachts, of which there were quite a number besides the yacht yard being there, a Sou'wester 43 at the service dock, and one of my favorites, a Sou'wester 42 on a mooring in Norwood Cove.
A perfect evening for a Somes Sound dinner cruise aboard "CYGNET". Tomorrow we head back to Bucks Harbor...
And we're home, all tied up back at the marina safe and sound. Thank you for the memories "CYGNET"!
After unloading and getting ourselves freshened up, we celebrated a successful and enjoyable cruise by mixing up a final round of Dark n' Stormys in glasses which once belonged to Dan's grandfather, Daniel M. Rugg. He was a CCA member and had sailed with Carleton Mitchell aboard "CARIBEE" back in the day.
Sailing in Maine is truly a wonderful experience. Yes, there can be seriously foggy days, but even they can be used for relaxing aboard with a good book or exploring around on land. The natural beauty is remarkable bordering on jaw-dropping; and, as much as I love messing around in boats on the Chesapeake Bay, Maine - at least in July through September with a sweet spot in August - is as good as it gets.