When you live in a community that considers sailing, sometimes referred to as yachting, one of its foundations, you quickly adapt to the ways of its members. You learn their language, their customs. You join a yacht club, and learn its history. And you are proud of it. Like you had been there yourself, racing for the America’s Cup, instead of pushing plastic boats along the gutters of the streets in your Boston neighborhood.
Cruising is a long-established tradition in the yachting world. It means–as opposed to racing–taking your time sailing or motoring from port to port, usually with friends on other boats, exploring, living with your family aboard your boat. Bringing your tender or dinghy ashore to socialize with others, or rafting your boats up together for a “gam.” It is a wonderful way to travel. You see the world from such a different perspective, and you learn skills and address challenges in a way that does not often happen in the day to day.
Sometimes you learn things you wish you hadn’t.
Yacht clubs in our town, and I think most yacht clubs, sponsor a Cruise every year, with alternating destinations. There is safety in numbers, and organized outings to cool places.
Going South means Cape Cod, Scituate, Provincetown on one side of the canal, Marian, Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island on the other. Going South is pretty easy. Most harbors have services–showers, fuel, water and ice. And most are centrally-located to towns with stores and restaurants!
Going North means Maine. Getting there takes days, typically slogging across the Gulf of Maine past Cape Elizabeth to Penobscot Bay, then proceeding further Down East from there. Our yacht club this year planned the Cruise to Maine, rendezvousing in Castine, heading east to Northeast Harbor, then making our way back to Boothbay Harbor. Our little sailboat is not equipped for that kind of a trip (no stove, no hot water, no fridge) so we convinced another boat owner, a single guy, to go on the Cruise, taking us along as crew. He accepted our self-invitation.
In Maine there are lots and lots of harbors that have no services. You just throw an anchor overboard and enjoy the view (see photo of Turkey Cove near Port Clyde above). This means that you need to have enough food and drink. Provisioning a boat isn’t easy, even when the boat is equipped with the means to cook. You need food that is easy to eat, as a lot of the time is spent underway. You don’t want anything with too strong an aroma, as being below with some leftover garlic smell or worse isn’t fun. And you certainly don’t want any food that is likely to cause any kind of gastric distress. For obvious reasons.
Getting yourself ready to go on a long(ish) trip is challenging. When you are heading to Maine, it’s even more so. Maine can be cold and wet. And it can be hot and humid. On the same day. So you need every level of clothing, from a bathing suit to a wool hat and long johns. Boats do not typically have a lot of storage space. The boat we crewed on, a gorgeous 40′ Hinckley, had even less than that. Try as I might to stow everything, I invariably had a bag or a pair of shoes or something out in the main salon.
Which is also where we slept. The boat owner slept in the forward v-berth, at our insistence. This was his bedroom after all. We took the benches in the salon, one of which needed an added piece for sleeping, and one of which pulled out from the starboard side. In any case, if the person in the v-berth needed a glass of water, or wanted to go up on deck after the occupants of the main cabin had gone to sleep, there was no way to get there, as we soon discovered. He could not get by. In hindsight we should have revisited that arrangement.
So now we and our belongings were in the way. For eleven days. In hindsight, we should have changed places, or at least offered to.
Stay tuned for Part II when I will tell you the key reason that a 17-hour trip across the Gulf of Maine with 20 knots of breeze on the nose the whole way and waves coming from every which-way was worth it, how to tell a porpoise from a dolphin, and so much more.