A lesson in time management

October 2005

By Dodge Morgan

Twenty-five years ago, Eagle was only 54 years old and I was a 48-year-old pup. The two of us were cuddled in Christmas Cove for the annual bending on of sails after another spring journey down the Damariscotta River from Paul Bryant’s Riverside Boat Yard, her winter nest.

Bending sails on Eagle is a project. She’s a 31-foot, on deck, gaff-headed schooner with two pedigrees: one as a Malabar Jr. by John Alden in 1926 and the other as a schooner rebuild by Murray Peterson in the early ’60s. To capsulate her enduring and endearing style, I recall the comment of a sallow fellow who asked me, “Do you actually sail that antique?”

Her main and fore luffs are lashed with marlin to mast-hoops, 14 of them. Her eight halyards, four downhauls, seven sheets and two running backstays always need sorting out, and her eight shroud-end lanyards need firming through 16 deadeyes. This chore takes me a couple hours (and I have been doing it now for 37 years).

A pretty, little Concordia yawl sailed up to the Coveside Marina dock as I was working. She was on her way from Penobscot Bay to Marblehead with three happy geezers aboard. It was easy to tell who were, respectively, the skipper, the mate and the cook just by listening to their joyful chatter. I was too Eagle-focused to join in the chat.

Wife Manny, six-year-old son Hoyt, and three-year-old daughter Kim had arrived and were combing the waterfront and badgering Coveside owner Mike Mitchell for another of his endless, outrageous stories. The cove was just awaking, and Mike had not yet gone surly from too many summer folk.

The four of us departed midday a couple hours after the Concordia crew had sailed away singing sea chanteys in cracked voices punctuated with doubling-up laughter. The southwest breeze had lifted as it usually does about noon, and the day was promisingly bright. We beat our way west past Boothbay, the Cuckolds, The Sisters, Seguin Island, Fuller Rock, Drunkers Ledge, and in a little less than four hours were lowering the old kedge anchor in the bight of Casco Bay’s Jewell Island.

There was just one boat in our company, and she was the Concordia. Manny and I were invited over for drinks. In our usual ploy, we lashed Hoyt and Kim into the yawl boat and set them free with the oars on a 75-foot painter, thus to haul them in when we wanted them back and joined our neighbors.

The chat was festooned with sailor’s jokes – you know the scripts: stories of close calls and breaking gear and stale food and the lubricating impact of cheap whiskey. At one point the captain complimented Eagle: “You have a lovely little vessel there.”

“I know that,” I answered.

“How much time do you spend with her?” he asked. “Not that much,” I admitted.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, I just don’t have the time,” I said.

His next statement was one of philosophical and practical beauty. “Why I believe you have just as much time as the rest of us.”

Dodge Morgan broke all kinds of records when he single-handed American Promise around the world without stopping in 1985 and ’86.