Jack Farrell

Jack is a USCG 100-ton master and the island manager at Star Island at the Isles of Shoals, where his boat, Aloft, lives most of the summer. His column covers stories and observations from the Isles of Shoals and beyond. Some six miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Piscataqua River, this amazing and historic place is host to a variety of interesting vessels, wildlife and people – a rest stop on the East Coast maritime highway. He is the owner of Seacoast Maritime Charters.

‘Starkly, harshly, terrifyingly beautiful’

January 29, 2018 at 12:00 am

Returning home to a flash-frozen New England following a family Christmas in a much warmer place, I picked up a copy of “Whale Warriors” at the airport bookstore. No matter where you fall on the radical politics of the Sea Shepherd Society, this chronicle of a 2006 voyage to the Antarctic, in the self-acclaimed pirate ship Farley Mowat, is a great read for those who love maritime adventures. It is the tale of a half-crazed captain and his pickup crew in a tired old North Sea trawler, traversing the polar coast with the goal of disrupting the grim work of the Japanese whaling fleet. It all seemed appealing from the warmth and relative comfort of my Jet Blue extra legroomRead More

As the season ends, memories proliferate

November 20, 2017 at 12:00 am

We hauled Star Island’s harbor launch for the season this November morning, in a gray mist. I’m always just a little anxious at haul-outs, especially when the season is late and the river is mostly deserted. It doesn’t help that the landing is called “Dead Duck” (the public landing ramp on the Piscataqua River, in Eliot, Maine). The operation went off without a hitch and the launch is tucked away in the yard waiting for another season. And that makes 25 percent of the fleet that I don’t need to worry about for a while. But the other boats are still in the water, with the temperatures dropping off at night and the winds of November throttling up every fewRead More

Hurricane season

September 25, 2017 at 12:00 am

I love the fact that our newest old boat is named Hurricane. After months of careful nursing and a lot of hard work, she is finally behaving like a graceful old lady should: no more mechanical drama, no bad fuel, no spurting garboard seams, no electrical shorts – just a dignified, old New England boat dependably steaming down the river with her cargo, turning heads as she goes. As Neil Young said it, “You are like a hurricane: There’s calm in your eyes.” I admit to a fascination with the terrible in nature – with things like avalanches, rogue waves, rattlesnakes, sharks and big storms. My interest in hurricanes began early. I recall a September afternoon in 1969, when theRead More

Aloft is ready to sail me into my golden years

August 28, 2017 at 12:00 am

In this column, I share stories from the Isles of Shoals and beyond. Some six miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Piscataqua River, this amazing place is host to a variety of interesting vessels, wildlife and people – a rest stop on the East Coast maritime highway. We finally launched Aloft a couple of weeks ago into the green Piscataqua at Great Cove Boat Club in Eliot, Maine, just under the interstate bridge. With her newly refastened and re-caulked bottom, she barely leaked at all. After missing an entire season, it was a great relief to see her gleaming white hull finally bobbing gracefully at the mooring in Pepperrell Cove. A week or so into it, the pumps wereRead More

It seemed like life sprang anew on the Isles

July 24, 2017 at 12:00 am

The summer is in full bloom at the Isles of Shoals at this writing, and with it has come the usual uptick in activity – most of it good, and all of it interesting. The summer help (mostly young people in or just out of college, and known locally as Pelicans) are settling into the season’s routine. One of the traditional jobs involves the whole community for the transfer of food and luggage from the boats up to the trucks for distribution around the island. As in a bucket brigade, items are plucked from the deck and passed along in a process known on Star Island as “lining it.” Veterans pride themselves on their understanding of the subtleties of theRead More

If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute

June 26, 2017 at 9:38 am

An early season heat wave hit the Isles of Shoals this week, and with it came the first big wave of visiting yachts and boats. The most notable among them was Paul Rollins’ lovely schooner Heart’s Desire. It felt like the middle of July in Texas this afternoon, as we unloaded rolls of carpet, seemingly unending stacks of lumber, cartons of wilting vegetables, and the luggage of some 95 young workers arriving for their summer work at the Oceanic Hotel. The lives of these people are about to be changed forever. The Star Island summer began today. But less than a week ago, the waterfront resembled early April, with cold driving rain and nine-foot swells that kept all but theRead More

Well-timed miracles are welcome at times

May 22, 2017 at 12:00 am

The daffodils have come and gone, and the lilac buds are trying hard to open on the lawn of the Oceanic Hotel. A troupe of naturalists is set to arrive in a few days to chronicle the annual bird migration through the Isles of Shoals. Sugarloaf ski area closed a week ago, releasing my attention until the snow flies again in November. And it’s launching time again. I’m just back from the rechristening and partially successful delivery of m/v Hurricane to Portsmouth from Mount Desert Island. Hurricane is old and wooden, loaded with character and history. Designed and built as a supply and crew vessel to service the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, she hit the cold harbor at theRead More

The usual springtime elephant on the island

April 24, 2017 at 12:00 am

In this column, I share stories from the Isles of Shoals and beyond. Some six miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Piscataqua River, this amazing place is host to a variety of interesting vessels, wildlife and people – a rest stop on the East Coast maritime highway. I was down at the wharf when it happened. I went down as I do almost daily in the winter to check the lines and bilges and batteries. A raw northeast wind was riling the river to a decent chop and driving big wet flakes against my face. Outside it was sure to be rough – a very good day to stay at the dock. It wasn’t much nicer in the dampRead More

The unvarnished truth about the 10 percent rule

March 13, 2017 at 12:01 am

We have owned our wooden sloop Aloft for over 15 years. During that time, we have rebuilt the engine, replaced framing, planks and port lights, renewed decks with Dynel and epoxy, painted the topsides at least every other year, and performed countless other tasks and upgrades necessary to keep a 50-year old wooden boat going strong. This winter she is again in the shop at Warren Pond Boatworks in South Berwick, Maine, for some upgrades by Bob Eger and his crew. These old wooden yachts are a lot of work when compared to modern designs built from other materials. But if one is willing to adopt one of these classics, and commit to her care, the rewards will be economic,Read More

A new era of energy independence for Star Island

January 27, 2017 at 8:00 pm

In this column, I will share stories and observations from the Isles of Shoals and beyond. Some six miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Piscataqua River, this amazing and historic place is host to a variety of interesting vessels, wildlife and people – a rest stop on the East Coast maritime highway. Perched somewhat precariously on 43 rocky acres at the edge of the continent, Star Island’s 35 or so mostly wooden buildings have played host to thousands for over a hundred summers. The non-profit corporation that owns the Island has the following statement of its vision: “…to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence and gain knowledgeRead More