What ever happened to Roger Long?

Guest perspective/Roger Long

A few Points East readers from the single-digit years of this century may remember accounts of cruising in my 32-foot Endeavour, Strider. I once had the honor of being on the masthead of this magazine as a contributor, but slipped quietly from that pinnacle of my literary fame and disappeared. What happened? I’m sure at least one of you is wondering.

The mood so well described by Melville in the opening paragraphs of “Moby Dick” seized me in 2011. This and a desire to taste at least a token of my youthful dreams compelled me to sell my business and sail away. My plan was to live and travel on Strider until I got old enough for nature to take its course and leave the boat floating around for some lucky person to find. No funeral for me!

Life seldom works out as planned so I am now sitting on a hillside full of flowers, looking out at the Taconic Range hills in upstate New York, and writing this cautionary tale.

There could have been one more good Points East story as I began this odyssey by heading Downeast to Nova Scotia. However, I got a gig to write an ongoing account of my adventure for an e-zine. Thus began three of the most thoroughly documented years of my life. Those nearly daily posts would make up one of the longest cruising stories ever written, but have now disappeared from their site. I’m glad I saved a copy. Someday if I break a leg or am otherwise laid up I’ll edit them into a book.

I sailed Strider to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by way of Passamaquoddy Bay and Digby, where I picked up a friend for the westward leg. We were sitting in a coffee shop in Lunenburg planning a detailed cruise up every river and inlet on the coast between there and Digby when he looked at the news and we heard about Hurricane Irene.

I didn’t want to be on the coast, and he had a boat that needed securing, so, 80 hours later, we were going through the reversing falls into the St. John River, where I rode out the storm at a mooring. I spent the next couple of weeks cruising on the river system with another friend and then headed south.

That winter’s and spring’s cruising took me south as far as Cocoa, Fla., and back to Portland, Maine, with all the legs south of Cape May being on the bays and ICW. I had all sorts of adventures – medical and financial as well as nautical – but you’ll have to wait for the book to learn more about them. I spent the summer in Portland, mostly tied up at the town dock under the Casco Bay Bridge, so I could spend time with my sons and refit for the next trip south.

The next trip took me only as far as Georgia, where I was seized with the mad idea that I should be doing something more useful with my life than cruising around and writing about it. My son was doing a congressional internship at the Capitol, and a friend had told me that D.C. was the place to go if saving the world had suddenly become part of your agenda. So I ran from Beaufort, S.C., to Washington, D.C., in 13 January days, entering the mouth of the Potomac in freezing rain, to get there before my son’s internship was up. Yes, keep your eyes out for that book.

A few weeks in D.C. were a significant encounter with the reality of being an elder – ahem, old fart – trained only in an ancient and obscure art. No naval architects needed to work for world peace. So I gradually worked my way back to Portland again. I did a grand-tour cruise of Maine, and spent a week at the Small Reach Regatta, where I sailed aboard my last boat design and watched the fleet sail from aboard Strider. Then, everything changed.

My brother emailed that a neighbor at our family’s summer place was looking for a boat to crew on. She and I corresponded and agreed to meet in Bailey Island to talk about it. There is love at first sight, even for people who are determined never to be in a relationship again. I headed south and Patsy met me in Norfolk. We cruised to Beaufort, N.C., and back, a trip shortened by the coldest winter in memory and interrupted by the need for a minor surgical repair.

Patsy had to return home in April for a teaching commitment at New York University, so I singlehanded Strider back north and up the Hudson River to Catskill. I was born in Albany and spent all the summers of my childhood here, where I am writing. On that run up the river, I realized that all this traveling, which I had thought of as going away, was actually bringing me home again. We kept Strider on the river, and sailed her a couple of times. And I reconnected with my family. Years of cruising and living in Maine had made me only an occasional visitor to family land and roots going back to the 1800s.

The next winter found us again in the lowlands. We made it as far as St. Augustine, Fla., this time. Strangely enough, it was here that I experienced, for the only time in my cruising, slipping on ice on the deck. It was 28 degrees. We walked all over town in our winter coats, but the Dickinson diesel heater kept us snug below.

I hauled Strider out on our return to the Hudson, and we began to talk. Our travels had revealed two things: Patsy has a very delicate stomach. Although I have never been seasick, my travels up and down the Intracoastal Waterway had caused me to fall in love with waterways and cruising close enough to shore to wave at people on land. I thought about how many – or more accurately, how few – times Strider’s sails had been up during the ICW cruises, and we decided that it was time for us to get a trawler more suited to the kind of waters we now wished to explore.

I couldn’t bring myself to sell Strider after all the adventures we had shared, so I gave her to a friend who would keep her in Canada with the stipulation that we could go up and cruise in her whenever we felt like it. He and some friends came to pick her up, and I sailed with them as far as City Island in New York, where I hopped off and watched them sail away.

It was a strange and shocking realization that, in 25,000 miles of cruising, I had never seen her under way from the shore. I turned to walk to the bus, and, up to this writing, had never seen her again. However, we planned to be aboard her in the near future.

We then began to look for a powerboat and the cautionary part of this tale begins next month.

Roger Long, formerly harbormaster of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and designer of commercial vessels, now divides his time between summers in upstate New York and snowbirding on the 43-foot Gulfstar trawler Gypsy Star. Stand by until the March/April issue.