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.

 

 

 

In search of a little salvation

And we get to know a native Seabrooker
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A star is born

Photo by Jack Farrell September 2022 By Jack Farrell Just short of five weeks into life with the Shining Star, I’m sitting in the wheelhouse between trips at our dock along the Piscataqua. The boat rolls nearly incessantly against the float dock as the weekend
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Last days in Utopia

August 2022 By Jack Farrell There is an old saying that the two happiest days of a sailor’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. I’ll agree with the first part, but in most cases – for me
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An insider’s guide to the Isles of Shoals

There's lots to love about this location just off the Maine and New Hampshire coasts. Here are some tips for making the most of your visit.
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A beast of a boat

June 2022 By Jack Farrell Our new 46-foot Mussel Ridge lobster boat is nearing completion at an undisclosed location somewhere in southern Maine. The boat has been custom designed for its dual role as all-weather freight hauler and small passenger charter vessel for year-round operation
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A brief break from winter and a not-so-mild boat ride

March/April 2022 By Jack Farrell During a short break from winter’s grip in late February, the temperature along the coast rose briefly into the high 60s. At Star Island, unofficial capital of the Isles of Shoals, the care-takers had been out of fruit and vegetables
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A tale of two lobster boats

  January/February 2022 By Jack Farrell We took delivery of our new Mussel Ridge 46 hull during a freezing rainstorm in the first week of January. After more than a year of planning and design, the hull and deck were completed just before Christmas in
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Building the perfect boat

December 2021 By Jack Farrell For Points East After more than a year of planning, and a good measure of frustration, I got word from the builder a few weeks ago that work had begun on our new Mussel Ridge 46 lobster boat for freight
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Following in the footsteps of giants

October 2021 By Jack Farrell An icon of our coast passed away at his home of nearly 105 years early in September. Ned McIntosh was an inspired boatbuilder, blue water sailor and motor boat captain on the Isles of Shoals route. Most of all, Ned
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The solution to climate change is us

Do we really need 1,200 hp on a boat designed for cocktail cruises?
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Adopting a kinder, gentler approach

August 2021 By Jack Farrell Five days after it happened, I’m still smarting over an unfortunate conversation on Channel 16 with a local lobster boat. The captain was apparently unhappy with my course, and made a rude, and let’s just say unprofessional comment about it.
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Gift from a stranger

July 2021 By Jack Farrell One day last week I was called up to the front porch of the Oceanic Hotel to greet some visitors. Everett Hall and his son-in-law from nearby Cedar Island were there to talk about their float docks. Since Star Island
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Resignation is not the same as giving up

A practical resignation is not the same as giving up. It is an unresisting acceptance of the inevitable – and it includes patience, submission, tolerance and fortitude.
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We are the lucky ones

May 2021 By Jack Farrell I stayed out of the dark and frozen boatshed during the coldest days of the winter except to grab some firewood piled under the sailboat before the snow fell. But during the unseasonably warm weather in late March I had
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The in-between season

March/April 2021 By Jack Farrell At the end of a long flight home from a week’s visit with the grandchildren out west on the last night of February, it was immediately evident that winter was losing its hold on our coast. The landing lights switched
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Taking stock of the fleet

Midwinter 2021 By Jack Farrell I’ve owned and been the steward of many boats over the course of my 65 years. I know as well as most that all boats need a little care, and that some need quite a lot of it. Boats also
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All’s well that ends well

While I have made many hundreds of trips from Portsmouth Harbor to the Isles of Shoals across the full range of weather and seasons (wind, rain, fog, snow and freezing spray) I had never been thoroughly scared until one afternoon a few weeks ago.
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Thoughts from a part-time curmudgeon

By Jack Farrell For Points East Magazine The regular visitor to this space may recall a story from a few years back when I was given permission by a wise octogenarian (and frequently cantankerous) Star Island guest to be a curmudgeon once in a while.
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A reunion with Aloft, and scanning for sharks

By Jack Farrell I’m sitting in the deep cockpit of our sailboat Aloft on a mooring off Peaks Island, Maine, in the shadow of the landing craft Lionel Plante that plays such a big role in construction at the Isles of Shoals. I’m fortunate to
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Launch-day hijinks, and savoring the moments

It was another early-morning island supply run in mid-summer. Utopia slipped easily through the glassy swells for the seven-mile trip to the Isles of Shoals in the company of numerous grey seals and a single minke whale. The fish finder emitted a constant stream of
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Peaceful, calm and uncharacteristically quiet

So far this year, summer weather has been trading places every few days with crisp sunny days more typical of October. The water temperature is still in the low 50’s and I am wearing a down jacket in the wheelhouse of the Hurricane most mornings.
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They will come back

By Jack Farrell The usual spring activity along our coast has been slow to develop this season due to the pandemic. But in early May, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced a phased re-opening plan for business in the state. In addition to some other enterprises, barbershops
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‘There are no ghosts on the Isles of Shoals’

As normal life on the mainland began to close down in response to the spreading virus in late March, I made a run out to the Isles of Shoals in Utopia with an especially large supply order for the caretakers. In a normal season there
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Careful what you wish for

By Jack Farrell For Points East I’ve come to realize lately that I have a personality that is prone to obsession. While that may sound at first like a confession delivered in the first meeting of a 12-step program, I don’t think it’s necessarily a
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Lit picks, and venturing out

The first trip to the Isles of Shoals in the new year was a combination supply run for the Star Island caretakers and a reconnaissance mission for upcoming building projects. We loaded a dozen small bags of groceries and a few bottles of wine –
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Good counsel, and sailing faster than the wind

In spite of my best-laid plans, a second season has now passed without launching our sloop Aloft. We have used the time to make numerous upgrades, and she now has a totally new rig, engine, and plank fastenings below the waterline. With her updated electronics
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Hurricane Dorian and the “dream wedding”

The last big weekend of the year promised a full house at the Oceanic Hotel. A two-day island wedding extravaganza was also on the schedule.
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East vs. West: It’s all about the boats

The sign hanging over the front counter of the Islander Grocery at Lummi Island in Puget Sound reads “Keep Lummi Weird.” Nearly three thousand miles from my familiar islands back home in Maine and New Hampshire, this sign captures the essence of a common island
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Optimism, Catboat Bob, and Mrs. Crabby

By Jack Farrell Points East We’re five miles out of Portsmouth on an early summer freight run to Star Island. The fine bow of my Royall Lowell-designed Utopia slices through the two-foot chop with grace and power. Ten feet back at the helm, bits of
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The cold, wet reality of it

Our rough and exposed stretch of Bigelow Bight between Portsmouth and the Isles of Shoals has been characteristically challenging since my daily crossings resumed in early March. While only two days so far have been rough enough to actually cancel a trip, most of the
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Crunch time in the islands

Dawn broke late on this stormy morning in early April. Yesterday was sunny and warm, but today it was winter on the water again. A cold rain was falling, verging on sleet. The biting wind drove a familiar salty tang. Seas were from the northeast
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The Hurricane, and what’s in a name

Interior work on the old Hurricane is moving well in spite of lingering cold, snow and high winds along our coast. While fresh beaded plywood panels were being installed to dress up the bulkheads and interior cabin sides last week, the 60-plus-mph blow along the
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A happy little ship, and staying busy

As I write this dispatch we are in the deep dark weeks of full winter. The days have just now begun to lengthen, although so far it’s pretty hard to tell. The record early cold and snows of November were happily followed by seasonable temperatures,
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On the nature of command

“Put on all sail!” shouted the captain as the ship sailed toward the island. As we neared the island I heard a cannon fire. A scream came from the mizzen mast, and then I saw three men fall, and following them was the top half
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The gift of unexpected moments

As I write this I’m on an airplane returning from a trip to the high and dry western desert to meet our first grandchild. The plane banks abruptly, descending through rain-swept clouds into Boston — revealing a long view of the coast to the north
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Down on the Old Eggemoggin

Hard to believe, but another New England summer is already winding down out at Star Island, unofficial capital of the Isles of Shoals. The end of my 10th season approaches without fanfare. Historic runs of mackerel and menhaden have lured the whales in close to
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A careening crisis narrowly averted

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
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Bring us a banana . . . it’s an emergency!

Islanders know better than most the importance of critical resources and services. The most critical of all on the islands is arguably clean water. What is worth mere pennies a gallon to most city dwellers accustomed to a seemingly endless flow out of household taps
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‘Mushroom,’ and Prudie the peapod

May is prime construction season at Star Island as we work to catch up on years of deferred maintenance. Much of our material is loaded by hand, but for the bigger loads we use a truck-mounted boom lift. The temperature approached summertime readings early in
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The obstacle of pride, and a season renewed

The way I remember it, I was sailing solo through Salem Bay in a dry nor’easter that was building as the day went on. I was on a nice reach heading for Marblehead Harbor in our old Hopestill, a classic wooden Hinckley Pilot sloop designed
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The unheralded northwesterly gale

Jack FarrellA second major coastal storm in less than two months scoured the Isles of Shoals over an extended period on the second and third days of March.
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‘Starkly, harshly, terrifyingly beautiful’

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
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As the season ends, memories proliferate

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
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Hurricane season

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
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Aloft is ready to sail me into my golden years

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
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It seemed like life sprang anew on the Isles

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

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
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Well-timed miracles are welcome at times

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.
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The usual springtime elephant on the island

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
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The unvarnished truth about the 10 percent rule

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
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A new era of energy independence for Star Island

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
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Islands expose what we often take for granted

We learn from, and share resources with, other islanders in New England and beyond. We experiment. We have developed a new awareness that waste is not an option. These efforts are yielding great results. Sometimes they are quirky; often they’re ingenious.
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A toast to Shoals people, stories and boats

Fall arrived at the Isles of Shoals one Sunday afternoon in mid-September, on the back of a blustery northwest wind that turned the misty air clear, and the water from gray/green to blue, in the matter of an hour. Weekend visitors that had arrived the
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Aloft and Jack grow old together with concern

It is a hot Sunday afternoon in late July, and I’m walking across the dusty back lot of a small boat yard in southern Maine a dozen miles from the ocean. Ahead of me in the shimmering heat is a large metal-clad storage shed whose
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A heady mix of skinny from Isles of Shoals

Forgive me if the following dispatch is a bit disjointed. The demands of finishing projects and opening up the island are at their height right now, and the best I can muster tonight is a partially embellished list of some of the notable recent events
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Manners, safety timeless seamanship tenets

One bright afternoon last July I was cornered on the porch of the Oceanic Hotel by an older gentleman who has been a Star Island guest for decades. This man is notorious among long time hotel staff for his annual list of complaints, generally delivered
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The joy and dread of blissful abandon

In the course of my earliest seasons of youthful sailing exuberance, I cruised the coast in a 17-foot O’Day Daysailer. Then in my early 20s, I can still recall the dismissive reaction of one of my more experienced sailing friends to the concept of sailing
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The joys of rowing good boats on pretty water

Alright, I admit it: Outboard-powered rubber boats are convenient, and they can even be a little fun. We have one at the island, and it comes in very handy sometimes. We use it as a harbor-rescue craft, a tender, and sometimes as a mini tugboat.
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