Keeping memories alive

Great Circle at anchor at one of the islands off Frendship, Maine.  Photo by Phil Godfrey

July 2022

By Jay and Sally Thompson

Thank you for keeping my memories of my years cruising the coast of Maine in focus! I had the opportunity to sail with a dear friend, Francis “Fran” Scheid, on his 36-foot Brewer design Marconi rigged wooden schooner built in Plymouth circa 1976. Fran was Chair of the Mathematics Department at Boston University for many years and an avid golfer well aware of the statistics of the game. He also took his turn as Commodore of the Plymouth Yacht Club, which I joined when I bought my Tanzer 22 Enow back in 1979. I soon realized that cruising was much more enjoyable on a larger boat and that crewing offered great opportunities. I was aware at the time of the rare privilege I was having, sailing out of Plymouth Harbor and setting a course of 45 degrees toward Monhegan and Manana Islands. Fran timed our departure to ensure it was daylight when we approached the islands.

The Great Circle was equipped with an RDF, but otherwise, we sailed by compass and dead reckoning. Fran was accompanied by his high school classmate, Philip “Phil” Godfrey, who took charge of the galley, and they were a joy to crew with. The skipper’s bunk had charts covering the entire coast of Maine, and the appropriate chart was in the cockpit unless mother nature did not allow it. And a cruising guide was in the book rack. Fran enjoyed using a seaman’s eye to keep a rough fix on our location. Once we arrived in Penobscot Bay, Fran was ready to enjoy! It wasn’t long before I realized that he had planned the day’s sail depending on the weather and tides. Generally, the skipper opted to head north on an incoming tide and southerly on the ebb. There was always a backup plan or two. It was great to see the Wind Jammers keeping up the tradition of the working schooners on the Maine Coast. One year Fran chose to take me “Down East,” so we altered our course from Plymouth a few degrees to make our landfall at Matinicus Rock. We then continued to Passamaquoddy Bay and Eastport, Maine, and Saint Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick. On the return, we spent the 4th of July watching the parade in Cutler, Maine.

I think one of my most enjoyable times was sailing under a nice breeze in Frenchman Bay in the fog sitting on the bow rail listening for the next bell buoy. Another unforgettable time was walking to the General Store in Brooksville to enjoy the steel band playing in the middle of the street. I later discovered that Sally’s Snowman family was prominent in Penobscot and Brooksville, so when Sally said she felt a connection, there was one.

Those days are in the past, and I still miss them. My wife Sally and I took a six-day wind jammer cruise, and while it was great, it felt like a food orgy. On the Great Circle, we would ring the ship’s bell on the half-hour throughout the day. On the Heritage, every time the ship’s bell rang, there was something to eat, and though it did not ring during the half-hour, it rang quite often, and the wood stove was going 24-7.

Points East started showing up at the PYC just about the time Fran sold the Great Circle, and the stories and photos keep bringing back those great memories – like arriving at Isles of Shoals in a squall and realizing that Gortex treated foul weather gear does not stay waterproof forever!

Happy Anniversary,

Jay & Sally Thomson

Jay’s first experience sailing was a steel runner sled with two ski poles and a pillowcase on ice! In 1994 he married Sally Snowman at Little Brewster Island. In 2000 they got a 20-foot Maritime Skiff Sbls which they still have. James worked as a Civil Engineer for the Town of Plymouth, retiring after some 30 years. In 2003 Sally got the job as Keeper of Boston Light and he became the “Keeper’s Husband.”