The two sides of cruising the old-fashioned way

October 2009

By Dodge Morgan

“It must feel good to know you have the prettiest boat in the harbor,” said the silver-haired gentleman from his dinghy.

“We just wanted to get a real close look at your boat,” said the captain of the Monhegan Island Ferry as he swung off-course to round close astern.

“Wow, that’s the topmast, and those are deadeyes, and those are gaffs, and I really like to look at old schooners,” said the pre-teen kid with his father in a wooden outboard.

“Jeez, what a gorgeous boat,” was a refrain from so many in a 10-day cruise with Eagle Christmas Cove, Port Clyde, Rockland, Pulpit Harbor, Camden, Boothbay Harbor, and back to Snow Island.

In Rockland, we joined the crowd for the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, an amazing and large eclectic collection of Downeast believers, boatbuilders, home architects, harbor-marina operators, Maine gimmick inventors, hotdog and lobster-roll venders, marine-equipment providers, marine engineers, all uplifted by artists, jewelry makers, furniture creators, and foot healers.

I don’t know if the hordes of visitors in jeans and clogs and in khakis and sockless boat shoes bought anything; item prices ranged from 50 cents to a million bucks. There was an impressive array of powerboats that I looked at more carefully than usual, a reflection of Eagle as a taskmaster, me as a codger nearly ready for the drooling cup, and both of us growing less pleased by wind dead ahead and dead astern.

Setting and weighing anchor on Eagle is an example of her overall demands on one’s time and effort. The hook is a kedge or yachtsman you know, the traditional style you find on navy emblems and women’s jewelry. The anchor weighs 30 pounds, hangs on the bowsprit, and is lashed to the whisker stays in three places. There is no windlass. You get the drift here, don’t you.

Another Eagle given is that the process of each sail just the getting under way and anchoring parts will take a combined hour of time, wrestling a couple of dozen sail stops on and off, four halyards, peak on starboard and throat on port up and down, topping lifts on lazy jacks for main and fore to be loosened, halyard, sheet downhaul hoisting and trimming the topsail. But this year, the jib spins out with her new roller furling rig rather than risking me out on the six-foot bowsprit to hank it on. But we are saying that each sail is a project that gives the old fashioned satisfaction of being earned.

After the cruise, Eagle slatted her way from Snow Island to Falmouth for the 2009 MS Regatta. We carried the only gaffs and four-sided sails and deadeyes and lanyards and mast hoops in the fleet, and were one of just two boats made only of wood. We carried the only topsail and the only fisherman staysail. We were the only vessel with two masts, the after one taller than the forward one.

The fleet in the MS was about half the past average size 60 boats this year. Because there were only two boats in the “classic” class, we were lumped with several classes for a race course that happily and unusually consisted of one long broad reach and one long close reach instead of the normal beat and run.

It was a gorgeous day, with the parade and the race persisting much as in past years, just a few bellowing, arrogant nitwits in the chorus of happy faces, good feeds ashore at Handy Boat, and Merle Hallett again a winner after screwing up his start. This is an event that takes up a full weekend and is even more of a joy for Casco Bay sailors than it is a boon for the Maine MS Society, and MS certainly does benefit.

Dodge Morgan and Eagle hang out at Snow Island, Maine, a couple of miles northwest of Cundy’s Harbor as the eagle flies.