Friday, July 28, 2006

Sailing in a Northeast Paradise, Day 1

I promised my fellow passengers (ahem, sailors) that I would post my travel notes and pictures, so I'll do that here, in 5 installments....

Day 1, Boarding the Victory Chimes

The drive to Maine was a little stormy, but easy traffic and a relaxed pace. I was so excited to cross the Piscataqua River Bridge from Portsmouth, NH into Kittery, ME because it marked our halfway point and meant we were within a stone's throw of the ocean for most of the remaining trip.

We got to Rockland just before boarding time at 6PM. It's my 5th trip, so I had no trouble finding the parking area and the dock. But I remembered past years when I wandered through town like a lost 5-year-old in a department store, not sure which way to turn, how far I should go, if it was okay to pass the coast guard signs.... I wonder if they could create some sort of tow system for new passengers, where they can pull in to the Rite-Aid parking lot, and get hooked up to a tow car like large planes or boats trying to dock.

How to pack for a 4-night boat trip: LIGHTLY. Which means: pants, shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, rain pants, rain jacket, hat, pajamas, socks, sneakers, sandals, underwear, lightweight long-sleeved shirts, warm jacket, bathing suit, towels, pillows, sleeping bag, sunscreen, shower stuff, toiletries, bug spray, sunglasses, books, crossword puzzles, notepads, pens, magazines, deck of cards, games, beer, wine, other beverages, snacks, camera, binoculars, earplugs and cash. Luckily it was just me and my mom in my big taurus, so we had the trunk and the back seat to handle all our light packing.

I'll divert my story a little here to talk about the boat. Victory Chimes is 106 years old, the last 3-masted wooden schooner on the east coast. She was originally built to carry timber, but began carrying passengers in the 1950's. The Chimes has about 20 cabins, a galley and dining area, 3 heads, and luxury-of-luxuries: 2 hot-water showers. There are 10 crew and up to 40 passengers on each trip. The cabins are small, but have electrical outlets, sinks, and pretty comfortable bunks. On deck, there are many spaces to sit and chat, sunbathe, or watch the islands and the wildlife as we sail. The Chimes doesn't have an internal engine to propel her, so if the wind won't do it, she uses the yawl boat (Enoch) to push her along. The captain is Kip Files, a lanky mustached man who has the perfect Maine look about him -- also a perfect Maine way of talking. "Cap" is wonderfully gregarious, and has many funny and rather colorful stories about his Uncle Enoch which he'll happily share when we're anchored and settling in for the night. The crew are there to sail, but work very hard at making every passenger comfortable and welcome....

We unloaded the car and brought our bags to the dock. I was ecstatic to see Mr. Stevens, the first mate, back for another year. Also, Pam, the best cook in the world, was on deck when we arrived. This was going to be a great trip!

We managed to stow our belongings under the bed and get reasonably settled. We made sure the next day's allotment of water and adult beverages were stored in the on-deck cooler, like good little girl scouts, always prepared. From there dinner, with the other Suburban Adventure Club travelers (a note, if you're in suburban Boston and looking for fun group events, check out SAC). And before going back to the boat, we made our penultimate Rite Aid visit, to pick up the things we forgot we needed: film, postcards, more wine... (girl scouts to the end)....

Back on the boat, we found baked goodies that Pam left out for after-dinner snacks. We hear that there is a couple on board who will be married by the captain the next evening -- this will be a first for us, and presumably, for them! The rest of the evening we sat out on deck meeting and greeting our fellow passengers, and listening to the harbor sounds.

Sleep that night was wonderful. We were rocking more than I've remembered in past years, but I took Bonine so no worries. Just pop in the ear plugs (the walls are thin on the boat, and you're sleeping with 39 other passengers) and get rocked to sleep. It's truly the most restful sleep imaginable.

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