There’s a saying in boating circles that suggests that the best boat is always sombody else’s. That is, a boat you can play on, but you don’t have to maintain/pay for.
It’s called OPB – Other People’s Boats, and it can be pretty attractive. And what would be the ultimate OPB?
How about a 60-ton schooner?
Way back in the winter, when we were warm and happy in the Florida Keys aboard Sionna, I had a casual conversation with the owner/captain of the schooner Isaac H. Evans, in which I wondered if she (Captain Brenda, or “Cappy”) ever needed extra crew – even volunteer crew – and she allowed as we could talk about that…
But that wasn’t our first contact with Cappy and the Isaac H. Evans. Oh no, and there’s a story there, of course!
Way back in the summer of 2015, when Nicki & I first launched Sionna, we took our first overnight aboard in a little place called Clam Cove, a usually quiet spot just a couple miles north of our home port of Rockland, Maine.
So we’d just finished a light supper at anchor when we noted a schooner approaching the cove, under sail, clearly heading for anchor as well. Now Clam Cove isn’t very big, and the north half of it is off limits to anchoring because of an electric cable, so it was pretty clear we were going to have some company. Sure enough, the Schooner was the Isaac H. Evans, and we had the pleasure of watching this very substantial vessel approach, drop her head sails and run her chain within 50 yards of us, all without engine, in a graceful ballet of seamanship one doesn’t see very often. We were impressed!
We were even more impressed a bit later when Captain Brenda rowed over to us and inquired whether we had a dog aboard? They had a birthday party amongst the passangers, and were hoping to set off a few fireworks, if we didn’t mind? We allowed as how we’d no pets aboard, and would welcome the show, thank you for asking!
But it gets better. Dinner was announced aboard the Evans, a lobster dinner with all the trimmings. Our light supper was beginning to set even lighter by this time, but never fear – “Cappy” to the rescue! Here she came rowing again, this time bearing two steamed lobsters, a half bottle of champagne and two official Isaac H Evans logo mugs!
So we have a soft spot for the Evans, and her captain. And lobster.
So fast-forward a year and a half, and you have this conversation between Cappy and me, suggesting we might get a chance to sail on a Maine Windjammer if the stars align properly. We let her know that we were still interested, we showed up at the dock one day – unannounced – to help with a bit of the spring painting work, and got our invitation to come sailing for their first trip of the season, a 4-day trip with only a handful of passangers but a whole load of crew and interested parties – like us!
Holy Heavy, Batwoman! The rig on a schooner is heavy. Raising sail – particularly the main – is a wicked heave, best done with gloves and a lot of help.
Out of Shape! The 17 year-old First Mate doesn’t look like a weight lifter, but she put me to shame in the muscles department. I need more exercise than I’m getting these days if I’m going to keep up.
The galley isn’t just small, it’s SMALL, but the chef, Phoenix, pulled off culinary coups, every day. On a wood stove. Even I could gain weight on the Evans. (And I need to – did I mention that rig is heavy?)
It’s a BLAST! Really, sailing on a big boat (something over 120,000 pounds) is an amazing experience. Nothing happens fast because of inertia, but once it’s happening, it KEEPS happening for the same reason, and you’d best plan for it. Which Captain Brenda does, really well. She sails that boat like an extension of her hand.
So that’s our solution to the problem of being boatless for the summer! With the help of First Mate Autumn and Deck-hand Fitz (pictured below), we learned a whole lot about running a schooner, and have been invited to stand as relief crew for the summer. That means that Fitz and Autumn can get an occasional evening off, and we get to help sail a boat that was built in 1886!
So, have you ever wondered what it’s like to sail on a schooner? Check out the website link for the Isaac H. Evans – I promise there is no better way to see the coast of Maine.
And who knows – you may even cross paths with the crew of s/v Sionna!