Thursday, September 20, 2012

#26 Justa Jammeren

On most mornings, when the fog is elsewhere, this is the view from our boat in Camden Harbor - The Waterfront Restaurant, a local favorite, with the owner's boat Ellie tied up at the dock. But one morning, the same view was a bit different.

Ellie had politely moved elsewhere to make room for the Victory Chimes, which dwarfed everything in sight. The crew had come to town for The Windjammer Festival, an annual event not to be missed. 

This was departure day and it was fascinating to watch how the crew moved this 132-foot tall ship away from the dock.
Because this boat is not outfitted with modern technology, like bow and stern thrusters, the services of dinghies and yawl boats are required to pull and push her off.

But apparently it's okay for the captain to make use of modern devices to communicate with his crew.
A National Historic Landmark
The Victory Chimes is three-masted schooner built in 1900, and is the last remaining example of the Chesapeake Bay Ram Schooner, which is one with no topmasts. In her working days, she hauled cargo up and down the east coast. In 1946 she was converted to a passenger vessel.

Schooner Olad, offering day sails out of Camden

Of the almost two dozen schooners which graced the harbor for Labor Day Weekend, all except Camden's day trippers were gone by Monday morning. That is the scheduled time for guests aboard to begin their week of adventure on a windjammer.

It is always a thrill to come across one of these leviathans when cruising; almost as thrilling as seeing a real leviathan! Fast forward to the last day of a week-long winddjammer cruise. We spotted TWO of Camden's tall ships preparing to drop anchor off of Islesboro for the final night.

The Lewis R French is another National Historic Landmark vessel; 141 years old, 101 feet long, with 3000 square feet of sail. The crew sails her in the traditional way, without an  inboard engine.

The Angelique, on the other hand, was built specifically for windjammer cruising and is a stunning sight to happen upon.

It looked like both crew and passengers were having a good time. Can you tell them apart? Must be something in the lifestyle that homogenizes everyone.

 We left them to the serenity of the protected harbor and headed back to Camden. As frequently happens in the afternoon, the wind and seas were picking up. Heading into the sun made it difficult to spot the ubiquitous lobster buoys.
They are much easier to spot ... and dodge ... on a clear day in calm seas!

But we don't complain. We love Maine seafood as much as everyone, and appreciate the hard work and life of the fishermen.

 After all, life, or a just a vacation in Maine, isn't completes until you've savored a lobster roll, or fred clams, or raw oysters, or shrimp from one 'a them take-out places.

Once the order is placed, the hungry horde is entertained by the walls which are plastered with entertaining information and instructions.

These provide clues as to how long this establishment has been serving $20-$60 seafood orders tucked into hot dog rolls. 

The walls are peppered with signs to ensure that the barbarian aspirants behave while waiting for their food. Sometimes it can get a bit tedious catering to the clientele, or tolerating them ... we guess.

 The more signs, the longer they've been in business.

And it's pretty easy to conclude which condiment is the most popular.

Ahhh! Finally, your number is announced over a loud speaker, your order is delivered in a paper bag, and consumed on paper and plastic. 

The indoctrination for the next generation.

Here's a footnote:

When you tire of sticky picnic benches and dried ketchup, but still want seafood, try Shepherd's Pie in Rockport. This place has a new twist on just about everything. Fried clams? Sure thing. They'll come wrapped in taco shells with avocado, cabbage, and green tomato.

And if you've finally tired of seafood and just want a good old burger, have an organic cheeseburger with tomato confit, local cheese and purple mustard.

Or barbecued local chicken with scallion ginger marinade and carrot vinaigrette ...

Or a pork belly sandwich with pear rosemary mustard and sweet soy.

Who thinks up this stuff?

***Only have the Mai Tai with fresh squeezed lime juice, almond syrup, Cointreau, Mt. Gay, Appleton Estate, and Lemon Hart 151 rums if someone is willing to carry you home!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

#25 The Camden Windjammer Festival

In our travels this summer, we have seen some interesting and ingenious community efforts to enrich the lives of their citizens, and at the same time attract tourists. In Catskill, NY (Post #3) statues of cats adorn the main street. This fund raising effort provides a nice zing for the downtown.

In the village of Phoenix, NY (Post #7) a legion of kids known as The Bridge House Brats caters to boaters who tie up at the first lock on the Oswego Canal. This very successful program provides summer activities and teaches responsibilities.

In our home waters of Penobscot Bay, the town of Camden, Maine holds the annual Windjammer Festival over Labor Day weekend. Since this harbor is home to several windjammers, and the Maine coast is a mecca for these mighty ships, the event is a highlight of the summer for locals and visitors.

Schooner Mary Day

What exactly is a windjammer?
Why are they called schooners?
Are the terms interchangeable?

The Victory Chimes. A National Historic Landmark

Windjammer” is a generic term for large fast sailing ships that were used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to carry cargo to major world ports. Many were built in towns along the New England coast. They had three to five masts and square sails. The name “jammer” comes from the Dutch term “jammeren”, used to describe the wailing sound of winds in the rigging. 
Schooner Heritage

Schooner” is a technical term for a specific sailboat design. This type of boat has fore and aft sails on two or more masts, and the forward mast is never taller than those in the rear. Most interesting is the legend of the origin of the name “schooner.” There is a Scottish word “scon” which means to skip along the surface. Legend has it that when the first schooner was launched in Gloucester, MA, an observer remarked that “she scoons.” Apparently, it stuck.

The Festival kicked off on Friday afternoon with their arrival of the windjammers into Camden Harbor. This is the Nathaniel Bowditch, built in 1922 as a private racing yacht. During World War II, she was used by the Coast Guard to patrol the east coast.

Many of these boats have no inboard engines, and were eased into the harbor and docked carefully by a yawlboat. Grace Bailey is touted by her owners as “the finest example of a 19th-century coaster afloat today,” and is listed as a National Landmark. After decades of hauling cargo, including granite from local quarries for constructing Grand Central Station, the boat was carefully modified to accommodate guests without sacrificing the historic integrity.

The Lewis R. French
Since many of these ships were finishing up weekly charter cruises, passengers got a bonus by participating in this rendezvous. Part of the experience is helping with docking procedures. This boat is also a National Historic Landmark, the last of the thousands of schooners built in Maine in the 19th century.

The parade was commentated by Captain Jim Sharp, author and captain of windjammers, tugboats, and freights on the Maine coast. His latest book, “With Reckless Abandon” recounts his adventures.

The arrival of these magnificent boats lasted several hours. We highly recommend this event. Windjammer cruising is a one-of-a kind vacation. Many find the experience life-changing. 

Meanwhile, over at the dock, the waterfront parking lot was cleared to make way for a variety of interesting demonstrations and activities.

Even though it's off-season, it's okay for Camden to tout the world tobogganing championships held annually at the nearby Camden Snowbowl. 400 teams of 1300 racers compete on a specially built wooden toboggan chute.

Along with the Schooner Open House, event organizers assembled an amazing array of activities. Artists participated in a "plein air" competition.

Pirates roamed the waterfront. Kids built boats. There were concerts, auctions, a talent show, pancake breakfast, chowder challenge, lobster hauling demo, boat parade, and even a schooner wedding.

Even the ubiquitous hot dog stand offered not-your-usual fare. Allan liked the shrimp taco with Asian slaw.

Race veteran Havana Lyman demonstrates proper technique.

One of the highlights for the kids was The Lobster Crate Race. Every region of the country has its own flavor. In Wyoming, it's rodeo. In Maine, it's lobster crates, which, when filled with seaweed can be as unpredictable as a bucking bronco. The wooden crates are lashed together and barely touch the water's surface. The rules are simple: run back and forth across the line of 24 crates as many times as you can in two minutes. Total score: number of crates completed.

Sound easy? Look easy? It's not.
Harbormaster Steve Pixley provided a colorful commentary as dozens of kids took the challenge.

The trick is to place your feet in the middle of each crate and not to stop. Justa keepa go! But even for these pre-teens, the thigh muscles start to scream after a few crossings.

 And once you falter, there's no recovering.

 The winning score was 269 crates.

Everyone loves fireworks and they're even better on the water. We moved Sally W into the outer harbor for an almost front row seat. 

Thank you Camden. Great job.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

#24 Harbor Takes

We are back in our hailing port of Camden, ME. Camden is one of only two places on the Atlantic coast in the US where the mountains meet the sea. The other is nearby Bar Harbor. Both in Maine!

It is no surprise that this is one of the most picturesque harbors in Maine; a nice stop for visiting boaters, a small cruise ship line, and land lubber tourists. 
It is the home base of several windjammers which offer the opportunity to take a few days and experience a way of life aboard ship a century ago. There's a lot going on in this harbor. It is rich with local characters and beautiful boats of all shapes and sizes.

Classic boats are a common site here, and we particularly like this runabout named Penny.

 This beauty sports one of our favorite names for a boat. 
At Wayfarer Marine, the gorgeous classic Fife Belle Aventure is not where she should be at this time of year. She sits high and dry getting her hull refinished. A few months ago, someone decided to give her an environmentally friendly bottom coat of paint.

In the words of dockmaster Ben Cashen, “It certainly was friendly! Everything imaginable found it a great place to call home. The surface sported a coat of green fuzz.”

Close by, tied to the dock sits Lady J, a “super” yacht. That's the promoter's term, “superyacht” (one word). Yet another way to imply “over the top”, as in super-sized meals (yuk), super fund sites (double yuk), Super Bowl, superballs, Superdome, Superman, superhuman, supermoms, the super rich, and last but not least - Super PACs. 

Lady J carries a supply of bikes in case one wishes to toodle around town.
 So when one of these monsters comes to town, the natural question is, “Whose boat is that?” And it's almost a relief to hear that this behemoth was concocted to ply the seas as a charter. And those passengers you are surreptitiously eyeballing aren't the owners. Someone has paid for their short-lived experience on this 142 foot lap of luxury. This “boat” has a jacuzzi, wet bars, flat screen TVs, game table, and formal dining table seating 12. It's hard to remember that you've left the dock! But nice to know that Camden is considered special enough to be a stop on their fantasy cruise.

Wayfarer Marine's dockmaster Ben Cashen does a super job (oops, that word again) managing the traffic at their docks and moorings. You might spy him at the helm of Barby D, named after long-time employee and local historian Barbara Dyer.
What's going on here? Trick picture? No, it's just an RC boat.

On the mere mortals side of the waterfront, Harbormaster Steve Pixley is a multi-talented guy. Along with his regular duties, he's ever-ready to dive on your boat to untangle fouled props or serenade you on a trip to the dock.

Assistant harbormaster Leo has been busy reclaiming buoys run over by one of the 97.5% of boaters with no clue and not watching where they're going.

And no harbor would be complete without its complement of boatyard dogs. This one looks like it truly feels left at the dock.

Wayfarer's manager Brad Ellsworth takes his dog on morning rounds. Lucky dog.

Fluffy here seems to have mastered taking a dinghy ride standing up. Woo-wee.
Scupper thinks that's no big deal. Master Rick thinks PFDs for dogs are a great invention.

And to complete the harbor experience, you never know who's going to stop by. This is John Williams, probably the most prolific photo documentarian of life in this harbor. He has been kind enough to supply images of Sally W when her owners were busy underway.Thanks John!
Semper paratus. You never know who's coming for dinner. Fortunately, Key and Clara in the front, brought the lobster dinner for Dave and Vicki, seated behind, and Allan and Sally. We have developed a strong bond thanks to our ownerships of Lord Nelson Victory Tugs.

Coming soon: Camden's Windjammer Festival.