Launched yesterday, rigged today, sail tomorrow. Glad to be back in the water and nearly finished with the extensive refit and fit out we had this year, leading to several improvements for comfort, convenience and safety. Rather pretty in the evening fog down at Windjammer Wharf. Good company. Here's to a lovely summer sailing season of 2016. See you aboard!
Well, summer is finally here. Long days, oftentimes warm even out on the water! Nice breezes, seals have had their pups, porpoises are around, the sunsets have been great and I've been enjoying sharing it all with folks sailing out on Bufflehead.
I was recently invited to present at Pecha Kucha, a format where they have eight presenters, each with twenty slides and twenty seconds per slide. I've uploaded the pictures and put what I said under each one.
I also was just sent a link to the movie of my presentation, https://vimeo.com/121067887
Dolphin’s songs can be heard through the hull, especially of a wooden boat. Dolphin seem to go through life playing, which is also my ambition. Sailing uses the motion of the world, by wind and wave, without using it up. You’re powerful at the center of the tiny world of the boat, and insignificant to the greater cosmos to which still deeply subject.
Boats have done so much for me. Motivating my dreams as a youth, filling the wings of my freedom, teaching me of my strengths, my weakness and the ways of the world. And now, though I live on land, it is through a boat that I share my love of the sea and support my family through running sailing charters. This is me on Plumbelly, when I was 20, off Antigua.
By 12, I knew I wanted to design, build and sail my own boat around the world. Here, at 15, I took my carpentry abilities to the Woodenboat school, in Brooklin Maine, where I learnt the fundamentals of wooden boatbuilding. At the time, many told me it was a dying trade. I have found everywhere you go someone needs a good carpenter.
At 16 I sailed aboard a tall ship looping 45,000 miles in the Pacific. Seeing many different cultures, living so closely with others aboard, as well as the work in maintaining and sailing that boat yielded a tremendous learning for me. We came through Typhoon Kyle with 112 kt gusts, and 75’ seas, I never since have had to imagine how bad it can get.
Shenandoah, the coolest boat I worked on, is modelled on a pirate catcher of the 1800’s, she has all natural sails and rigging, no engine, and four cannons. With the square topsails, the Captain would sail the 120’ boat backwards, in circles, in tight harbors and up to docks, old school still works.
The freedom of the ocean is an irony when working on someone else’s boat. I managed to get Plumbelly, and at 19, set sail by myself from maine to head for Bermuda and the Caribbean in a 26’ gaff cutter. A small boat with a rig split into several sails allows options and ease of handling, it’s easier to hang a tee-shirt than a bedsheet on a windy day.
She’s not on more than one wave at a time. That first November trip however, I crossed the Gulf Stream, in near hurricane strength winds, and forty to fifty foot seas, culminating in being swept by a rogue wave, flipping the six ton boat all around from being hove-to, and breaking boom and gaff. A jury rig brought me to the kindness of the Bermudians.
With no one else to call upon for help, I learnt to push the limits of what seems possible. Safety is the dominant concern, but awareness grows best in a relaxed state. Keeping calm keeps one learning, that constant learning is Seamanship, basically keeping your mind ahead of your vessel. This is me aloft on Plumbelly.
The compromises made to have sailed around for six years primarily concerned humble living conditions. With no monthly bills, no engine, no complexities, and thus no expensive repairs, freedom. Here is the galley, the Navigation table, and me sitting in the only place that one could stand up down below. When you stood, you see
the view out, at top of these two pictures; the deep blue tropical ocean, the red wind vane which kept the boat on course to the wind over thousands of miles. The bottom’s of a pod of Pilot whales, which swam alongside in thick fog for hours. Another time I babysat a humpback whale calf when mama left to go fishing deep, coming back with a big display.
St lucia’s shore drops off, just like the island rises. By sailing straight at the beach, kicking the anchor over at the last minute, and jumping ashore with a sternline to tie to a tree when that anchor catches, you can anchor on the side of a steep island. After 10 yrs of voyaging, I wondered what it was to stay put, and worked my way back to Maine.
I worked in boatyards and independently, before I got Bufflehead for $1, conditional that I’d have her in the water within a year. I quickly built my ”third-world garage” out of salvaged materials, and I put in about 800 hours, mostly at night to bring her back to a working, floating boat, in seven months while also working the day and being a dad.
When my daughter was 2, we sailed with her mom to Nova Scotia to visit some friends. Raya has been constantly involved with the boat, in the shop and on the water. I wish I’d had as early a start on the water as she. She’ll have the seatime for her captain’s license by the time she’s 8. When 4, at her request, we built her her own dory, “The Sparkle Rose.”
In 2011, I started offering custom daysail charters. I’m lucky enough to get to sail out of Rockland’s Windjammer Wharf, home to hundreds of years of active maritime history, and a handy, protected, easy to sail out of cove in the heart of Rockland’s downtown, although with its industrial past, Rockland is still realizing the gem it has with New England’s largest protected harbor.
I sail about 2000 miles each summer, generally within 25 miles of Rockland, last summer I took out 188 first time sailors, creating lifetime memories. My favorite part is the sigh of relaxation most people let slip. I feel fortunate to have a small enough operation to have flexibility be the hallmark. Our motto is “Do what you want.”
Rockland is uniquely positioned with the largely uninhabited archipeligo of the muscle ridges right around the corner of Owls Head. Here the old stone pier from the once bustling granite quarries at High Is offers a great jumping spot. Few swim, most prefer to explore the island, then sit and feast on lobster and pie, and sail back up into the sunset into Rockland.
We are lucky to have the fleet of windjammers. The Heritage, here, was built in Rockland in 1983. Perhaps a large part of their beauty is not just in their form, but their function, the seamless utilization of wind to move cleanly, gently and powerfully. I think we will be running cargo again in my lifetime. The ocean will outlast the highways.
Though here 4, my daughter is now 6 1/2, and crews for me in the half of the week when she is with me. Boats are a great venue for youth or older to find that they can interact with the world in a meaningful way, have influence, and appreciate the freedoms that come with responsibility. We all seek the balance of play and responsibility in life.
When the wind is making up and the light is growing dim, it is an awesome feeling to streak in towards safe harbor, especially the harbor of home. There’s only two rules of sailing, you can’t sail directly into the wind, and you can’t sail through the land. The boat leans over to use up the side force of the sails, and we go straight..
It doesn’t take much wind to move, one just has to position things right. Here Bufflehead ghosts through the Windjammer fleet as they anchor in Rockland harbor, continuing the tapestry of man and nature, sharing in the tides and time which have been plied for thousands of years. I’m honored to have the chance to have rescued Bufflehead, to be making a living sailing her, and to share some of the wonders of where we live. I thank you for your interest and for having me here tonite.
Sharing here some pictures of a pleasant sail that we had last summer out to an island for a picnic. Classic day of sailing on the Maine coast with calm seas and perfect weather and some fine and fun people who sent me their pictures too. While I often take pictures for people I seldom take the time to document a trip so well, and with such a good eye as Quinton has done here.
Raya and I joined the Parade float for our friends Artisan Boatbuilders, in the Camden Parade of lights last night. My principal duty was to lower the halyard for low hanging branches or wires!
The Great Schooner Race happened yesterday, and we had a great time sailing downwind to meet the fleet as they beat down the bay towards us. We then sailed around with them and tacked ourselves in and out with the big schooners all around. The pictures I took are in order I took them, so you can see there was light winds which picked up and then dropped off, yielding a pretty good race day. The Victory Chimes, the three master in the first photo was built in 1900, she was ahead of the other boats, but was pushing along with her yawl boat, as she is only racing against herself, and wanted to get into harbor before the forecast intense cold front arrived as the beginning of the impacts from Tropical Storm Arthur which came through in the evening! An authentic race, everybody wanted to get their boats snug after racing their best. Although this is the only sailing race where the often unexperienced passengers in racing the boat, sometimes the racing can get pretty competitive.
Next we came upon the Stephen Taber, launched 1841, she is the oldest continuously operated sailing vessel in the United States. She got a lead early and gained on it. She has won her class many times in the past, but this was the first time she won the entire race, first over the line.
I will now shift to descriptions in the photo caption, that'll make more sense. Enjoy.
Well, June went by quick. Been going 12 hours a day pretty regularly, with the occasional break in the middle, or today when our first summer evening thunderstorm nixed the sunset sail. Interesting season, with some great sailing and great people aboard. Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have been representing well, and lots of young kids, which brings me to 61 first time sailors already this year, which is more than half last year's total. I've logged more than six hundred miles already this year also. A couple nice lobsterbakes, a fiftieth anniversary sail, my oldest passenger yet (89 years old), and two different proposals (both successful!). I've had a group of 60th birthday celebrating ladies, friends since high school, who brought a guitar player amidst them, and we even had three generation of Canadians in one trip on Canada Day this past week. Installed some new cockpit grates, and bought new cockpit cushions, as well as appreciated the cleaner running engine from last winter's rebuild. Here's hoping that the remnants of Tropical Storm Arthur leave us alone to have a good time with the Great Schooner Race on Friday and the 4th of July fireworks. And onward we go, started to have weather hot enough to be super glad for the cooler air out in the bay, but starting to get tempted to jump in. Maybe by the end of the month the water will get warm. I will try to fill in the details of July then. Meanwhile, all the best, Captain Daniel Bennett
The hydraulic trailer is shaped like a U, it backs in under the boat, timbers are slid through between the sides and it lifts the boat up off the blocks, and the arms hold it to go down the road on air ride suspension.
After a boom truck lifts the mast up and lowers it into place, the travelift picks the boat up off the trailer in slings, and then drives out on little wharfs to lower it into the water.
The boat is lowered down, I step aboard, and it goes down until it is in the water, enough to start the engine. Once it is going, the straps are lowered enough so I can back the boat out and off we go, another season begun.
Now, dockside, I'll bend on sails, finish getting the details of rig and lifelines, etc attended to, and tweak the newly rebuilt engine's installation with sea trials. Should be ready to sail by this afternoon. Better go get back to work!
Captain Daniel Bennett rebuilt Bufflehead, maintains and sails her, sharing the experiences and the delights of sailing her with all who come aboard, and maybe here with others too.