The schooner American Eagle
Photo courtesy of Fred LeBlanc

 Schooner American Eagle Newsletter

February 2013 



Fred has enhanced the picture he took, with an eye to the art within the digital image.  Now it's getting close to the time we did the same.  Over the next three months or so we'll bring her back to the just launched or better look we want to keep in your sights all season.  Good thing we had a delivery of ten gallons of custom mixed oyster white paint last week, enough to last us two years!  That's the long discontinued color we use for topsides, deck trim, and inside some of our small boats.  And all for your holidays afloat, and your holidays are what keep the schooner afloat.  Thank you all.


In This Issue
Summer & Fall Cruise News
Letter from a guest
From Andy in the Galley
Postcards From Shipmates
Working Waterfront
Crew and Wildlife News
Windjammer American Eagle in Pulpit Harbor, Maine

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Summer and Fall Cruise News


          The adventurers on our longer trips are rarely first timers. Once they've seen Penobscot Bay they often wonder if there's more of that rugged beauty further away. I've been quoted as saying that the only improvement on our standard one week cruise is a two week cruise.  As a recently retired schooner captain said, "we sail one of the two best cruising grounds in the world; we just don't know where the other one is yet."


Crew from the Maine Coastal Overnight

Smiles towards the end of the Offshore Island Cruise in July, 2011.

On part of this trip we sailed overnight from Peaks Island off Portland to Roque Island down east.  Porpoises showed up at sunrise just east of Mt. Desert Rock.




           Historically, the peak of fall foliage in midcoast Maine is October 1st.  While most of the island woods are evergreen, we find autumn colors up the Penobscot River and in the upper parts of the bays.  


Fort Point Light (Maine) in September
Fort Point Light photographed by George Kovarik



Smaller groups, a comfortable galley and main cabin, a reliable heating system below for cool evenings:  all reasons to experience fall colors along the Maine Coast with us. 

American Eagle Galley and Main Cabin
Photos courtesy of Greg Gettens


Four-night foliage cruises are on the schedule, boarding Sunday, September 22, Friday September 27, and Wednesday October 2nd, with fares from $695 to $645 per person.

Schooner American Eagle chasing the Lewis R. French
Photo courtesy of Capt. Noah Barnes

 Letter from a guest 


         One of our shipmates from last season wrote the family's holiday letter and included impressions of her trip aboard...


     "There was the schooner race in Penobscot Bay, with all five of us on board the American Eagle with about 15 other passengers and the crew, trying to beat the Stephen Taber to anchor near Owl's Head.  We lost by a few seconds, yet it didn't matter. 


     "Nothing could compare to the sensation of sailing on a light breeze of 4-8 knots, weaving a tight wake with another schooner, elbowing the mainsail under a (seemingly) low-hanging bridge, and scanning the New England shoreline for the finish line, which turned out to be a pristine lighthouse perched on a cliff.  Under a bloodshot sky, our schooner bobbed side by side with our opponent as Captain John Foss wrote smugly in the crew's logbook that evening, "American Eagle finished second.  Stephen Taber finished next to last.


     "Speaking of true competition and real achievement, how the galley cook managed to bake perfectly rounded muffins in an oven that tilts at a 45-degree angle every time the crew tacked the boat was a mystery.  The cook's name was Andy, and he is one of the world's lesser-known geniuses.  If the schooner had overturned with a sudden gust of wind, he would have found a way to defy physics and boil parsnip stew upside down, juggling knives and mugs as they ricocheted from port to starboard.   Through watching Andy and his mess mate, Virginia, "batten down the hatches," I learned about some of the undercurrents of the nautical world and wrote about this in my journal:


The captain uses words like "hence" and "delighted."  He is astute and resigned, someone who is used to observing people the same way he observes the weather, like there's not too much you can do about either one. He never gives a definite answer when asked where we're going, and the galley is always the last to know.  Andy keeps right on serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, without seeming too concerned about the route or progress made.  Every day starts the same with the sound of silverware clattering in the galley at 5:30 a.m.  He serves up quips just as easily as bowls of steel-cut oats and Greek yogurt, informing us of Scotland's international porridge-making contest called the Golden Spurtle, and telling us we're supporting Greece's rickety economy with each bite of dairy.  Meanwhile, the captain never promises anything, which is something I never thought about in terms of the wind.  You really can't predict where you'll go each day or how soon you'll get there.  And just as soon as you think you know, the wind could change, blow a different direction, or not blow at all.  There is something life-like about this routine."



From Andy in the Galley

Andy the cook, taking a little time off from cooking         


          One reason it's fun to cook on the American Eagle is that the whole crew is ready to help me out whenever I need something.  The deck crew cleans up my galley when they draw late night duty, they fix it up for boarding night, they take care of the compost and the garbage, they offer suggestions for the menu (which I am usually happy to ignore), and they are always ready to organize a food line or a wood line.  But the person who is most important to the galley is certainly the galley hand.


           The galley hand knows where all the obscure odds and ends are hidden, she (it's usually she) keeps the galley insanely spotless, she puts away the dishes, she helps me stow provisions between trips, she handles the stern fender boards when we approach and leave the dock, she makes off halyards, she puts up with my incessant badinage, "My God I can't go on, it's too intimidating." 


         Often she adds the only feminine touch to our rough and ready crew.  Of all the people on the boat, except the captain, she's the one you are most likely to converse with, as you dry dishes in the nice warm galley.


          In fact, we like galley hands so much we made an effort to have as many as we could this summer.  We started with Katie Moran of Damariscotta, usually referred to as Honey Bunny or the Moranimal, and we filled in with Joan MacPherson, the stealth vegetarian preacher from Amesbury, Massachusetts ("from away") for our trip to Canada.  When Katie went back to school, we grabbed Colin off the deck and gave him the Galley nickname "Colliwobbler" which he endured with his usual stoic good humor.  After Colin we got Heather Brouwer ("Little Brouwer" or "Bubbles") from Warren, and then Margaret ("Magpie" or "MegMoney") Leahy, also from Massachusetts and then Heather again.  Then Brenda Lush, who brought along some beautiful tomatoes and peppers from Crooked Pine Farm, her day job back in Ossipee, New Hampshire.


        And who could forget Virginia Jay, aka "Jaybird", who hated being asked what she wanted for dinner?  What good sports they were, weathering my excruciating wit and contradictory instructions ("But you said you wanted them peeled last time!") with the untiring equanimity of youth.  Not forgetting apprentices Travis Lush (Brenda's son) and Tall Paul Woodruff, who were happy to help out doing dinner dishes, if one simply held a gun to their respective heads.  It's amazing to me what good sports they all were, and how hard they worked.  Hail Galley Hands!



Postcards From Shipmates


 Postcard from Antigua

Etienne and Carla really get around, although

I don't think they go to Antigua on their Harleys.




 Florida Palms Postcard to the Schooner American Eagle

I'd rather split wood here.  There's a truckload of log length wood due this week.


Working Waterfront


 Map of Rockland Harbor before 1890

          Among the wharves, sail lofts, schools, and public buildings on this 1880's shore map of Rockland Harbor, there are two survivors:  the Lindsay House and the North Marine Railway.  At our dock at the (now named) North End Shipyard we've had a lobster dealer for some years now, where you can usually pick up a few lively ones to take home at the end of your cruise.
Steamed lobsters on the canvas 
          Just as we have repurposed the American Eagle as a windjammer from being a fishing schooner, the lobster smacks that land their freight at our wharf started working in other trades.



Lobster smacks bringing in the catch 

          From left to right, the Irene Alton was built as a dragger and swordfisherman in 1975, the Rockland Gulf carried petroleum products beginning in 1933, and the Jacob Pike started as a sardine carrier in 1949.  I hauled the Pike out on our railway in early December for repairs; she's due to relaunch in about a month...


Crew and Wildlife News


Gray Seal
 Photo courtesy of Patrick Burns


          You may have had a quick glance at a gray seal if you've been on one of our summer cruises.  They're much bigger than the usual harbor seals and have the local nickname of horseheads, with their big eyes, long snout, and sometimes menacing gaze.  Turns out that they pup in January and now there's a daylight camera link from Seal Island, where we'll see puffins in spring and early summer.



Atlantic Puffin
Photo courtesy of Patrick Burns




          Speaking of wildlife, I took a brief trip to Texas two weeks ago to help return the iron barque Elissa from drydock in Texas City to her museum berth in Galveston.  The shipyard did a wonderful job, from replating and riveting right to the finishing touch of wiping down the varnish on deck with pledge and polishing cloths.  Fix the steering and the horn, find the compass and the signal cannon, and we were ready to go. 


 Barque Elissa - Stern View  


           It will still take a half a year to replace her decks and thoroughly rerig her for sailing in October with a stellar group of volunteers; hope I'm invited back when all the work is done.



Barque Elissa Main Cabin
Her main cabin: teak, birdseye maple, and lots of molding



          Little projects are completed regularly during the winter here; I fix things and Brad, our summer dock guy and erstwhile deckhand, paints or varnishes them.  In the office, Shary and I now have the tools to mess with our new website, which we hope will be easier to navigate and as compelling as the old one we shut down January 31st.    Johnny, Logan, Brad, Michael, and I will gang up on outfitting as a team by April 1st;  Andy and the galley hand will be here by May 15th..... and we'll all be glad to see you thereafter, if not before.     


John and the crew


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Schooner American Eagle
P O Box 482 
Rockland, ME  04841
(800) 648-4544